Few things say comfort like hot dough stuffed with warm meat. There are countless iterations to be had in Houston, and many—but not all—of our favorites can be found at H Mart Plaza on Bellaire Boulevard, home to the city’s unofficial Dumpling Corridor. These are designated below; make a crawl of it and try them all in one outing!
Dumpling hounds swear by the juicy, gingery pork pot stickers, which satisfy at any meal. The soup dumplings are rather less impressive; we prefer the shop’s other offerings, including youtiao (Chinese crullers), dan bing (egg-filled wraps) and a thousand-layer pancake made with flaky, crinkly pastry.
Queuing up early is necessary to avoid a wait for these freshly steamed dumplings—one of the few homemade delicacies among the offerings inside the Shops at Houston Center. The coarsely chopped chicken creations are more interesting than the pork-and-scallion ones, but whatever you order, be sure to request the spicy sauce. For an extra $1.50, make it a meal with thick, hot soup or fried rice.
As long as you don’t expect the Shanghai dumplings on offer here to contain their traditional broth, you’ll be wowed by the Hershey Kiss–shaped pockets filled with light, gingery pork. The once-extensive dumpling menu is shorter these days, but what’s still available in the comfortable dining room, populated by families, is unique. Try the red-bean-and-millet bun, a cousin to the traditional dumpling, with a sweet, crumbly center contained in a ball of warm, chewy mochi.
At the second, Montrose location of the Chinatown restaurant that taught Houston to love the sizzle of Szechuan, the menu’s street-food section contains two must-try dumplings. There’s hot-and-sour wontons, chubby packages of pork dressed in a spicy vinaigrette, and slippery, thin-skinned red oil dumplings, infused with the flavor of mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorn.
This modest Korean-style Chinese restaurant serves extra-large dumplings that are neither specifically Korean mandoo nor Chinese jiaozi. Fist-sized and stuffed with either pork and cabbage or a blend of veggies, mushrooms and glass noodles, they can be steamed or pan-fried; we found them less breakable when fried. There are hand-cut Korean noodles on offer, too, so bring home some jajangmyeon, or black bean noodles, to go with your leftover dumplings.
Xiaolongbao means “little dragon dumpling,” so named because soup dumplings are meant to give eaters the power and virility of a dragon. The thin skins here are laudable, but chances are, you’ll gain even more strength from the tiny but juicy pan-fried pork buns, also native to Shanghai.
Vegan and vegetarian diners who have never experienced the joys of biting into a thin-skinned siu mai or har gao can do so at this cafeteria-style restaurant and tofu factory—every filling is carefully crafted to mimic the texture of the real thing using homemade tofu. Other meat-free dim sum favorites include taro puffs and the fried pork dumplings known as ham sui gok. Vietnamese spring rolls and pork buns round out the fleshless pleasures.
Though the menu isn’t exclusively Shanghainese, this spot does the cuisine of China’s largest city especially proud. Xiaolongbao are uncommonly rich, with a soup sure to leave your lips sticky, while gingery wontons with paper-thin skins bob in a broth laced with seaweed. Of the other delicacies, Shanghai natives love the sticky rice mixed with red bean paste and candied fruit peels.
Dishes from across China fill the menu at this, one of Chinatown’s friendliest restaurants. Order a big steamer of mixed dumplings, which has samples of pork xiaolongbao, likably gamy lamb, and bland but huge veggie versions. While you wait, grab some free millet porridge and mix your own dipping sauces at a station offering chile oils, garlic and ginger.