Mai Xiang Yuan is all about dumplings. If that’s not your thing, we can’t be friends walk on by because that’s pretty much what’s in store. The standard menu features about 30 different kinds. Choosing might be a challenge but all fillers are quite basic, similar even. No matter what you get and how much it costs, every set includes 15 dumplings. Sadly, you can’t get them steamed but that doesn’t make them any less delicious. They’re boiled by default but they can be pan-fried for an extra $1.50.
Like any good dumpling shop, they’re freshly made-to-order! The slim window display in the background even lets you take a peak at the ladies stuffing, pinching and pleating away. If you’re starving, the view might be too much to bear. In that case, look away and sip on some complimentary tea while you wait.
The Cucumber Salad ($2.99) features large chunks of cucumbers and a few carrot slivers tossed with a soy, vinegar and sesame oil dressing. Balancing sour and salty, it’s fresh and crunchy, and a light way to start the meal.
I got it bad for the Pork, Shrimp and Coriander Dumplings. If you can get past the slippery-factor, moderately thick, softened and wrinkled skins give way to plump centers filled with a classic mixture. They might not be "soupy" like those at Qing Hua, but they’re tender and juicy enough to create a hot mess, so be careful. A set runs for $8.99 and that’s a small price to pay for something so wonderful.
I’m not crazy about the boiled Beef and Onion Dumplings ($7.99). They’re really boring, even when dipped in soy-vinegar and chili oil. Maybe they’d taste better pan-fried...
I'm obsessed with the Pork and Chinese Cabbage Dumplings, whether boiled ($6.49) or pan-fried ($7.99). The pan-fried ones are served bottom side up, and their ultra crisp, brown bases, steamed tops and moist, fail-proof middles are a recipe for love.
If you’re strolling around Chinatown come lunchtime, they’ve got a lunch special that runs between 11:00am and 3:00pm. Basically, you can choose from a limited selection and pay a fraction of the original price. Luckily for me, my beloved Pork, Shrimp and Coriander, and Pork and Chinese Cabbage Dumplings are included!
With a collection large enough to make your head spin, Mai Xiang Yuan isn’t just another hole in the wall, it’s a dumpling lover’s dream. Just get over the nonchalant service. There’s no doubt I’ll be back for more. They’re cheap, filling and downright delicious.
It’s not fair to pin Mai Xiang Yuan against Qing Hua, the resident dumpling boss of Montreal, since they specialize in two very different kinds of dumplings. But if you ask me which one I’d rather be at, Mai Xiang Yuan is a good step in the lead.
Mai Xiang Yuan
1084 rue St-Laurent | map