There’s something special about amazingly doughy pockets containing savory or sweet fillings, also known as dumplings, that can solve just about any craving one desires. They can be light or heavy, savory or sweet, and just about every country and culture has their own version of them. With the many cultural influences present here in Philadelphia, you’re sure to find tasty dumplings with origins all across the globe, from China, to Poland, to Georgia, to even a train away in Lancaster.
If you’re looking for a classic Shanghai soup dumpling (xiao long bao) in Philadelphia, look no further. Located in Chinatown and usually always filled to the brim with diners on a Friday or Saturday night, Dim Sum Garden is a no–frills eatery where you will have what is objectively one of the best soup dumplings in the city. The dumpling is delicious and has a great ratio of soup to meat, with neither being overwhelmingly dominant. The two best picks are the pork soup dumplings and the crabmeat and pork soup dumplings, and the most difficult task you’ll have there is to try not to break the dumpling on its way to your mouth.
Address: 1020 Race St.
Bing Bing Dim Sum, located in East Passyunk, is not for the traditionalist. Self–identifying as unique Asian cuisine, Bing Bing is known for their fusion of flavors unusual to dim sum, from matzo, to tahini, to chimichurri. While they do have miso–flavored pork soup dumplings, they also offer four more: hot lamb dumplings with tahini, jade dumplings with shrimp and peas, scarlet dumplings with beet, tofu, and garlic, and cheesesteak bao.
Address: 1648 E Passyunk Ave.
Stephen Starr’s Buddakan, known for their pricey Asian fusion, tends to stay slightly closer to tradition when it comes to their extensive dim sum menu. While the price point is nowhere near what a college student would want to pay on any given night, if you’re gonna ball out, you want to do it here. From General Tso soup dumplings to edamame dumplings in a truffled sauternes–shallot broth, to shrimp dumplings, to mushroom potstickers, the options are endless.
Address: 325 Chestnut St.
Located in the Reading Terminal Market (which is a pleasant culinary experience in the off–season, sans fanny pack and Hawaiian shirt sporting tourists), Dutch Eating Place is one of the Terminal Market’s most iconic vendors serving the cuisine of the Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsylvania’s Amish population with roots in Germany, not The Netherlands). With one savory and one sweet dumpling dish, the options are limited but meaningful in their isolation. Their chicken pot pie contains dumplings cooked into the thick gravy of the soup. Their famous warm apple dumpling features an entire apple (with the core removed) wrapped in pastry, flavored with cinnamon, baked to perfection, and served with cold heavy cream. No, these aren’t diet–friendly in the slightest, but they are Pennsylvanian comfort food classics at their finest.
Address: 51 N 12th St.
If you’re looking to get out of the Center City area and break out of the classic Rittenhouse–University City weekend routine, head over to Northeast Philly to Georgian Bread for classic Georgian food (the country in Eastern Europe, not the American state) and sumptuous soup dumplings. Thick, doughy, large, and meaty, Georgian soup dumplings (otherwise known as khinkali) are a heavily indulgent meal in and of themselves. They’re filled with meat broth, contain a mixture of beef and pork, and are huge, making them an interesting and more filling alternative to what usually comes to mind when you think of soup dumplings.
Address: 10865 Bustleton Ave.
A food cart turned brick–and–mortar store, Mom–Mom’s Kitchen in Bridesburg in the Northeast area of the city specializes in Polish food and, more specifically, pierogi. They have classic pierogi filled with potato or cheese, but also innovative savory flavors like Philly cheesesteak. Every now and then they also have special dessert pierogi, recent flavors being chocolate peanut butter and dark chocolate with farmer's cheese. They also do occasional pierogi–making classes and private lessons if you want to learn how to make the real thing at home.
Address: 2551 Orthodox St.
Whether you're planning on exploring different cultural cuisines or just have a craving for some carby and stuffed goodness, Philly fully delivers on the dumpling options.