Chow down on dumplings in Little India

Jiu Xiang Yuan adds to Parc Ex’s culinary tapestry.

dumplings 3

Jiu Xiang Yuan is new to the city’s dumpling scene, having set up shop within Parc Ex’s Central Bar on the Little India strip of Jean-Talon in the winter. The bar and its late hours and interesting mix of patrons remain, but from 11 to 11 every day, a Chinese husband and wife team are set up behind the bar and in the kitchen.

When Jiu Xiang Yuan first opened, a sign reading “Number 1 dumplings in Park Ex!” hung in the window to lure clients in from the street, and I bet it did—the number of people looking for plan Bs and Cs after seeing the line-ups at Bombay Mahal and Maison Indian Curry keep plenty of nearby businesses alive. Of course none of them sell northern Chinese cuisine.

photo (5)Unlike the heavy dumplings of other cultures, like perogies or momos or even ravioli, Chinese dumplings—at least these crescent-shaped, thin-skinned variety — are light enough to consume in warmer weather, in modest quantities. My three visits happened before the air turned to soup between the holiday weekends in June and July, giving me an opportunity to sample all three vegetarian dumpling options while the meat-eating man of the house tried three meat varieties.

The seaweed salad ($3.99) provided a nice green kick to start our first dumpling feast, while the second appetizer ($2.99), spicy tofu, served as a segue into the main course, with its soft bites, scallion crunch and cloisters of chilis.

Seaweed salad & spicy tofu
Seaweed salad & spicy tofu

My batch of dumplings that day was the least vegetarian of the vegetarian lot, filled with shrimp, egg and chives. Both the taste and texture were near perfect, but it woudn’t be my favourite of the three. The pork and mushroom dumplings were a hit too, a winning combination of salty, soft, chewy white meat with a touch of fungal grit. And while these aren’t soup dumplings by any means, these were juicy enough to merit devouring them whole.

Inside the egg, shrimp & chive dumpling
Inside the egg, shrimp & chive dumpling

Zucchini, wood-ear mushrooms and vermicelli were the contents of the next veg dumplings I tried, and although this was a solid taste sensation, the familiarity of this combo—so similar to that of veggie imperial rolls—made them slightly disappointing. Perhaps the mood was shared that day, as my husband’s chicken curry dumplings provided satisfying doses of savoury stew but would’ve gone over better outside the curry capital of the city.

Our third visit to Jiu Xiang Yuan made up for those minor disappointments. He ordered lamb and cilantro, immediately declaring them superior to the pork dumplings of our first round—the lamb’s deep flavour was complemented beautifully by that key infusion of coriandre.

My napa cabbage and mushroom dumplings, a Chinese cousin of the sauerkraut and mushroom perogies I love so much, got me craving a sour cream dipping sauce instead of the soy, sriracha and chili blend we were given. Each little pocket of micro-diced slaw and shrooms were little eruptions of tartness and tang on the tongue. They may not suit every palate—my husband balked when he tried it, but he’s a creamy-coleslaw guy so that didn’t surprise me—but man, were they killer for me. ■

931 Jean-Talon W., 514-271-4888