The appeal of dumplings is so universal that almost every culture has a variation on them, from potstickers to perogies. They’re perfect as an appetizer, a side dish, and if you're truly ambitious you can make a meal of them. We’ve covered your best dumpling options in San Francisco--as well as some great Dim Sum options-- but the East Bay is no slouch in the dumpling department, either. Here are some of our favorite spots for dumplings in Berkeley and Oakland. Each spot is great on its own, or you can combine them for a cross-cultural dumpling crawl. Did we miss your go-to? Let us know if the comments below.
Berkeley’s Chengdu Style Restaurant, named after the capital of China’s Sichuan province, is a Cal student’s dream, conveniently located steps from the campus and offering hearty portions at affordable prices. The restaurant, owned by Chengdu expats (and Cal alums) April, Bo and Jun Hu includes traditional Chinese-American fare along with spicy, peppercorn-studded dishes native to the region. It’s a homey place with scribbled-on menus (handwritten price updates, “steamed bums” corrected to buns), packed with Cal students watching movies on their phones as they slurp giant bowls of soup and girlfriends catching up in Chinese. The Chengdu Style Dumplings are hearty and juicy, flecked with green onions, but the best part is the red chili oil that characterizes the region’s dishes. Sweet, salty and spicy, it enlivens every bite.
Like Chengdu Style Restaurant, Berkeley’s Dumpling Express boasts affordable prices: for under $7, you can get a meal of six dumplings. The tiny restaurant, owned by Terry Chan, offers a variety of dishes--from fried rice to ice cream--but the soup dumplings are one of their biggest draws. After placing your order, you'll wait patiently for a worker to steam them before receiving your handmade Xiao Long Bao. They’re plump and chewy, with a salty broth mixing in with succulent pork. Visit for the soup dumplings, or to stock up on sub-$10 bags of frozen dumplings--your future self will thank you.
When introducing your culture’s cuisine to a new audience, there are plenty of tricks for marketing the unknown to a suspicious crowd. You can change seasonings, making it more or less spicy. You can wrap it in a tortilla or bun and transform it into one of the Bay Area’s signature food mashups. Or, like Berkeley’s Turkish Kitchen, from owner George Baylar and chefs Mehmet Vural and Ferzan Yolcu, you can change the names to make it more familiar to a Bay Area crowd. Thus, a kebab becomes a “Turkish burrito,” and manti, a style of dumplings that Turks have been eating since the Ottoman empire become “Turkish ravioli.” They’re tiny, and packed with a flavorful mix of ground beef, onions and spices. Covered with parsley and a warm yogurt sauce, they’re a well-seasoned, herby and filling comfort food, no matter where you’re from or what you call them.