My dumpling behavior didn’t actually develop till I moved to Taipei.

There, in Taiwan’s capital, nights have been for exploring the markets, sprawling mazes of distributors scooping fried cubes of smelly, squishy tofu from a vat of scorching oil or dipping skewered pork intestines in vats of spiced, effervescent broth. Some other time of day was honest recreation for a dumpling run, even breakfast. (Particularly breakfast.)

We had a potsticker man. Two, really, a father and son who crisped up incredible vegan dumplings in a forged iron pan arrange at a barely altered auto storage. However extra typically, dumplings meant shui jiao, actually “water dumplings,” boiled bundles of floor pork and simply sufficient cabbage to persuade you they made up a balanced meal. Wherever I used to be within the metropolis, my nostril might often lead me to a spot promoting 10 for round $4, with rice staying heat in a cooker close to a DIY sauce mixing station with soy, vinegar and chile oil.

There are lots of causes to like Portland: the temperate climate, proximity to nature and film theaters that serve beer chief amongst them. But it surely hasn’t all the time been an important place to pursue a devoted dumpling follow. (That, and celebrating the dumpling’s many international types, have been the principle causes a colleague and I got here up with Dumpling Week almost a decade in the past.)

Traditionally, most Portland dumplings have been of the Northern Chinese language selection, with thick, dough-wrapped meatball fried to a hearty crunch. Extra lately, native cooks have turned their consideration to perfecting pelmeni, connecting with winged gyoza and summoning blisteringly scorching soup dumplings. But it surely wasn’t till Grasp Kong opened its second location off Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard that I discovered the on a regular basis dumpling spot I used to be craving.

Let’s again up. The primary time I visited Grasp Kong, the Southeast Portland restaurant had but to be found by Yelp, not to mention been the topic of a viral TikTok video. Positioned in a transformed home subsequent to the X-otic Tan lingerie store (“for males”) on Southeast Division Road simply east of 82nd Avenue, the restaurant’s menu was full of an assortment of dishes from each Tianjin, the port metropolis close to Beijing the place chef-owner Kang Zhu labored for greater than a decade, and Taishan, the a lot smaller metropolis west of Hong Kong the place he and his household have been born.

That mix, and the comparatively early 9 a.m. opening hours (now 10:30 a.m.), me most. In our assessment, I pitched Grasp Kong as a breakfast various to close by dim sum choices Pure Spice, Ocean Metropolis and Wong’s King Seafood, describing Zhu as one among “Portland’s best chef chameleons” for his work right here and beforehand on the dry scorching pot restaurant Pot & Spicy. Dishes highlighted included Zhu’s takes on wonton soup, jian bing and goubuli, the country, comparatively uncommon Tianjin pork buns.

Like many Portlanders, Grasp Kong turned one among our household’s go-to takeout possibility in the course of the pandemic, and the “Chinese language potstickers” turned a must-order. Throughout one pickup, Zhu’s sister, Amy Zhu, despatched me residence with a tightly wrapped bag of frozen pork dumplings. Every week later, I cooked them for dinner, and realized I had been lacking an important dumpling restaurant for the dumplings.

Grasp Kong opened a second restaurant final November within the previous Bazi Bierbrasserie, as soon as Portland’s finest Belgian beer bar. Go to now and you may order a half-dozen totally different dumplings, wontons and buns steamed, boiled or pan-fried ($7-$9) from a big vertical contact display screen just like those discovered at McDonald’s. Begin with these “Chinese language potstickers,” skinny, loosely pinched purses of floor pork with given a lightweight, golden-crisp base, or the common “handmade” boiled dumplings, both rooster or pork, every equally juicy.

Plates of food at Master Kong including stir-fried greens, braised meat over rice and slender "Chinese potstickers."

Grasp Kong gives stir-fried greens, braised meats over rice and noodle soups, however should you go, you must begin with the dumplings, together with the slender “Chinese language potstickers.”Michael Russell | The Oregonian

Portland has many extra dumpling eating places now than after I moved right here 16 years in the past, together with outposts of Taiwan’s internationally famend Din Tai Fung and the Seattle-based various Dough Zone, and good native choices reminiscent of Chin’s Kitchen, Duck Home and XLB. However proper now, Grasp Kong is hitting the candy spot of high quality and value.

Grasp Kong doesn’t have the sorts of syrupy fried rooster or stir-fried noodles discovered at many American Chinese language eating places, however there’s extra than simply dumplings too. Zhu’s stir-fried snow pea leaves are properly achieved, his buttery wonton soup is a contender for finest on the town and I want his jian bing to Bing Mi’s (although neither compares to the Taiwanese model I want). Different dishes are high quality, however not particular — the signature pan-fried buns at Dough Zone in South Waterfront are higher. Ditto for the meat noodle soup at Wei Wei in Westmoreland, There are higher soup dumpling eating places round (there are worse ones, too).

Dad and mom of young children ought to take notice: Portland has by no means supplied a lot in the way in which of kid-friendly eating places, and most of the choices that have been right here closed in the course of the pandemic. The 2 eating places closest to my home with play areas removed them completely in 2020 (a close-by brewpub had already changed one among theirs with an axe-throwing lane). Grasp Kong isn’t precisely child-proof, nevertheless it does have an under-utilized facet room, spinning laser logos and sits a block from Sewallcrest Park.

That being stated, if I had one suggestion for Grasp Kong Hawthorne, it’s to beef up the beer choice. When it opened, the restaurant supplied a bottled tour of mass-produced Asian lagers, and has since added just a few random cans of hoppy ales. However there are nonetheless indicators of the constructing’s former tenant, together with an extended bar and a big Duvel chalice at present used for holding sweet. What if this wasn’t simply Portland’s finest on a regular basis dumpling restaurant, however its finest Belgian beer bar, too?

A boy can dream.

What to order: Home-made dumplings, Chinese language potstickers, congee, wonton soup, goubuli, stir-fried greens, jian bing.

Particulars: Grasp Kong’s new restaurant is simply off Hawthorne at 1522 S.E. thirty second Ave., 503-384-2184, masterkongor.com. Discover the unique location at 8435 S.E. Division St.

Learn extra:

Who wants dim sum? Grasp Kong places a provincial twist on Chinese language breakfast

— Michael Russell; [email protected]

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