You can't resist these delish dumplings
Three Delight Handmade Chinese Dumpling 12 pieces eat-in ($5.95), 50 pieces takeout frozen ($16), Qingdao Garden
This rundown cafeteria-style dining room might be the last place you'd expect to find artists at work, but the dumpling makers here are masters at their craft. Unlike pre-made dumpling skins, Qingdao's handmade dough maintains a robust thickness that stays soft and moist, with just the right degree of spring after steaming. Wrapped around a savory filling of shrimp, leeks, and pork, it forms a perfect seal, ensuring that every last drop of the flavorful juices stay locked inside. Bottom line If you buy a bag of 50, you can steam 'em at home all winter long.
Steamed Pork Buns $5.50, Shanghai Gate
What happens when you take the concept of a noodle soup -- hot, rich broth with tender, springy noodles -- and invert it? Alongside this restaurant's fabulous braised pig's shoulder (call a day in advance for this off-the-menu specialty) or shrimp with ginkgo nuts and other flawlessly executed Shanghai classics, you'll find the innocuously named steamed pork buns. While they may look like a half-dozen run-of-the-mill pork-stuffed dough balls, they feature a liquid filling that bursts in your mouth in a rich, pork-flavored punch. It leaves you wondering, "How'd they do that?"
Bottom line Be prepared to leave with a soup-splashed shirt.
Lemony Shrimp Dumplings $13, Myers + Chang
Though it's possible to get excellent dumplings at half the price a few blocks away in Chinatown, you won't want to miss the aromatic shrimp- and lemon-filled pouches here. The five oversize flavor bombs are cooked potsticker-style with an oil-slicked tender top and a crisply fried bottom. It nearly crackles as you bite into it, releasing a waft of lemon-zest-scented steam that perfumes the tender shrimp filling as you chew. Bottom line Worth loosening your purse strings for. -- J. Kenji Alt
Qingdao Garden 2382 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-492-7540, qingdao-garden.com Shanghai Gate 204 Harvard Avenue, Allston, 617-566-7344Myers + Chang 1145 Washington Street, Boston, 617-542-5200, myersandchang.com