From Our Editors
Within the sight of diners at an open kitchen bar, doughy wrappers are stuffed with savory fillings by the practiced hands of Royal China's "dumpling ladies." In Yu-Xia Zhong's hometown in northeastern China, everyone knows how to make dumplings—young, old, male, female—because the jiaozi make up the main part of the region’s diet. And before Hwa-Juan Shen and her husband immigrated to the United States, they owned a restaurant in Shanghai where she perfected her dumpling-making technique. The women join forces at one of Dallas's oldest Chinese restaurants, where they churn out the specialty dish, xiao-long-bao, also known as soup dumplings. They hand-stuff each tiny envelope with pork, chicken, shrimp, or vegetables before steaming them.
Royal China opened in 1974, a joint venture between a retired Chinese army colonel and attaché and a Taiwanese chef. Many of the restaurant’s original customers continue to fill its tables in search of both traditional and inventive Chinese fare. While one staffer hand-pulls noodles to make the city of Lanzhou’s signature soup, another bedecks wontons with shrimp, avocado, and Asian mustard to make the house's version of tostadas. The chef’s specialties include a classic, Beijing-style crispy duck and a seafood hot pot reminiscent of the jacuzzi at King Triton’s castle. Though the kitchen may present a blend of new and old, the restaurant itself is fully modern—the Dallas Observer named Royal China's 2008 renovation the Best Iconic Eatery Makeover.