Toronto Life - The Dish

The latest buzz on restaurants, chefs, bars, food shops and food events. Sign up for the Dish newsletter for weekly updates. Send tips to



Weekly Lunch Pick: a spread of diverse northern Chinese dim sum

The crab and pork soup dumplings at Asian Legend (Image: Renée Suen)

The rustic northern-style dim sum at Asian Legend is a hearty alternative to the dainty small plates found at most Cantonese restaurants. Of all the tempting (if carb-heavy) bites, the soup dumplings shine ($7.25). The tender crab-and-pork meatballs, bathed in a rich, savoury broth, are a challenge to pick up due to their delicate translucent wrappers, but the umami-rich payoff is worth the work (technique: chopsticks around the ridged tip, soup spoon supporting the base). To prevent a soup explosion, nibble a small hole in the wrapper to suck up the piping hot consommé before tackling the dumpling itself (after a dip in the ginger-spiked black vinegar). We round out the meal with other Shanghai classics, like the glutinous rice roll ($3.95)—a reverse burrito with sticky rice wrapped around crisp fried dough and pork floss—and a bowl of seasoned soy bean soup ($2.95)—dried shrimp, diced green onions, chopped fried dough and chili sesame oil, all mingling in a wonderfully cloudy soy milk broth.

The cost: $18.50, with tax and tip. Tea is complimentary.

The time: A speedy 27 minutes, despite the packed house.

Glutinous rice roll and seasoned soy bean soup (Image: Renée Suen)

Asian Legend, 418 Dundas St. W., 416-977-3909,

  • Big Slick

    Cantonese dim sum plates are “daintier”, but also much cheaper (about $2.50 to $4.50 depending on the item). So, this isn’t a fair comparison.

  • r2d2

    “Dainty”, yes. “Healthier”? No.
    I understand taste is totally subjective, but given the parameters set out by the author, northern fare tends to be laden in fat, so while it is not as oily as some of the Cantonese dim sum shops around, the content of the dumplings is heavy on fat.
    While I like Asian Legend for their regular fare, their dim sum is meh.

  • V

    My Taiwanese friend told me this grub originated from Taiwan. Hmm…

  • AreThoseReal?

    Dim Sum is strictly a Cantonese invention, more to the point Hong Kong and Guangdong provinces… describing their food as Northern-style Dim Sum is not accurate.

  • eeek!

    @byV, you’re right. they have these same soupy (ie, liquid pork fat) dumplings at Ding Tai Fung which I understand is a taiwanese thing.

  • brooklin99

    I just returned to Toronto after living out West for the past 5 years. Is there any good dim sum/chinese restaurants left? Some of the places that we have returned too, really went downhill or have shut down. Any ideas, let me know?

  • joejoe

    I luv this place. great dish!

  • justasking

    The article describes the contents of the soup dumpling as broth. r2d2 says its liquid pork fat. Quite a difference. Which is it?