After watching Emeril’s show “Eat the World” – specifically, the episode with Mario Batali where they eat soup dumplings in Shanghai, China – I was keen on having some of those soup dumplings myself. Traditionally called Xiao Long Bao, they are dumplings, usually pork, that have a bit of gelatin in the meat mixture which, when steamed, turns into broth. So when you bite into the dumpling, you get some soup, which you can sip, or just pop the whole dumpling in your mouth, bite into it, and get a nice mouthful of hot rich broth and meat. For my Xiao Long Bao experience, I chose Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant on Bayard Street in New York City’s Chinatown.
Why that particular restaurant? It just happens to be a couple short blocks from the back exit from NY County’s Supreme Court, Criminal Division, which is where I went to serve jury duty. I only had to serve for one day (yay!) and since it was the coldest day of the year so far, I didn’t want to walk too far on my lunch break. So when I googled and found out that soup dumplings could be had so close to the courthouse, I was thrilled.
I confess that I probably ordered more food than I needed. But it felt like a special lunch, so I figured, no big deal. You see, I got a lunch special PLUS soup dumplings. Shanghai Cuisine (yes, that’s the name of the restaurant) offers soup dumplings with shrimp or crab, but I went with the old classic, just pork. But before the dumplings, there was hot and sour soup – along with some cups of hot Chinese green tea, that helped to thaw me very nicely from the winter chill.
Then came the dumplings. And they were just as good as I hoped they would be. I tried to exercise the technique I had seen Emeril and Mario practice on the tv show – a little bite of the outer shell to access the broth, then slurp from the hole until I have gotten all the broth, then pop the rest of the dumpling in my mouth and munch. I found that there was still broth left in the dumpling after slurping, but that may have been due to flaws in my technique. In any case, they tasted awesome.
To finish my lunch, I ordered one of my Chinese food favorites, Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. And sure, after soup and dumplings and cups of tea, I was already pretty full, but I made an attempt. I mixed the corn starch-thickened sauce with rice and laid some shrimps and peas over the top and had some bites. A pretty good version of the classic dish, with fresh-tasting shrimp and slightly crunchy, sweat peas.
When the weather warms up in a few weeks, I will have to go back to Shanghai Cuisine and maybe try their crab and shrimp soup dumplings. Perhaps I will use them as a launching point for an exploration of the soup dumplings in the neighborhood. While our egg roll hunt of Chinatown from a couple years ago didn’t turn out so well, I have a feeling that it will not be hard to find lots of restaurants that offer this little noodle and soup ball of delight!