Shanghai Dumplings, also known as Xiao Long Bao, are soup filled dumplings, that originated in a suburb of Shanghai. When I attended MOCA’s walking tour of Chinatown a few months ago, I was informed that the best place to try these soup dumplings were at Joe’s Shanghai. After receiving confirmation from a few acquaintances, Joe’s Shanghai it was for my first Shanghai Soup Dumplings. Although there are locations in Flushing and Midtown, I opted for the Chinatown original.
The most popular place in Chinatown for this specialty, the restaurant is very crowded and busy. They will not seat you until all of your party has arrived. The food is served family style with a turntable in the middle, to easily share the food. Ten people to each round table, you will most likely be sharing your table with strangers, but this is common in many Chinatown establishments. As soon as you sit down, they will ask you if you would like the Xiao Long Bao, as they are made fresh and it takes about 20 minutes to prepare. Your options are pork and crab. As I went with a party of 6 with members of the NYC Cooking and Dining Group, we chose to do one order of each. You are then given the menu to decide what other dishes to order.
We did the Squid in Bean Sauce, Dried Tofu with Jalapeno, Crispy Pepper Duck and Pan Fried Noodles with Vegetables. The squid was delicious; perfect balance of sweet and savory.
Not usually a tofu fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the texture of the dried tofu. It is much firmer than other forms of tofu and I surprisingly would say this topped my list of favorite dishes of the night.
The duck was perfectly cooked with crispy skin and tender meat, accompanied by a little bowl of salt and pepper, to season as you desire.
The pan-fried noodles was the one dish we did not enjoy. It was only fried at the borders. The middle was a mass of gummy, sticky noodles that was not palate pleasing.
You must know how to eat the dumplings, otherwise you will lose all the delicious soup inside. Do not attempt to simply pick it up with your chopsticks from the bamboo steamer, it is served in. Instead, use the spoon provided and gently place the dumpling on your spoon. Then make a small hole in the dumpling to release the delicious liquid onto your spoon. At this point, you can add a little of the very flavorful gingered soy sauce provided onto the spoon and then eat it from the spoon, so as not to lose any of the soup liquid.
If you have never had Shanghai Dumplings, I definitely recommend Joe’s for both the dumplings and the food; just avoid the pan-fried noodles.