Sunday, December 4, 2005

Let's eating this soupy dumpling one more 5000 years

As with most mornings after a night of partying, I got a call from Danielle about going to Shanghai Cafe in Chinatown. When most people crave bacon, eggs, and buttermilk pancakes for a weekend brunch, we crave soup dumplings (xiao long bao), sticky rice, and scallion pancakes. Shanghai Cafe, just north of Canal St on Mott St, is our favorite place for these steamed dumplings filled with ground pork and broth. I've been coming to Shanghai Cafe with my friends ever since I moved to NYC - probably at least 20 or 30 times now. 

One of my favorite things about this place that I had to throw in is this poster advertising tapioca milk tea (boba), clearly a candidate for submission to It reads: "For this glittering pearl. Let's drinking this tea one more 5000 years" - yet another hilarious example of English grammar in Chinatown.

When you order food here it comes almost immediately since most of it is pre-made or takes seconds to cook. After about a minute after we placed our order with a rather rude server who we had communication issues with, the plates quickly rolled in one after another. The xiao long bao, sitting on a layer of napa cabbage leaves, came steaming hot in a bamboo steamer with a ginger and vinegar dipping sauce. 

When you eat xiao long bao for the first time, it's best to remember that there's a technique to eating these so you can get the maximum broth without spilling it onto your plate. 

1. Pick up the xiao long bao with chopsticks by the top knot just high enough so that you can slip your soup spoon under it being careful not to rip it - if you rip it its over, the broth will spill out all over the bamboo steamers
2. With the xiao long bao on your soup spoon, position is so that it's on its side
3. Bite a tiny hole
4. Slurp out all the broth, no need to slurp quietly 
5. Continue to eat there rest of it as you would any other dumpling

The mark of a good xiao long bao session is a clean plate. These dumplings are incredibly cheap at Shanghai Cafe, an order of 8 will only cost $3 and a single order is good for 2-3 people depending on how hungry you are. 

Shanghai Cafe
100 Mott St
Btwn Canal & Hester St 
Phone: 212-966-3988

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