Monday, June 12, 2006

Pork Soup Dumplings


I'm still in New York, where I never miss a chance to eat pork soup dumplings at the Human Vacuum's neighborhood Chinese restaurant (at the corner of 24th St. and 9th Ave). These dumplings (officially called xiao long bao) come in an oversize bamboo steamer and are served with chopsticks and a soup spoon.

There are several tricks to eating these babies:
1) Patience: If you eat them right when they emerge from the kitchen, you'll burn your face off.
2) Technique: You can eat each dumpling in a single juicy, magical bite, or you can perfect the more subtle consumption system of holding the dumpling in a soup spoon, and using your chopsticks to hold the dumpling while biting a small hole in the side to suck out some soup. Repeat twice, then eat the remaining pork filling and dumpling skin from the spoon.
3) A Black Shirt: No matter what you do, you're going to get pork broth all over yourself. Just accept it.

Like many, I believed for years that the soup was piped into the finished dumplings through the opening at the top of the swirl of dumpling skin. In fact, each dumpling is filled in advance with a small amount of ground pork and cube of fatty pork broth that's been chilled into a kind of aspic. When the dumplings are steamed, the block melts and become a fabulous, rich broth.

Apparently these little guys were ultra-trendy in the 90s. But I wasn't. So I missed them the first time around. Thank god they live on in Chelsea, at least.

***
For those who would like to learn more about the proud history of the dumpling, go here for various dumpling flow charts, like this one depicting Modern Unified Dumpling Theory:

38 comments:

Goose said...

If you've been lucky enough to have a lunch at this restaurant (in my case, because K stated it was a necessity) you know that you can fill up your stomach by eating these amazing dumplings, pretty fast. Especially if, like us, you have two orders of them, and the stacks of steamed dumplings reach into the sky. Allow some time for your host to instruct you on the best way to eat them, and then slurp away into a hearty food coma. Mmmm.

mzn said...

Great post. And thx for the dumpling links. Amazing.

mzn said...

I could have sworn I left a comment here about that dumping chart. Oh well, it's cool.

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