Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao (Chinese: Jiangnan, Shanghai, Wuxi, Sichuan), 59-16 Main St, Flushing (Queens) New York City, NY 11355
(This experience with a couple of friends was a jewel of an event! Okay, it was back in mid-March this very year, but with one thing or another… this was mostly written up, but got lost in the shuffle. Now it is posted!)
I’ve been wanting to try Chinese soup dumplings ever since I broke my ankle back in late autumn, 2015. What did the ankle have to do with it? Oh, since I couldn’t GO anywhere, I had to amuse myself with Amazon Prime and, yes, YouTube. Somewhere or another in there, I discovered both H-Mart (a Korean/Asian food market chain) AND I discovered Mickey Chen and another review of his, and his serious recommendations for Asian and other foods… but most specifically, soup dumplings, which I hadn’t heard of until then. They sounded… fascinating! (It probably helped that while I was down and out and stuck at home, I received both pork and shrimp dumplings from someone at work – authentic, Chinese home-made – I had fun putting together authentic dipping sauces for these, since I did and do own the condiments. But, Soup Dumplings??? How fascinating!)
My very first one-hour drive after I could drive again… I went to H-Mart, just outside of White Plains, NY. Stoked up on a lot of different veggies, condiments, and related items. I ate at their food court, but while this food is far better than most food courts, it didn’t bop up and demand me to write it up. I’ve gone to shop there a couple times since. Awesome, and my GPS is a lot more cooperative than that first time! It did NOT get me closer to soup dumplings, however.
Anyhow, back on a Saturday in March, three of us got up and ready to drive down to Flushing, to suck down some tasty soup dumplings. There was a bit of road traffic, but not so bad, actually (I’d eaten a hard boiled duck egg just prior, to edge off the appetite. My friends mentioned eating an English muffin or two earlier).
For the three of us, we ordered four Xiao Long Bao servings... that’s four containers of pork soup dumplings, each container containing six anticipatory dumplings. That’s 8 dumplings apiece! (Hey, they’re largely broth!)
The soup dumplings were to die for! This restaurant serves three savory varieties – a pork, a pork and crab, and a (vegetable) one. The broth in all cases but the last is likely pork/chicken based, because in order to make a soup dumpling, you need to stuff the dumplings while cold with stock/bone broth. Which is solid/gelatinous. Chicken really lends itself to making gelatin. OR, use pig feet and make highly gelatinous soup from this! The pork or other ingredients are made into balls and combined with the stock and dumpling mixture is carefully molded around them. They are steamed and served hot. 5+ out of 5 stars. Yes, indeedy!
This restaurant also serves a dessert soup dumpling: chocolate and Nutella. I can’t eat most tree nuts nowadays, and in any case I’ve always loathed hazelnuts (Nutella), and had no desire to find out if hazelnut now also has the same horrid biological effect on my gut… so I declined the dessert dumpling. If I’m going to play Russian Roulette with my biology, it would at least have to be with something I crave! I’m given to understand if you like and can eat them, these dessert dumplings are good. Try them, if you can.
Each of us ordered a main to share with each other. (Thereby I decided not to order tripe… Yes, I seriously considered it… Dad and Mom both made and ate tripe back in the day.)
My absolute favorite of the three dishes was the Ma Po Tofu. Made with silken tofu and some veggies, this was rather soup-like in consistency, and was well-seasoned Sichuan style, with numbing ground Sichuan peppercorns. As I do not know what the broth base was, I cannot guarantee if this dish was vegetarian or not (searching online, I rather suspect not). I do long to learn how to make this, too. The tofu was extremely soft and would break up with chopsticks – it was best eaten as a soup with a spoon. Looking online, the examples I have seen so far of this dish seem different than that served at this restaurant… I want to learn how THEY made it! Totally awesome, and along with the soup dumplings, I rank this a 5 out of five stars!
I ordered the shredded pork, bean curd and Chinese celery dish. The bean curd (tofu) looked from a distance like slivers of portabello mushroom… it was a very hard-textured preparation. I liked this, but the seasonings were intentionally mild. I think I’d have preferred more of a “kick” to this dish. (But I was intentionally trying to vary up the menu of our shared entrees.) The pork and the bean curd/tofu and the Chinese celery worked well together to make a great meal. This one was just shy of 4 stars.
Our other diner ordered seafood with noodles. This was also a mildly flavored dish. I’m not certain what the other sea life in this dish was, but there were at least shrimp. I found it okay – but I’m not really into noodles all that much. Especially since these lacked the textural dimensions of the “pasta” that surrounded the soup dumplings! However, I think the dish is genuine. I rate this dish 3 out of 5. It did what it intended to do, but would not be something I’d order again for myself.
I am ranking this dining experience and the meals as 4.9 stars out of 5. The soup dumplings get about a 10 out of 5… Nothing seemed Chinese-American or over-sweetened about the food here. I really really want to go back, and wish that it was closer to my home than it is. (Oh, General Tso’s chicken was on the menu… but I think that was the only bow to Americanized Chinese food that I noticed…)
WHY did I not post this post sooner? Dunno. Life has been, well, adventurous of late. I still do want to go back to eat more soup dumplings at that locale.
I am also planning to learn how to make soup dumplings on my own. Somewhere down an accessible road…