A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introducing my mom to the wonder that is soup dumplings. My first experience with the delicious dish was a bit of a surprise as I didn’t actually know what I was eating until I had taken a big, eager bite, resulting in super hot broth being splattered on my face, SO I enjoy taking people to get, and talking them through, their first soup dumplings so they can experience the fun and tastiness of it without any mishaps.
I chose The Bao for the big event, a relatively new spot in the East Village making buzz for serving up soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, outside of where they can generally be found–Chinatown. When our steamer basket arrived, my mom looked puzzled. “Where’s the soup?” she asked me. Oh, mom…I guess I didn’t do a good job explaining them after all! I told her that the whole fun and appeal of xlb is that the soup is INSIDE. I then proceeded to eat one with her documenting the process by taking a picture of each step so she could share how it’s done with her Facebook friends. Gotta love her!
The perfection of The Bao’s soup dumpling can be found in the fact that the skin is thin and you have to delicately place it in our spoon, but it still does not break, even from the clutch of the metal tongs, until you poke it with your chopstick (my preferred method) or bite the top off. The menu actually labels the kind we got, the traditional pork, as “Kung Fu” xiao long bao. This is because of the true meaning of “kung fu,” not being the Chinese martial art, but any study that requires patience, energy, and time–and that’s what we have here in the form of making soup dumplings.
There are plenty of other Szechuan, Hunan, and Taiwanese dishes to order from to make a complete meal with your soup dumplings, which I’m just going to go ahead and assume you’re ordering. We went with the scallion pancakes with beef and minced pork with tofu. I truly thought that the soup dumplings were going to be the highlight of the meal, but this scallion pancake was a showstopper. I’ve never had it filled with meat before, and now I’m wondering why because the juicy beef and crisp, fried pancake are a match made in heaven. Highly recommend!
The tofu dish also took me my surprise as I always go for the beef, shrimp, or pork dish over tofu, but it was delicious. The tofu soaked up the liquid in the bowl and the minced pork was a nice chewy, meaty contrast to the soft, melt-in-your-mouth tofu. Maybe I’ll be converted to loving tofu after all.
BUT as someone already with an xlb obsession, I appreciate The Bao’s fresh, modern take on the beloved dish.
One final note: There is such a thing as chocolate xiao long bao on the menu here. Go nuts, guys.
Scallion pancakes with beef, Kung fu xiao long bao, minced pork with tofu
13 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003