The Bao (East Village, New York City, NY)

When I hear “soup dumplings” (aka xiaolongbao), I think of the first time I ate at Joe Shanghai in Chinatown, New York City. It’s been years since I’ve been there, but my first bite of soup dumplings was a memorable one. Now, I’m sure there are many variations and even better ones, but the initial discovery of the xiaolongbao is always memorable. When I didn’t know better, I would poke a hole and let some of the soup drain out to let it cool. Then I’d dap a little red vinegar onto it and some ginger then slurp slowly. Nowadays, I’ll top it off with some ginger with red vinegar and devour it wholly (just be sure it’s warm and not boiling hot before doing so).

In case you haven’t had this deliciousness yet, soup dumplings are a delicate wonton-like pouch filled with a nice, hot broth and a savory meatball. If you’re wondering how they get the soup inside, wonder no more. First, they create a gelatinous stock that’s then combined with a meatball. Next, it’s sealed and steamed. Out of the steamers comes perfect little pouches of soup-filled dumplings. Sounds easy enough, but it’s definitely a lot more intensive than that and that’s why I’m thankful for soup dumpling restaurants.

Most people head straight to Joe Shanghai for soup dumplings, but a New York local mentioned  another option and it was The Bao. It doesn’t have the same authentic asian feel inside as Joe Shanghai, but it’s much cleaner and more friendly.
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Seating. Empty house, but at an off hour (5:00ish on Sunday)

 

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Kung Fu Steamed Pork Xiao Long Baos. 

 

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Spicy Pork Xiao Long Bao. 

 

IMG_4550eChocolate Xiao Long Bao. Nutella. Banana.

 

I love the variety that The Bao offers. Actually, I haven’t even seen variety at any other soup dumpling restaurants that I’ve been to. We ordered the regular Kung Fu Baos, Spicy Baos (not the super spicy one), and the Chocolate Baos. The Kung Fu Baos were the perfect warm-hot temperature, which allows you to eat the whole bao in one bite without caution. Some restaurants, you have to be extra careful or even punch a hole to let the soup out first in order to let it cool. Here, you can easily devour the whole thing and just let it melt in your mouth! Next, we ate the Spicy Baos, which had a good kick. I can’t imagine ordering the Super Spicy Baos since the regular Spicy was perfect. I enjoy spicy, but I can’t imagine ordering the Super Spicy especially since spice is usually intensified with hot broth. Lastly, we had the Chocolate Baos, which I find really interesting. It’s like a bite of Nutella crepe! The bao has a slight chew like crepes and it’s stuffed with Nutella and banana. A perfect end to our Bao meal.

The service was good and the baos were delicious. My favorite part is the variety of baos. Usually, at a soup dumpling restaurant, we’ll order trays of the same baos. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a variety of flavors adds a lot of excitement to the meal. Honestly, I’ve never really seen different flavors at any other soup dumpling restaurants and that’s what will bring me back!

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Rating: 4/5 spoons

 

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Num Pang (Meatpacking District, New York, NY)

Chelsea’s Market is filled with goodies! Not too far from the delicious Los Tacos No. 1 (click here for review) Num Pang is an Asian sandwich shop very much like the Vietnamese banh mi. What makes them unique is their smaller-sized breads…

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Watermelon juice. 

 

 

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Five-Spice Glazed Pork Belly. Pickled Asian Pear.

 

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Inside: Five-Spice Pork Belly. Pickled Asian Pear.

 

I’d never thought I’d say that I’d pay over $4 for a banh mi sandwich. If you’ve ever been to any Vietnamese banh mi shop, the most it’ll cost you is $3.50 a sandwich. This sandwich is $8.75 and to really blow your mind, it’s roughly 2/3 the size of a normal banh mi…but it is AMAZING. The bread is slightly buttery and lightly crisped. The 5-spice pork belly was so tender and flavorful. I usually scoff when I see a banh mi over $4, but Num Pang has proved me wrong! 

If you happen to be strolling through Chelsea’s Market and can’t decide which delectable goodness you’d like to fill your tummy with, I highly suggest Num Pang’s Five-Spice Pork Belly as one of them. Add a Watermelon Juice to it. It’s fresh, pure, and I love the chunky pulp.

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Rating: 5/5 spoons

 

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Los Tacos No. 1 (Meatpacking District, New York, NY)

I’ve done a little traveling from coast to coast, north to south and have an experienced tongue for tacos. Los Tacos No. 1 is definitely highly ranked in my book. There’s a pretty long line on this Sunday at 2 o’clock. The line extends way past a neighboring booth, but moves super quickly…

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Menu. 

 

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Taco station. 

 

 

 

IMG_4511eAdobado. Marinated Pork Taco on Corn Tortilla.

 

Once you’re done with ordering, the cashier hands you a ticket that you had to one of the taco artisans and your tacos are promptly made. We ordered the Adobado (Marinated Pork) on Corn Tortilla. The corn tortillas are made in house and are so fresh! Who would’ve thought that one of the best and freshest tacos could be in NYC? The taco came already topped, but there are sides that you could dress with: pico de gallo, verde, dried chili peppers, lime, etc. The tacos are fairly small so be sure to order an extra taco more than you normally would eat. The meat was so moist and flavorful and I loved the sauce that came with the Adobado. So good…

My one regret is not ordering more…
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Totto Ramen (Midtown East, New York, New York)

You’ll notice when I’m traveling, I LOVE to eat ramen. There’s just something about that homey bowl of noodles, egg, and pork. Very simple and soothing to the soul. That being said, Totto Ramen was recommended to me by the locals when we arrived in New York. This location in particular is their newest location and there is actually another ramen place right next door called Hide-chan. I did a little bit of research and found out that they’re both owned by the same guy, Bobby Munekata. What separates the two neighbors apart is that Totto Ramen’s specialty is the chicken broth, whereas, Hide-chan Ramen specializes in a pork broth. I haven’t come across many chicken broth ramens bowls before so I couldn’t wait to try it! The restaurant is narrow with limited seating so don’t be surprised if there’s a wait during prime hours or days. Inside, it has a bar-like feel and is very casual…

 

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Ramen cousins. 

 

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Totto Spicy RamenTotto Spicy Ramen. Rayu. Spicy Sesame Oil. Paitan Ramen. Scallion.  Bean Sprouts. Nori. Added: Corn, Char Siu Pork, and Boiled Egg.

 

IMG_4408eTaiwan Ramen. Spicy Ground Chicken. Bean Sprouts. Garlic Chives. Added: Corn, boiled egg

 

I ordered the Spicy Totto Ramen. The broth was light, but rich with spice and chili oils and with just the right amount. I’ve had some ramen bowls with overwhelmingly too much oil and that’s a real turn off. You know your food is good when everything balances each other so well. There was a charry smokiness from the seared pork combined with the nuttiness of the sesame oil, which added a great amount of depth in the broth flavors. I like the layers of flavors since that’s what separates it from a regular bowl of noodles.

The chef ordered the Taiwan Ramen, which was very good and the noodles even looked a bit different from the Totto Ramen. What made it unique was the different noodle. It was softer and even chewier or more al dente. Also, the garlic chives really set off the flavor in this bowl!

Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between the chicken broth ramen from the pork broth ramen that I’ve tried, but I will say that it seemed lighter. Also, keep in mind that I mainly ate the Spicy Ramen so sometimes the spice overpowers the pure broth flavor just a bit.

I will have to admit that this restaurant is in my top 3 ramen bowls in the whole U.S.! 

 

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Rating: 5/5 spoons!
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