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.
Seating. Empty house, but at an off hour (5:00ish on Sunday)
Kung Fu Steamed Pork Xiao Long Baos.
Spicy Pork Xiao Long Bao.
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!
Rating: 4/5 spoons