New Yorkers love to talk about where to get the best soup dumplings. And, while this is a city that doesn’t have any decent Thai food, or a grocer that sells real actual, proper chorizo, they have every right to engage in the xiaolongbao debate. There isn’t a single good soup dumpling in all of London (sorry, there isn’t – even the Royal China fails on this score), but New York has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to xlb.
They only make 25 XL XLB each day, and when they’re gone they’re gone
Many will tell you to go Flushing for the best soup dumplings. Many more will tell you to go to one of the Manhattan branches of Joe’s Shanghai (don’t, the xialongbao is atrocious). Some (including us) will tell you to go to The Bao on St Mark’s Place, while others (also us) will tell you go to M Shanghai in Williamsburg.
Drunken Dumpling opened up in the East Village in the summer of 2016 with a “farm to table” menu featuring two different steamed bao buns (excellent), a bunch of pot stickers (nothing to write home about), two different kinds of regular soup dumpling (crab and pork) and a supersized xialongbao – the XL XLB. They only make 25 XL XLB each day, and when they’re gone they’re gone.
Drunken Dumpling is a mother and son operation – Yuan Li is the frontman, while his mum Qihu Guan knocks out the XL XLB in the back. When your giant dumpling is ready, Yuan delivers it to the table with a black straw and instructions: “Make a hole in the fold on top, and sip the soup through the straw… do it again at different points around the dumpling to get all the soup.” The broth is a mix of chicken, pork and vegetable. It’s light, lovely and flavourful, but the meatball in the middle of it is the thing. This mix of shrimp, scallop, crab and pork is a work of genius – streaked with the bright orange of the shellfish, flavours and textures mix like magic. The first bite makes you very happy that there’s still so much of it to enjoy. You tear at the dough, slurp up the soup, and then when you’ve finished the basket there’s a bowl underneath that has caught the soup you didn’t on the first try. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s also worth lunching at midday sharp, when the place opens, to make sure you get one. C
Drunken Dumpling, 137 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
212-982 8882; drunkendumplingny.com