Joe’s Shanghai vs. Joe’s Ginger? OK, don’t really think there is a vs. at all. The reason I say this is because the restaurants are owned by the same person, Joe Si, are even on the same block, and you know the only reason you’re going to Joe’s Shanghai is for the highly addictive ‘xiao long bao,’ or ‘soup dumplings.’ And if both restaurants sell the same soup dumplings, aren’t the restaurants basically the same? Even the waiters know that you’re there for the soup dumplings considering that the second you sit down they ask, “Soup dumplings?” Followed by, “What kind?”
Yes, yes, the rest of the menus are slightly different, offering different courses, but the general consensus is that the food is good, but the soup dumplings are without a doubt heavenly. One main difference is that the line at Joe’s Shanghai is huge because people don’t realize that Joe’s Ginger has the same soup dumplings. Ha! Suckers.
Contrary to a friend that had never had them before, soup dumplings are not dumplings in soup. Rather the soup is in the dumplings. Small meat filled buns with gelatin are steamed in bamboo baskets. Gelatin is mixed in with the meat and melt down into a flavorful soup during the cooking process. When you take them out of the basket, be very careful. You don’t want to break the skin because then you will lose all the soup and that just hurts my heart dearly. When the recipe it good and the dumplings are cooked properly like they are at Joe’s Shanghai and Ginger, it is an orgasmic dining experience. And an affordable one! Joe’s Ginger sells 8 buns for $4.25. It’s flavorful goodness in a tiny package for a great price. I could eat them day and night and never tire of them.
How does one eat a soup dumpling? Everyone has a different way of eating it and here are some ways that I have noticed it done. Also keep in mind that a sauce is served with the buns and you can choose to use it or not. It is made up of soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. To me, the smell is wonderful.
The way I eat it: I place the dumpling in a Chinese soup spoon and bite the top dough off. This lets some of the steam out. I give it a few blows of air to cool it down and then I suck all the delicious mouthwatering soup out. Ohmigod, it is so good. Then I spoon in the sauce into the bun and pop the entire thing into my mouth.
Other ways I have seen people eat it:
-Pop the entire dumpling into their mouth. Just be very careful of this and let it cool down for a few minutes, otherwise the hot soup will scald your mouth.
-Bite the top off, pour the sauce into the dumpling with the soup and pop the whole thing into your mouth.
- Place the dumpling in the soup spoon, poke a whole in the side so that the soup oozes out and can cool down. Pour sauce over the top of it and pop the whole spoonful with the soup into your mouth or eat the dumpling first and finish off with the soup.
One thing to keep in mind. Service at restaurants in Chinatown isn’t what you might be use to if you aren’t use to going to Chinese restaurants. The environment is usually, noisy and not the cleanest and the staff can be very curt and rude. But that’s just part of the experience!
Oh gosh. Are there soup dumplings in East Harlem? I must search the web right now.
Soup dumpling alone: 9 out of 10
Overall restaurant: 7 out of 10
25 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013
9 Pell Street
New York, New York 10013