My friend Celine went on a Vegan diet for 30 days as part of her 30 before 30 List (http://networkedblogs.com/20R5n ). And to celebrate her month long meat celibacy, she invited us to join her for dinner last night at Joe Shanghai. Celine actually introduced me to this place about 4 years ago when I was here in the city for vacation. I've been a big fan of their amazing soup dumplings since then.
Joe Shanghai is almost always crowded and unless you're a group of 6 or more, you will have to share tables with the other customers. The communal tables though adds to the very authentic Asian ambiance. And I don't mind it at all just so long as I get my fill of their famous Xiao Long Bao. These are soup dumplings steamed in small bamboo baskets ("xiaolong" literally means steaming basket) stuffed with pork and minced crab and roe. The "soup/broth" inside is created by wrapping the solid meat gelatin inside the skin alongside the actual meat filling. The steam then melts this gelatin and produces the juicy and tasty soup inside.
Eating soup dumplings is an art in itself. You have to be very gentle with the delicate dumplings when you transfer it from the bamboo steamer to your soup spoon so as not to pierce the skin of the dumpling and let the precious broth spill.
Below is a step by step process of how you can eat it:
1. Pour some vinegar to the shredded ginger. (Xiao Long Bao’s are always served with shredded ginger and Chinese black vinegar.
2. Gently pick up a Xiao Long Bao with the chopsticks and make sure that you don’t break the skin. You can do so by holding the Xiao Long Bao in the middle.
3. Carefully dip the Xiao Long Bao in the ginger vinegar sauce.
4. Lift it up and place it on the soup spoon.
5. Nibble the side or the top of the Xiao Long Bao and create a small opening. Suck a little of the soup/broth inside it. (This is the best way of savoring the meaty, juicy, and flavorful broth). Be careful because it may be a little too hot.
6. Add a spoonful of the vinegar-ginger sauce to the dumpling and eat the rest.
We had 3 orders of the crab and pork dumplings and finished all of it (well almost, I think we left one shy piece which I think was very "Pinoy"! hahaha!). On top of that we also had Yang Chow Fried Rice, Salt and Pepper Pork, Stir-fried Snow Peas in garlic and Fried Prawns with some kind of sauce. We all felt so guilty of overeating... on a Good Thursday that is! Tsk tsk!