Every New Yorker, and well informed tourist, has been to Joe Shanghai— one of the three locations at least. Here you can purchase an item called the “soup dumpling” said to be the best version of this available outside of Shanghai and, by at least one Shanghai native that I know of, the best version anywhere.
The soup dumpling comes in a bamboo steam pot and sits atop a bed of cabbage (that I learned through my friend, who always eats the garnish, is also edible). From the outside it appears to be merely an innocuous sac, but inside a steamy, salty and fatty burst of soupy deliciousness awaits you– if you eat it correctly.
The correct way to eat a soupy dumpling is not to let any of the soup inside escape. It is to be picked up carefully with the little metal tongs and placed on your spoon. An esoteric trick learned from experts is to carefully bite off just the very tip. This hole cools the soup inside and allows you to spoon in the accompanied gingery soy sauce. Your soup is now ready to be devoured, like a tasty neck to a vampire. The trick that I like to use best is to bite off the side of the dumpling and, quickly placing my mouth near this hole, to drink hungrily– you see now the appropriateness of the vampire metaphor.
Every once in a while, a dumpling sticks to the side of the pot and when you try to pick it up, it tears. You watch as the deliciousness escapes, wasted, out the hole. It is like the death of a beloved pet.
I joke, perhaps, but the soupy dumplings are in fact delicious. Delicious enough that when I woke late on Saturday, with a long list of plans, to a message from my friend that she would like to meet me there– my only possible response could be, “wait for me, I’m throwing on some clothes!” My photo is of the restaurant chandelier. The dumplings were devoured too quickly to be appropriate subject matter.