One of Sunday in Chinatown‘s greatest qualities is its remarkable resistance to the effects of major holidays. Take Christmas Day, for example. While much of the country is forced into a late night dinner at Denny’s, or greasy food from a gas station kitchen for lack of available restaurants, Chinatown patrons remain, for the most part, unaffected. In short, most everything is still open. What better time to explore? This week, we wanted to focus on a classic and sometimes controversial topic – dumplings.
Those who have spent a good amount of time in Chinatown know that the culture of the dumpling is as famous as the streets on which it can be experienced. Many seek out the ‘dollar dumpling,’ a fabled story to most who don’t spend the time to look for it, a welcome relief to those who do. We’ll share the secrets of dollar dumplings eventually, but today, we wanted to tackle a Chinatown specialty: Joe’s Shanghai’s soup dumplings.
If you’ve never experienced the intricacies of safely taking down a soup dumpling from Joe’s, you’d be smart to stop at the window just outside the restaurant before you go in. You’ll find out everything you need to know about Joe’s, along with a few pointers you’ll likely try out inside… specifically, how to eat soup dumplings without ruining your mouth. Once you’ve memorized the notes, you can head inside for your training.
Joe’s Shanghai is dotted with large tables that are almost always brimming with hungry patrons. If you’re coming here in a small group, chances are good you’ll be making some new friends at one of them. We urge you to embrace the experience – ask them what they’re eating, what’s good, and finally… how many dumplings they were able to house. You’ll be looking to top it.
The waiters know why you’re here. They’ll ask if you want to place an order for soup dumplings right away – $4.95 for pork, $6.95 for crab. We suggest an order or two of both (each order comes with eight). Add plate of jellyfish, and you’ve got the foundation for an incredible experience.
The dumplings themselves are a work of art, a deviation from everything you’ve ever thought possible – delicious, steaming hot soup broth living inside a perfectly assembled pocket of dough and protein. As the cartoon on the front window suggested, one way to eat them is to simply let the soup drain onto your spoon. Once the lava-hot broth has escaped, you’ll be able to eat the dumpling and drink the soup.
If you’re not on a first or second date with a girl or guy you care anything about, however, there is another way. Instead of nibbling a hole on the bottom of the dumpling, attack from the top. Place the dumpling on your spoon, and raise it to your mouth. In an ode to childhood, slurp the soup right out of the dumpling (the dumpling acts as a straw of sorts), then finish it off. We won’t force our methods upon you, though. There are 1,000 ways to drain a dumpling, after all, and we don’t want to stifle your creativity. Just be careful.
As I’ve said many times before, simplicity is key in Chinatown. Finish off your meal by sharing an order of Pork Lo Mein for $6.95, and you may end up more satisfied with ‘Christmas dinner’ than you were with Christmas lunch. Just don’t tell your family. Until next week!