When it’s bone-chillingly cold, soup is usually the order of the day. Yet sometimes a gigantic steaming bowl is simply too much. Sometimes you crave soup in small, self-contained packages. That’s where xiao long bao, or Shanghai soup dumplings, enter the picture. Many of you have had these juicy little suckers before, most likely at the Flushing or Manhattan location of Joe’s Shanghai, and you probably swear by their soup dumplings. I know I used to.
People, I have seen the xiao long bao light, and it shines brightly at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing. Granted, no side-by-side comparison with Joe’s was performed, but the namesake dish at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao is simply the best version I’ve ever had.
As elsewhere, Nan Xiang’s soup dumplings are made fresh by cooks who tend a seemingly endless array of steamers. Listen closely and you can hear the digital timer go off when a batch finishes. It’s fun to try guessing whether it’s your order. Don’t be too upset if it’s not. You’ll soon be presented with steaming tray of xiao long bao.
Yesterday I went for jia xie xiao long bao, or pork and crab soup dumplings. Actually, that’s what I always order; why get just pork when you can have a miniature surf and turf soup?
The wrappers weren't quite translucent, yet they were incredibly delicate. Perfectly steamed, too. No gumminess whatsoever.
You might even be tempted to pick one up like to examine it. It’s a great way to gauge just how much is packed into these little wonders.
Of course, the only way to know what lies inside Nan Xiang’s soup dumplings is to eat one. Each is crammed with juicy pork, sweet crab, and plenty of delicious broth. Various schools of thought on xiao long bao eating exist. I used to be a side nipper, but yesterday I resorted to being a top biter, maybe to get a better look at the innards. This method produced a lot of broth waste for one dumpling. No matter, I simply poured the precious liquid from my plate back into the spoon. Be sure to add a bit of ginger and black vinegar. But one rule abides: Be careful when you bite into a xiao long bao—they are really hot. Eating one whole after biting through the wrapper is not recommended for soup dumpling virgins.
Nan Xiang is the district where xiao long bao were invented, hence it's an apt name for a place that serves what may well be the city's best.
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao
38-12 Prince Street, Flushing NY 11354 (map)