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I went to Shanghai Asian Cuisine with a large group in search of xiao long bao (soup dumplings), but ended up finding two completely different dishes that I liked as much. Not to say that I don't like xiao long bao—that'd be silly—I'm just no connoisseur of these pork and soup-filled dumplings. Their version satisfied me: the skins were perilously thin (a few dumplings broke in the tonging process) and the innards were full of burning hot soup and a pork ball.

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But I especially liked the kau fu, a cold dish of squidgey wheat gluten chunks mixed with wood ear mushrooms in a slightly sweet soy sauce-based sauce. The wheat gluten chunks have an appealing spongy, chewy texture.

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I love fried calamari of all kinds, so it's no surprise that I also loved the squid with salt and pepper. It wasn't like the rings of fried calamari I'm used to eating at Italian restaurants; these were fat squid chunks (no rings) completely encased in a light, crispy coating, and liberally salted, with a bit of pepper. Soft, but not rubbery, some pieces tasted a little too salt-heavy, but I think that excess hit of sodium just added to their addictiveness.

Shanghai Asian Cuisine

14 Elizabeth Street, New York NY 10013 (b/n Bayard and Canal; map)
212-964-5640

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