We're soup dumpling-mad. When we go to a Shanghai-style Chinese restaurant, all too often we order soup dumplings, perhaps before we even sit down. But sometimes it pays to slow down and pay attention to the rest of the dumpling menu. On a recent visit to the excellent Shanghai Café Deluxe, our eyes lit on something called rice ball with pork in soup ($3.95). What a novel idea—dumplings in soup, rather than dumplings with soup inside them.
What arrived at the table was a large bowl of clear broth in which floated four shimmering, teardrop-shaped dumplings, each roughly the size of a golf ball. One fit exactly inside a Chinese soupspoon. A bite revealed a pillow-soft glutinous rice flour skin containing a mild but unctuous ground pork filling. The delicate broth, melting dumpling skin, and porky interior combined to make some serious comfort food. According to the Chinese food expert Michael Gray, the Chinese characters for the dish read xian rou tang yuan, or "tasty dumplings with meat in soup." One order will cure whatever ails you. They may just be the new soup dumpling.
Shanghai Café Deluxe
100 Mott Street, New York NY 10013 (map)