Last week I got a great surprise in Chinatown. This part of the city is awesome to bring tourists, when you are looking for disorientation, or even better when you are broke since you can eat 8 dumplings for $2. I still haven’t found good Chinese pork buns like in San Francisco so when I’m craving for those I used to go to Momofuku or Ippudo to get the New York style ones.
Until last week, my go-to in Chinatown was Shanghai Cafe. Actually I can only remember the address 100 Mott st, on the recommendation of my boss. A bit apart of the mess, closer to Little Italy, those soup dumplings will blow your mind. What is a soup dumpling? Boiled ravioli, filled usually with pork and broth. The technique is to drill a little hole, literally slurp the soup, add the soy sauce and eat the ravioli. I actually watched the Asian guys next to me to learn it. So yes, do not bring a date to eat soup dumplings or it is gonna be a disaster! And try the kumquat bubble tea, just a bit of sweet in this flavored ice tea with tones of chewy tapioca balls.
What I found out last weekend is that in the same street, number 21, Shanghai Asian Manor also serves soup dumpling that always make a great impression to people you bring. Besides they also have Szechuan dumplings; ask not too spicy to be sure you can eat them since this part of China cooks really spicy. Skip the boiled pork and leek dumplings, insipid after this explosion of flavors in your mouth. And do not miss the braised duck; it is so tender you almost want to buy your meat in Chinatown after having tasted it. Served with bamboo shoots, there might be a little to much scallion sauce but this is only a detail.
If you want to see tourists and wait forever, go to Joe’s Shanghai. Big common tables, it is a lot of fun once you actually have your table. But the soup dumpling are not better than Mott street’s.
If you want to go for something more unusual and you are not afraid of spices, try Xi’an Famous food in East Village. The guy started in Queens and created a fusion between Middle Eastern and Chinese food. If you never had Szechuan food it is hard time. This is a fast food so buy your food and leave. Szechuan is a spicy cuisine with tones of flavors. Try the lamb burger, cooked with cumin. After this dish I could even say I am a lamb lover.