Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Where is the soup?

These beautiful babies are “soup dumplings” and the name is no misnomer. So where is the soup? If you don’t know the answer, you need to read the instructions before diving in for a taste. Seriously, the consequences of ignorant consumption could result in disablement of all sensations in your mouth for a few days, as J has experienced on numerous occasions. Why he had chosen to experience such disablement more than once is something that could only be understood by those who eat with us often.

I first encountered a version of these in New York City about seven years ago at a famous Shanghainese restaurant where they were served with little sheets of eating instructions. Not being one who loves to follow instructions, I am grateful for having brought along a friend who had already been clued in on the eating procedures and showed me the ropes. Now, I make a point to order these at places where they are the “it” dish each time I return to Asia and I almost always get to play teacher to friends from this half of the world.

This time, E, K, J, and I ordered the “soup dumplings” at a Crystal Jade in Hong Kong, where they are the required dish. Before they arrived, I gave at least three “the soup is incredibly hot” warnings. Then we went through the 4 stepped procedures with the real stuff, which included dipping a dumpling in a mix of vinegar and freshly shredded ginger, while taking care not to pierce the delicate skin that is about the thickness of a CD; carefully taking a small bite to create an opening near the top of the dumpling, which enables the “soup” or steaming hot concentrated juices of pork and vegetables inside the dumpling to air slightly, slowly sucking out the “soup” when it had cooled to a tolerable temperature, and eating the rest of the dumpling with more of the dipping sauce and/or hot chili pepper as in K’s case.

E and K amazed us with their chopstick skills by finishing two steamers of the “soup dumplings” without piercing a single wrapper. Everyone absolutely loved how the tangy vinegar balanced out the richness of the meat filling and heightened the juiciness of the pork. The wrappers were incredibly delicate, but provided a bite and held their integrity without turning mushy.

E exclaimed “I shall never be satisfied with anything less again” after devouring the last one. I get the feeling that this is not going to be her last trip to Asia. Only one person got burned during the meal. I admire and adore his stubbornness very much.

1 comment:

Kevin said...


That sound like fun and delicious -- although my chopstick skills wouldn't even begin to cover it.