Even the great French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten remembers the first time he had soup dumplings, those fatty, porky, mouth-size morsels with steaming-hot broth inside. It was during a trip to China in 1982, JG (as friends call him) recounts, and back then he was only able to secure a one-day visa to taste Shanghai's delights. But it still made a lasting impression: "In Shanghai, they fold and cook, fold and cook," he explains. "The pork is room temperature they never put it in the fridge; it wouldn't get an A in New York." So, in honor of Chinese New Year, we were wondering who had the best nouveau soup dumpling in New York, and we threw in one of the classics, Joe's Shanghai, for the sake of comparison. We asked the chef to rate each spot's dumplings on a scale of one to five, taking into account dumpling skin, filling, and overall appeal. Check out our slideshow to see who topped JG's list.
It wouldn't be fair to rate these, but the crew at Jean Georges prepared four delicious riffs on soup dumplings to commemorate the end of our tour. Clockwise from top left: Peekytoe crab dumpling with celeriac–meyer lemon tea; foie gras dumpling with vinegar and chile; peekytoe crab dumpling with broth inside; liquid potato-stuffed pierogi with black-truffle shavings
DISH: Steamed juicy buns with pork, $7.25; steamed juicy buns with crab, $7.25 TOTAL POINTS: 3.6 "I like the filling; I like the broth. The top was not cooked enough — it was too thick."
DISH: Pork soup dumplings, $12; crab soup dumplings, $19 TOTAL POINTS: 3.7 "That's definitely the size of a Shanghai dumpling. [On the pork:] This is a pretty good one; the dough's pretty nice. I think the broth is not as rich as Joe's Shanghai. I like the lightness; they're nice and hot. The crab — no."
DISH: Soup dumplings, $11 TOTAL POINTS: 3.8 "This is closer to China. I like the viscous broth. It's funny it's the same chef [as at Redfarm, Joe Ng], but the broth was richer there."
DISHES: Pork and crab soup dumplings, $12; chicken–black truffle soup dumplings [available through the end of black-truffle season, probably early March], $18 TOTAL POINTS: 4.2 "This is new: a piece of Arugula sticking out of the soup dumpling. They're light. The juice is nice and intense. It's different than what you'd get in Shanghai; those are a little more fatty. I like the clean flavor — more porky."
DISH: Crab with pork meat steamed buns, $6.95; Pork steamed buns, $4.95 TOTAL POINTS: 4.6 "Already, they get ten points for being steaming hot. I like the pork — pure pork. I really think this is my favorite in terms of flavor. There's more fat in these. The dough is perfect, the temperature is perfect; your mouth needs to be coated with a little bit of fat."
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