Many guests on my food tours of America’s Greatest Chinatown—aka downtown Flushing—have had soup dumplings. Xiao long bao virgins get a quick tutorial. Since the wrappers at my favorite spot in New York Food Court are super thin, I encourage people to avoid using chopsticks and gingerly pick up the package from the top with their fingers and place it on the spoon.
They may or may not choose to cool their dumpling in the accompanying black vinegar, but the next step is always the same: “Bite a tiny hole in the side like a vampire and slurp the soup out.”
“You see a lot of goons poking holes right in the top,” Eddie Huang once declared. I’ve personally never done that, but the other day I did sheer off the entire top of an XLB at Shanghai Zhen Gong Fu, a newish spot in Elmhurst, to see why its pork and crab dumplings were so delicious. I was rewarded with a lovely view of the crab-enriched innards.
Huang maintains there’s only one proper way to eat an XLB, cool it in the vinegar and then eat the entire thing. I enjoy doing it that way once they’ve cooled down, but usually take the soup dumpling vampire approach. I’m of the opinion that there’s no one right way, but there are two wrong ways to eat XLB: spill the soup and/or burn your mouth. Let me know your favorite method to eat XLB in the comments.