Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dim Sum Garden's Xiaolongbao



I cracked up at Hal's ridiculous mustache right when I walked into the place as if my mutton chops weren't equally as hysterical. He and Orest had lured me to Dim Sum Garden with promises of amazing dumplings, namely xiaolongbao: the soup dumpling, sometimes called Shanghai dumpling. The place is a certifiable hellhole, aptly surrounded by hell; right between every bum's favorite spot to pan handle outside Wawa and a Chinatown bus station where all US language and law ceases to exist, and right around the corner from the Greyhound bus station, the center for riff raff and human garbage in every major city in America.

The lunch crowd consisted not only of Asians, but white 9-5ers, and us, suggesting this place had been discovered time and time again, and I'm not going to try to Columbus this one. Craig Laban apparently wrote about it some time ago which gave it a little push. The dumplings revealed that the critical acclaim came well deserved.

We started out with some sticky rice dumplings, which is not something I usually go for off the dim sum cart. It was nice to have something a little heavy to accompany the dim sum. The shrimp dumplings had definitely come out of a freezer recently and spent too short a time steaming, but this little mishap was quickly forgotten when the Shanghai dumplings came out.


This was my first time with soup dumplings. Hal demonstrated the process;

1) Place the dumpling face up in your spoon.

2) Carefully bite off the very top of the dumpling.

3) Resist the urge to eat it at this point because it will scald the living shit out of your mouth if you go for it too fast.

4) Douse it with dumpling sauce

5) Blow on it awhile.

6) Put bliss into your face.

Yes, these were damn good. The soup tasted like a slightly salty meat broth. We ordered two trays, one filled only with minced pork, and the other with pork and crab meat.

Now, it's a little hard to judge the flavor of a dumpling, because I often consider it to be a textured vessel, the dumpling sauce dominating most of the flavor with its dual salty-tart flavor. The most fun thing about this particular dim sum is the multitude of these textures. First the thin, nearly translucent outer dough, then the slightly thick soup, and finally the minced meatball. It's a bite you can savor for an extended moment. I did several times.

One stereotype held true here, and I was hungry again a couple of hours later. I seriously considered trekking back to the fringe of Chinatown for more.


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