How do you eat shanghai soup dumplings ?
I started analyzing how awesome shanghai soup dumplings (you know, they come in a bamboo steamer and they are dumpling filled with soup) were last night, and came to the realization that there are several ways I've seen people eat them. I've observed two ways:
Method a.) You take the dumpling in your spoon, dip it in the vinager/ginger. Then, you proceed to gnaw a hole in the skin with your teeth. Then, gently sip out the broth like a vampire until it is gone. Proceed to consume the meat and the wrapping by popping the whole thing in your mouth. The disadvantage of this method is that you don't get to consume the broth and dumpling in one fell swoop. The advantages is that you can eat it while it is fairly hot and avoid burning yourself.
Method b.) You pop the whole thing in your mouth. Bite down, and the dumpling explodes in your mouth releasing it's juicy contents in a sublime mix of broth, meat, and wrapping. Advantages: The combination really tastes awesome. Disadvantages: There is 100% possibility that you will burn off the inside of your mouth because the broth is usually HOT.
So, what methods are people using to get optimal taste, or are there any other techniques to eat this awesome dish ?
All I know is don't wear a shirt/sweater/blouse you love when you go out for soup dumplings, because odds are good you're going to drop something on it.
I use Method A to a large extent, however, once I've managed to control the soup seepage, I take a bite when there's still some soup in the dumpling. I try to scoot the dumpling to the edge of the spoon, and gently bite the dumpling in half or a third with just the upper teeth (i.e. the spoon is halfway in your mouth. It's not a pretty sight, to be sure. Alternately, and no less "elegant" a method is to have the dumpling sitting in the spoon on a plate and use a hybrid chopstick, spoon as soup catcher method. It requires a level of ambidextrosity that I have only about 20% of the time.
The real trick is to let the steam escape for a bit before attempting to put one in your mouth, otherwise you'll ruin all your meals with seared tastebuds for a week.
The worst worst worst thing in the world to behold is a dumpling that gets stuck to the steamer and tears before you can get it to a spoon. I think I nearly cried when that happened once.
Slightly variant, I think….Lift the dumpling in chopsticks and hold the soup spoon in the other hand. Bite a hole and drain the juice into the spoon. Then eat and sip in turn until you finish it off.
The first time we had xiao long bao in NYC we didn’t know what we were getting into. After scalding my mouth on the first one, I waited to see what other people were doing. This is my version of what I surreptitiously learned at that time.
I pick the dumpling up carefully with my chopsticks, dip it in the ginger/vinegar/soy, and then deposit it in the spoon. Next, I use a spreading motion with my chopsticks to open a small hole in the dumpling skin and sip the soup mixed with the wonderful vinegar/ginger/soy, after blowing on it to cool it off, if necessary. Lastly, I eat the drained dumpling remnants.
Put dumpling in spoon. Poke hole with chopstick. Douse with chili oil. Bite/slurp half the dumpling. Let the rest cool for a moment. Eat the remainder in one or two bites, applying more chili oil if necessary.