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How do you eat shanghai soup dumplings ?

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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 ?

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  1. 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.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ballulah

      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.

      1. re: meg944

        That's pretty much the same as me, except I try to avoid too much "drainage." Hahaha.

    2. Ballulah, my technique is pretty much identical to yours!

      1. 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.

        4 Replies
        1. re: David Kahn

          And my technique is nearly identical to yours, though I bite into the dumpling at first and use the spoon to catch any soup spillage so I can have it with my next bite of dumpling.

          1. re: JungMann

            I also pick up the dumpling with chopsticks, then hold them after dipping to my mouth while holding the spoon underneath and bite into them. s\using the spoon to catch any soup that drips.

          2. re: David Kahn

            This is the way my entire family eats soup dumplings, though I generally take a small spoon a cover the dumpling and soup with vinegar after the soup has been drained. Yum. I need to find some dumplings tomorrow.

            1. re: Ladycale

              Yes, actually I drizzle some vinegar over after biting the hole, so some of it mixes with the broth......

          3. I'm of the "pop the whole sucker into your mouth at once" variety. (And yes, you do have to be really careful not to scald yourself!)

            1 Reply
            1. re: sidwich

              I'm with sidwich on this one...pop the whole thing in and be careful of the scald!

            2. 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.

              1. There is a sort of a third method (at least, for me). I put the dumpling in the accompanying bowl, add a splash of vinegar with the spoon, and then slowly break the dumpling open thus spilling the broth into the bowl. I can then eat the meat and wrapper and save the broth to sip afterwards.

                  1. Some folks definitely let the XLB sit for a while unitl they dig in, trying to avoid the scalding. In this case, it helps if you've ordered a companion dish.

                    1. Wow, reading this is giving me such a craving! I put a little sauce in the spoon, plop the dumpling onto the spoon, gnaw a little hole on top and wait for the steam to come out. Then I tilt the spoon so the sauce and bun slide into my mouth, chew and have a little orgasm when all the delicious meaty, salty, vinegary juices come bursting out and mix with the pork.

                      1. Am I the only one who prefers chili oil to the vinegar/ginger?

                        1 Reply