Chinatown hounds are talking dumplings. The neighborhood's newest contender is the shengjian bao at Shanghai Heping. This pan-fried soup dumpling is plump, delicious, and full of broth, says buttertart. "Nice and juicy," agrees scoopG, "with a crispy bottom." Four-month-old Shanghai Heping also makes great, crisp fish in bean curd skin, but its xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings) are just OK, marred by thickish skins.
Surprisingly, an excellent version of this Shanghai-style dumpling has surfaced at a Sichuan restaurant. The xiao long bao at Old Sichuan, a hound favorite for its namesake cuisine, is the best buttertart's had in a long time. It's distinguished by ample soup and uncommonly thin skins. And at $4.50 for eight pork dumplings and $6.50 for eight pork-and-crab, it's a great deal.
A different kind of dumpling is getting attention at Fu Zhou Cuisine in Chinatown's Fujianese quarter. Its steamed shui jiao, filled with minced pork and scallions, is among the best in the neighborhood, says Lau. Well-made skins, neither too thick nor too thin, enclose a flavorful filling; an agreeably sweet sauce of chile and soy comes on the side for dipping. "This is why most people come here," he adds.
Lau, who also blogs about this Eldridge Street hole in the wall, says it makes worthy versions of several other Fujianese xiao chi, or "small eats," including pork-stuffed fish balls, delicate wontons in soup, and wheat noodles with peanut sauce (a past hound favorite). "While there isn’t much service, since you order at the counter and then sit down," Lau says, "one of the ladies who runs the place is really nice. This is a pleasant surprise because at most of these Fujian places the people are very gruff."
Shanghai Heping [Chinatown]
104 Mott Street (between Canal and Hester streets), Manhattan
Old Sichuan [Chinatown]
65 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth streets), Manhattan
Fu Zhou Cuisine, a.k.a. Shu Jiao Fu Zhou Cuisine [Chinatown]
118 Eldridge Street (at Broome Street), Manhattan