Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Feel Like a Zombie Soup Dumpling

Sonya, Pat, and I have a list of places we need to eat at before the end of January. Or rather, places they’ve already eaten at but want me to experience. So far we’ve crossed four out of fourteen off our list: ’ino, Thai Market, Beard Papa’s, and, the focus of today’s post, Shanghai Cuisine.

So after a lazy Sunday of White Russians and cream puffs, we headed to Chinatown to check out Shanghai Cuisine. Our mission: Zombies and soup dumplings.

Zombies on the Shanghai Cuisine menu are described as “our version of Don the Beachcomber’s original lethal libation, a real dirty stinker.” This description is absolutely true. The Zombie is basically a combination of rum and fruit juices, and it’s all topped off with a shot of 151. Powerful. We thoroughly enjoyed drinking this classic tiki drink as we indulged in delicious Chinese food.

Sonya tried the Pineapple Paradise, which was a blend of rum, tropical juices, and spices. It came frozen like a smoothie in a cute, little pineapple glass. I knew another Zombie would put me over the top, so when it came time for a second round of cocktails I opted for a Mai Tai. I love Mai Tais with their combination of light and dark rums and fruit juices, and they always remind me of my time spent in Hawaii. I was pleased with Shanghai Cuisine's interpretation of the Mai Tai. It seems they take their cocktails very seriously.

We accomplished part one of the mission with our first sip of zombies, and next up was the soup dumplings. Shanghai Cuisine offers three different types of soup dumplings, so naturally we ordered all three kinds: pork, crabmeat and pork, and shrimp and pork.

Some of you may be wondering what exactly a soup dumpling is. No, it’s not a dumpling in soup. It’s a dumpling that has a meat filling also has soup inside. The dumplings arrive in steamer baskets, and the first thing to do is carefully transfer a dumpling from the steamer to a spoon. It’s key to be careful so that you don’t accidently pierce the dumpling wrapper and lose the precious soup inside.

Take a little of the sauce that accompanies the dumplings and pour it on top. Once the dumpling is on the spoon you don’t want to just pop it in your mouth—the soup will probably be too hot and will explode in your mouth and burn you. Not cool. So instead take a little bite out of the side of the dumpling and suck up the soup through the hole. Be prepared for a savory, salty, delicious broth that warms the soul. After quaffing the lovely liquid, it’s time to eat the dumpling. The soup dumplings at Shanghai Cuisine were superb. Everyone needs to experience these little packets of deliciousness at some point in their lives.

Besides the soup dumplings, my other favorite dish we tried that night was jellyfish with shredded turnip in scallion sauce. I never had jellyfish before, but I wanted to try something a little exotic and Sonya was also down to test it out with me. Pat initially refused to taste the jellyfish, but after some liquid courage from the Zombie he took a bite. And I saw him going back for more.

I think for a first experience with jellyfish we opted for the right preparation. It was shredded into thin pieces and mixed in with turnip that was the same size and shape, so it was impossible to discern what was jellyfish and what was turnip. The texture was a mixture of softness from the jellyfish and crunchiness from the turnips. The dish was served chilled and reminded me of eating cold noodles. I loved the scallion sauce—it was nice and salty without being overpowering. I’ll definitely be trying to replicate the sauce at home. All in all, the jellyfish experience was much tamer than I expected and I would order it again in a second. I’m hooked.

We also ordered some pork fried rice. It’s classic comfort food. Shanghai Cuisine makes it just the way I like it—a little greasy, a little crispy, and loaded with lots of roast pork. Yes.

Next up was a seafood bird’s nest. It consisted of a combination of various seafood and vegetables displayed in a pretty “nest” made of fried noodles. Although the basket was nice to look at, it was not pleasant to eat—dry, tough, and bland. Don’t eat it. The seafood mixture was much more appetizing. It came with squid, crabmeat, scallops, shrimp, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, and peas. Pat also tried what he thought was a water chestnut but turned out to be a fish ball. No, not the balls of a fish, but rather a sort of meatball made out of fish and steamed. The seafood bird’s next was pretty basic Chinese food—it was good but could not compare to the soup dumplings on any level.

My recommendation for Shanghai Cuisine is to stick to their powerful libations and dim sum menu. It’s definitely worth the trip to Chinatown just to try their soup dumplings. If you’re feeling adventurous I’d also suggest trying some of their less typical fare, such as jellyfish, duck tongue, chicken’s feet, or sea cucumber. And don't forget the Zombies!

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