I’m sitting in my high school bedroom right now, having just come home for the hollerdays. All week, I’ve been so excited to get here, and now, naturally, all I want to do is write about one of my favorite restaurants in New York. Could it just be that there’s no good place in New Jersey to get soup dumplings, which I have great and terrible cravings for about eight times each day?
The first time I tried soup dumplings, I was both on a date and crutches after slamming my ankle in an iron door earlier in the week. I went to some small Chinese place with a person I had recently met and about whom I was a little unsure. Since I can be as clumsy with chopsticks as I am with my bodily appendages, my beau oh-so-charmingly tried to guide me towards using them correctly when he noticed me struggling, but I bypassed him and went to pick up a steaming little dim something to showcase my ability. I was full of bravado, all, “No, no, I can do this, it’s fine!” I immediately ended up with a lap full of scalding, oily liquid, of course – it turns out soup dumplings have that name because they’re filled with gummy broth, and aren’t best eaten with chopsticks as a result. Obviously. It was a really, really cool move on my part.
Regardless of how uncomfortable (and sticky) I was for the rest of the meal, it turned out to be one of the best nights ever. My date gave a post-dinner piggyback ride back home WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY CARRYING MY CRUTCHES because he didn’t want me to walk on my hurt ankle, and that insane-style gallantry wasn’t even the highlight of the evening: It turns out that soup dumplings, even when staining your finest date clothing and burning your lap, are a godlike delicacy. I’ve since learned to eat them properly and do so A LOT, often while in the company of the same guy from that first time I tried them; he likes to surprise me with them after we get home from work. I guess that night worked out pretty okay for me, in retrospect. That’s actually our wedding photo at the top of this post.
Here is my favorite spot, although there are plenty of other great ones:
NAN XIANG DUMPLING HOUSE, Flushing, Queens
These are really the end-all, be-all as far as soup dumplings in New York City are concerned. Their best ones are huge pockets of mixed crab meat and pork, flavors which work REALLY well together, to my raised-on-On-Cor surprise. Yes, the name of the frozen meals I ate was ON-COR, like the French word “encore” – no wonder my knowledge of other cultures’ food suffered for so many years, with that ham-fisted standard of worldliness to work from. Anyway, I much prefer this interpretation of surf-and-turf to the more traditional one. The broth is an amazing radioactive yellow color, and it coats your entire mouth to the point that you have to almost suck your cheeks to get it all down. These are so, so savory and great.
Nanxiang is the region of China credited with creating the original ancestors of modern soup dumplings, and so I guess it’s not that surprising that the restaurant that openly acknowledged that history in its name would be the best. It’s also in Flushing, which obviously has some of the best Chinese food ever, although this is my favorite out of the ones I’ve tried. People will wait in line halfway down the block in the rain for a table here, as I’ve seen firsthand. They’re well worth it – after eating the last one of these plump little miracle balls, I can still be seen very rudely tipping their vessel into my spoon for extra broth. 393 people on Yelp swoon over it as much as I and the other line-standers do, and when you take into account that Yelpers are generally terrible and the weirdest humans ever when it comes to reviews (and life), that has to tell you something, right? If Nan Xiang can bring some joy into the dank hearts of the people who feel the need to write Yelp reviews, then I promise you’ll love it too.