Happy Chinese New Year! Today is probably not the best day to find yourself in Chinatown. No matter how bad the opium withdrawal, you risk losing an eye to gunpowder-laced confetti, or worse, finding yourself at the receiving end of a silly string attack. After mulling over the potential hazards, one finds that the singular pro outweighs the cons. There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of navigating the throngs of revelers in search of the culinary jewel that is the soup dumpling, except, of course, the soup dumpling itself.
The concentration of restaurants in Chinatown is such that one might think a soup dumpling is easy to come by. But a delicious soup dumpling? That's a little more difficult. My limited expertise in the field led me straight to New Green Bo on Bayard St. and east of Mott St. It was 15 minutes through the crowds to get there from the Canal St. stop on the 6 train, and once in the vestibule of the restaurant, I knew it would be an hour more. On to plan B, Shanghai Cafe on Mott St. north of Canal. Another crowd sidestep ballet and I was there. Since the parade was focused south of Canal, Shanghai Cafe had yet to be bombarded, and I was seated immediately. Moments later, the first of two orders of soup dumplings arrived, tiny blossoms taunting me in their bamboo sauna. I had to let them cool off, and after doing so, I employed the system of dumpling on spoon, hole in the dumpling, slurp the soup, and pop the remaining deliciousness in your mouth. And once you get the system down, it's hard to restrain yourself from going on a soup dumpling bender. The size and flavor of the soup dumpling tricks your mind into thinking you never have to stop. Thank goodness it's a lunch hour, and not a lunch afternoon. Buen Provecho.