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Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria once said, “I am the emperor, and I want dumplings.”  As I stood in line at the very popular Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao Dumpling House in Flushing, I thought the same thing. But when did my name become Ferdinand?

This Michelin Guide 2016-recommended restaurant serves up piping-hot bamboo baskets of signature xiao long bao ($6.50), pillow-soft dumplings filled with minced meat in aspic, which means open wide because the floodgates of soup dumpling love are about to fill your maw.Nanxiang is a suburb of Shanghai, China, where soup dumplings were invented, and is still known for having the best xiao long bao anywhere. But how do they get the soup inside?! Is it like filling a water balloon? Tying those tiny knots must be a bitch.

In a very small open kitchen, three women hover over a work area like Soup Dumpling Fates, carefully measuring out a soup mixture of minced pork and aspic, then deftly folding it into a freshly-made dumpling skin. That’s the key–like fresh pasta, you can tell when dumpling skins are made fresh and consumed right away. Aspic is the gelatin made from meat broth, solid when cooled, melting into back into liquid gold as the dumplings are steamed.  You’ll notice that there are only women in the kitchen and Head Chef Huang Jian Ping will tell you that women are simply better at folding dumplings.

Carefully peel a hot dumpling off the bed of cabbage without puncturing it by gently lifting the bottom from side to side, wiggling it until it’s free. Set it on your soup spoon. Next, take the dipping spoon and drizzle the seasoned black vinegar onto your dumpling. Carefully take a bite off the very top so steam can escape before digging in. It will be hot! Then be prepared to be amazed with flavors that are the bomb diggity bomb.

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao Dumpling House
38-12 Prince Street
Flushing, NY 11354