On a recent trip to Queens, the highlight of many highlights was unquestionably the soup dumplings at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in the culinary Mecca of East Coast Chinese cuisine, Flushing. It is deservedly named after the city that originally invented XLB, Nan Xiang.
This is the first soup dumpling operation I’ve ever been to where they are literally made-to-order. Make your request to the server and watch as the dumpling maker rolls out your wrappers right there in front of you. Yeah, it takes a bit more time. But after trying them out, you won’t care less about the 20 to 30-ish minute wait.
Unlike many other highly-respected XLB places, these wrappers are light and mildly pliant (al dente), not being either gummy/sticky or dried out. What fascinated me most about them, though, was that they weren’t translucent, a characteristic I seek out in XLB. Nan Xiang’s wrappers are made ever-so-slightly thicker so that they can hold the huge amount of soup contained within them and yet somehow still retained a grace to them often found only at the most meticulous of XLB places.
The soup is subtle and has a seductive level of fattiness and unctuousness. They are in total harmony to one another, something one usually seeks out when looking for the ever-elusive, perfect xiao long bao.
The pork/crab fillings had a nice density and weight to them as well as a nice slightly creamy texture (no doubt loads of fat).
Not only are these the biggest, softest, most voluptuous soup dumplings I’ve ever tried (I swear, once they cooled down, I was seriously considering “motor-boating” the damn things), but, overall, they were some of the tastiest and most enjoyable XLB I’ve had anywhere, certainly in the NY area.
XLB at Nan Xiang has the perfect combination of refinement as well as grit. The classic and never-ending debate between XLB-heads is always about these two schools on what constitutes an ideal soup dumpling. Nan Xiang is a perfect hybrid of the two philosophies. Think Din Tai Fung cross-bred with Mei Long Village (San Gabriel, CA) and it yields Nan Xiang in Flushing.
A flaw that some might find with them, though, is the awkwardness when handling these behemoths. Unless you take the utmost care and have a pretty good idea how to naturally manage a soup dumpling, a squirting shot of molten-hot soup is guaranteed. Be careful here…someone could lose an eye. I even saw one guy literally puncture the wrapper and drain the soup into his bowl before even attempting to consume the dumpling. At first I laughed and thought the guy was a complete rube. But after trying one or two myself, I soon came to realize that this guy was obviously a seasoned veteran of the place. I continued to eat mine in the more traditional way but paid the price by having to walk around Flushing with XLB juice all over my shirt. Who’s the rube?
Nan Xiang’s xiao long bao alone would easily be reason enough to make a trip to the ever-burgeoning Asian scene constantly expanding in Flushing over the last few years.
If you enjoy xiao long bao, take the “7” train out there. You won’t regret it.
Nan Xiang for some reason prefers to make 6 X-large dumplings instead of the more usual 8 or more per order. Thoughtfully served piping hot.
Super-sized Xiao long bao made-to-order.
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao
38-12 Prince Street