In these cold, dreary months of winter, many Chicagoans turn to a steaming bowl of soup for warmth. Next time you are looking to chase away the winter doldrums, try and order soup dumplings instead.
Originally a street food found in Shanghai, soup dumplings (also known as “juicy buns”) are now featured in Asian menus throughout the United States. These steaming bundles contain a tightly wrapped dumpling skin which surrounds ground meat or seafood, bathed in a meaty broth.
The broth is often scented with hints of garlic, ginger and lemongrass. If made correctly, soup dumplings are piping hot and beyond delicious. Paired with a soy-ginger dipping sauce, soup dumplings rank high on the list of crave-worthy foods. You will not be able to eat just one.
Before diving in, a few words of caution: The dumplings are usually served in a steamer basket and arrive directly from stovetop to your table. Wait a few minutes for them to cool down and then proceed slowly. Remember that these delicate packages are filled with searing hot liquid. The proper technique is to place the dumpling in a soup spoon, gnaw a small hole in the side with your teeth and gently suck the soup out of the hole, or pour the soup into a spoon.
Do not try to eat these in one bite as you will either incur instantaneous third degree lip burns or wind up bathed in a shower of scorching dumpling broth. Eating these amazing bundles may be fraught with terror, but it’s still totally worth it.
Soup dumplings are a bit elusive in the Chicago area. Here are a few places that are serving these fresh right now:
Hing Kee (2140 S Archer Ave.) So far the best of the lot, Hing Kee has two dedicated employees churning out these goodies as fast as they can sell them. The dumpling skin is not too thick, the broth and filling perfectly seasoned and the dipping sauce makes a nice complement. The downside of this is that when the dumpling-makers have the day off, the dumplings are not as fresh and delicious.
Ok Restaurant (2222 S. Archer Ave.) Their name says it all. Their soup dumplings are okay as they had a good amount of broth and were tasty. The dumpling skin is on the doughy side which makes them a bit heavy, but still pretty good.
Shanghai Bistro (2334 S. Wentworth) The soup dumplings here have a good amount of broth, but the dough is a bit thick and lumpy, making them more filling than a true dumpling should be.