Standard issue dumplings are a cinch to come by—either dished out en masse at dedicated, six-for-a-dollar spots in Sunset Park, or offered as steamed or pan-fried appetizers at essentially every Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. Soup dumplings, however, are another story; as respected a culinary craft as sushi throughout Shanghai, the supremely delicate dough pockets require extra dexterity, and plenty of TLC. Which is why, instead of showing up at your average takeout joint, the best of them are generally found at bustling dim sum palaces, far-flung Flushing, or at a few famed purveyors in Manhattan, such as the perennially mobbed Joe’s Shanghai.
So the recent opening of Yaso Tangbao (translation: Uncle’s Soup Dumplings) is actually a pretty big deal for Brooklyn—most especially Downtown, which, as we’ve regularly noted, is mostly commandeered by food franchises. And while this is, ostensibly, a to-go joint—counter service only, plastic silverware, food served in disposable containers—Yaso Tangbao is far removed from the beef-and-broccoli pack, serving a solid selection of straight-from-Shanghai dishes, including lion’s head meatballs, salted soy milk soup, and chicken steeped in wine.
But they all run a distant second to those voluptuous xiaolongbao, so obviously the pride of house. In fact, they’re allowed to loll like happy Buddhas on a cabbage carpet, still cosseted in bamboo steamer baskets, while everything else gets unceremoniously deposited in recycled paper. Since wait times hover around 15 minutes or more, you can watch your dumplings being tended to in an open kitchen (presided over by Zongxing Tu, an esteemed veteran chef and native of Nanxiang), the system deliberate and unrushed. Translucent skins are lined with gelatinized meat broth, studded with a filling of pure ground pork or equally classic pork and crab, and fanned closed into their signature, kissy-faced pucker, with one remarkably fluid flick of the wrist.
Finally digging into those dumplings demands its own, finely honed process; it’s imperative to eat them immediately for starters, so they don’t bloat with moisture or re-congeal (which is why, in a show of integrity, Yaso Tangbao’s xiaolongbao are only available in-house). After carefully coaxing one into your soup spoon, poke a hole in the side with your teeth, just large enough for sucking out the fragrant broth in a single, extended slurp, before downing the dehydrated protein package in one final, flavorful go. No question; Yaso Tangbao’s dynamic, lovingly rendered dumplings run rings around your basic, run-of-the-mill potstickers.
148 Lawrence Street, Downtown Brooklyn