The history of Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings to many Americans and foreigners) is swathered in folklore. But to most Shanghaineses, Xiao Long Bao originated from Nanxiang, Shanghai in 1870s.
Soup Dumpling has thin skin made with flour and water, then hand rolled by skilled chefs. The dumpling skin with a small amount of meat is then placed in the palm of the hand, the chef will then use his other hand fingers to gather the edges up by spunning the dumpling clockwise. The more pleats on top of each soup dumpling means the chef is more skillful. Typical Soup Dumplings should have at least 14 pleats and should be slightly bigger than a golf ball.
These tender pouches, "little dumplings", are freshly made to order. They arrive at the table in piping hot bamboo steamers. Each plump dumpling contains a little pork meatball surrounded by a delightful meaty broth.
To prevent burning one's mouth and to savor the dumpling, the preferred method of consumption is to bite off a little piece of the doughy wrapper, drip the broth to a spoon to cool off, or suck the broth when it is slightly cooler with a "slurp", then eat the rest.
There are two variations available at Joe's Shanghai - crab with pork meat and pork meat. Each basket is freshly made to order, so don't forget to order your Soup Dumplings upon arrival at your table. Otherwise it might be a long wait!
A cartoonist, Robert Zimmerman, had drawn "Soup Dumplings: A Survival Course" comic strip that was once published in the newspapers many years ago. (See below) It comedically depicts the hazard of eating a fresh, piping hot dumpling. Although a little extreme, the danger of burning one's mouth is no different from the danger of enjoying a hot cup of coffee.