So it’s been awhile since my last proper xiao long bao fix. 8 Months, 27 days, 8 hours, and 27 minutes to be exact. Ok, maybe not that exact. But like a crack fiend jonesin for the next euphoric hit, my craving for a decent xiao long bao in New York City has morphed into a fevered frenzy. Joe’s, Shanghai Cafe, Nanxiang.. just methadone until I can get my hands on the real thing. But luckily for me, I got a guy.
Enter Eddie Huang, aka The Pop Chef, of Baohaus NYC. He tipped me off to a place where I could score some legitimate xiao long bao. I was skeptical, but intrigued. Good XLB in NYC? I dunno man… I mean, first of all the place is called 456 Shanghai. And its not even located at number 456. It’s located at 69 Mott Street! Certainly, if you had the err.. fortune.. of landing an address at #69 whatever street, wouldn’t you go ahead and name it after that? So anyways.. 456 Shanghai. Here it goes:
Eddie and I started off with a sampler plate of your traditional Shanghainese cold dishes – kofu (my favorite), jellyfish, marinated bamboo shoots, and some kind of greens chopped finely with smoked tofu. Okay. So far so good. Pretty authentic. I have to say that kofu is the best I’ve had since Shanghai.
We ordered two baskets of dumplings – one crab and pork, one regular pork. They arrived on our table piping hot and billowing clouds of steam. Upon first glance they looked pretty good.. petite and elegant, unlike the enormous American monstrosities served at Joe’s. Xiao Long Bao are a thing of beauty – perfect little pleats, delicate wrappers, pristine soup… they should be just large enough to fit in the well of your porcelain soup spoon. These did. The wrapper was perfect – sheet thin and just barely chewy and strong enough to hold the gush of porky, full-bodied soup contained inside. YES. This is it. I’m actually high on pork. Let me get another hit!
Another treat you have to try at 456 Shanghai is their Shenjiang bao. I’ve always steered clear of shenjiang bao because they are usually decorated with a slick coating of recycled grease (probably) harvested from the streets of Shanghai. Although I’m sure that same recycled grease is what is flavoring my beloved street xlbs, there is something about seeing the oil on the outside of your food that is so disconcerting to me. But I’m so glad Eddie put in this order of Shenjiang Bao.. they were incredible. The bun was perfectly pan-fried on the bottom, yet fluffy and light on the top. I couldn’t help but give the little suckers a smack just watch them bounce back. And the best part – instead of soggy wet bun surrounding a ball of meat on the inside, 456’s bao magically hold all the juices of the filling intact. Take a bite of a bao and you’ll get the light, resilient bun, which gives way to a rush of warm porky soup surrounding a delicious ball of meat. Amazing.
Here’s a photo of Eddie pointing at some crazy candied ham and Jenga bread dish he ordered. Thanks for schooling me in XLB, chef!
69 Mott St
(between Bayard St & Canal St)
New York, NY