by Mike Sula
There is a promising new soup dumpling maker in town, though they aren't making xiao long bao. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling opened in in the subterranean Richland Center food court a few months back serving guan tang jiao zi, or "soup-filled dumplings," a potsticker-sized variant that the New York-based Taiwanese-U.S. World Journal thought notable enough to write up (h/t SinoSoul). These extraordinary dumplings are hand stuffed to order before your very eyes, then boiled instead of steamed. Also unlike xiao long bao, they don't derive their interior soupiness from liquefied aspic, but rather from the filling itself, which is mixed with water to produce a slurry that alchemizes into hot, meaty soup in the roiling boil. At QXYD, the delicate, silky dough contains a blistering hot squirt of soup about 95 percent of the time. Warning: it is difficult to nibble an end and slurp the broth a la xiao long bao, because the pressure tends to make it spew out of the other end, which could be dangerous to others in close proximity. My advice is to restrain yourself until they cool down a bit before ingesting them whole. QXYD offers an impressive 23 different fillings for their dumplings, things like leek, egg, and shrimp; lamb with coriander; pork and dill; chicken and mushrooms; and beef and celery, all meant to be slathered with a combination of soy sauce, chile oil, and vinegar. A plate of about two dozen dumplings ranges from $5.99 to $8.99, maintaining the food court's reputation for providing some of the best food values in Chinatown.
For that reason I can't figure why the Richland Center—home to destination-worthy stalls Snack Planet, Lao Pi BBQ, and Kylin Teppanyaki—is almost always nearly empty. Whatever the reason, it's not stopping new stalls from moving in. Yet another, Yun Ding Shao Kao, or "Snow Top BBQ" is open for business, serving up whole braised pig trotters, steamed buns, skewers, and more. Last week I found myself confronted with an enormous, bubbling bowl of sour cabbage, pork belly, and tofu soup from Snow Top—perfect on a subarctic day—which was the only thing stopping me from putting away two orders of dumplings.