Drunken Dumpling and its giant soup dumplings has been the darling of the foodie and hipster dumpling eating world since it opened in the fall of 2016. When I first sampled soup dumplings across Shanghai I was told by my guide that giant soup dumplings were a gimmick to attract tourists. So I have always been skeptical of giant soup dumplings, but they seem to be working for the patrons of Drunken Dumpling. The owner’s mom is the force in the kitchen, she was a mathematics professor in China but after emigrating to the US she took a position making soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai. Drunken Dumpling is a small little joint, with tiny tables, so it is tough to fit three big guys around a table eating piles of dumplings. Also, go there on off hours to avoid the lines.
The Dumplings: Drunken Dumplings is all dumplings – they sell Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings), Jiaozi (pot stickers served pan fried or steamed) and Baozi (Buns).
Beef and Green Pepper Jiaozi – I do not eat beef but my friends liked these dumplings and described the filling to me as being full flavored and tender. I did witness that these dumplings were explosively juicy. There were two instances at my table alone, of someone biting into one of these dumplings and either spraying themselves or the people sitting across from them with juice.
Chives and Egg Jiaozi – We got these dumplings pan-fried style and they arrived to our table cooked perfectly crispy on the bottom. Unfortunately the filling was under seasoned – you have to put a little salt in eggs and these had none – and the chives didn’t have much flavor to speak of. Usually in this circumstance I look on the bright side and use the dumplings as a sauce delivery vehicle, but the dipping sauces we were served at Drunken Dumpling were bad, almost inedible (see rant below).
Pork Baozi – at Drunken Dumpling these buns come three to an order and are pretty big. Typically these buns are served adorned with sesame seeds and scallion slivers and the ones we got had no seeds and only a few scallion slivers haphazardly scattered on the plate. These dumplings were also a fail; two out of the three were under cooked, with some of the pork still semi-raw in the middle.
Pork Soup Dumplings – after the failures of the Baozi and the Chive dumplings, Drunken Dumpling did succeed with its soup dumplings. I love the moment when the lid is removed from the steamer and the cloud of steam wafts out and the dumplings are revealed. The first assessment of Xiao Long Bao quality is whether or not the all the dumplings in the steamer have intact wrappers and the second is whether the dumplings hold together when you pick them up. The soup dumplings we got were intact and as I picked the first one up with my chopsticks, the dough pouch stretched precariously but kept it’s integrity. The wrappers were as thin and delicate as it seems possible to get and still contain the soup and meat ball filling. The soup was fatty and deeply flavored and the pork meat was finely textured, savory and well seasoned. Their soup dumplings are pretty big and actually overwhelm the Chinese soup spoons they have at Drunken Dumpling, they need bigger spoons.
The Dipping Sauce: The sauce served with the Jiaozi and Baozi was pure soy sauce, and not light sodium soy or regular sodium soy, but stroke inducing, super salty soy sauce. The soy sauce was so salty it was essentially inedible, and so there was no way to redeem the flavorless Chive & Egg dumplings.
The Location: Drunken Dumpling is in New York’s East Village neighborhood in what is fast becoming a dumpling alley stretching from East 8th street up to East 14th street. They are on 1st avenue between St. Mark’s Place (8th street) and 9th street.