Soup Dumplings at Chef Liu’s
pork and crab soup dumplings (蟹肉小笼包)
It’s such a shame how horrible my Chinese is these days. Two summers ago I was walking the streets of Beijing, barging into restaurants, flying solo in stores – I could go anywhere and speak enough to get what I wanted or needed. These days, I break out into a sweat just ordering tea at a Chinese restaurant. A sense of dread comes over me in these places because the people at the front expect me to speak the language, the mother tongue, Chairman Mao’s lingo.
For all of the above, I let my (white) friend walk through the doors of Chef Liu first last night. The move was my expelliarmis, my way of disarming the hostess into speaking English. It worked, and we sat down without any awkward exchanges.
We came for soup dumplings. I’ve expressed before that this is not my go-to spot for soup dumplings, although I have no go-to place in Atlanta to begin with. I suppose this is about compromises. This time around, the dumplings were far more enjoyable, boasting a fine broth and thin-enough skin. Next time, though, I’ll be skipping the ones with crab. Usually one orders the crab version, but I’m not so gung-ho on the quality used here. The fried pork buns bested the dumplings: crispy bread on the bottom but soft and airy on the inside with a ball of pork. The beef noodle soup isn’t so bad either, although the meat was mostly gristly. I stuck to the noodles.
There was some other cold noodle dish that I ordered, but it wasn’t the one I had in mind. This is what happens when I try to use my limited Chinese skills to order a dish I once had on the streets of Shanghai. I suppose I lucked out. It could have been worse. She could have brought out a goat on a leash or something.