One of my favorite parts of my recent visit to China was the food. Particularly, the magical “soup dumplings” for which Shanghai is legendary, known more properly as xiaolongbao. I went to DinTaiFung in Shanghai, as per friend Todd’s recommendation, which is known world-wide for its excellence in these steamed dumplings.
Dudes furiously making xiaolongbao inside the zoo-window at DinTaiFung in Shanghai near Yu Yuan Garden.
Here they are in the flesh, authentic xiaolongbao, ready to be eaten in all their glory in Shanghai.
Why are these little nuggets so good? Well, they are filled with a pork meat mixture, but also an incredibly savory broth. You pick them up with your chopsticks (while carefully trying to avoid breakage) and deposit them into a big Chinese soup spoon, so that you can slurp out some of the broth before biting in (so as to avoid a hot broth explosion all over your clothing).
When I returned from China, I had a momentary burst of inspiration regarding dumplings & steamed buns in general. I had purchased a book of dim sum recipes in Hong Kong after having these amazing bbq pork-filled buns for breakfast 2 days in a row:
Luscious barbequed pork bits tucked inside a fluffy white bun: breakfast of champions, folks.
“I am totally going to learn how to make all of this stuff when I get back to Mexico City,” I told myself. The cookbook unsurprisingly did not have a recipe for the xiaolongbao, so I went off to the innerwebs in search of instruction. This fantastic blog post described in great detail how to make the magical soup dumplings, and cleared up the mystery of how hot broth ends up inside. Unfortunately (as the blog post freely admits), the recipe “is not fast and easy”. My burst of inspiration tempered momentarily, and I got a little sulky at the idea of further xiaolongbao encounters being restricted to a future visit to NYC’s Chinatown.
Yesterday, I was having a particular craving for some Chinese dumplings. Friends Brandi & Mike had tipped us off a while back to a great new Japanese restaurant just a few blocks away from our house in Polanco. It is called Takenoya, and it’s located at Moliere 313 (between Ejercito Nacional y Homero). We had been there prior to my China trip for sushi (which was great), and I vaguely recalled seeing several Chinese steamers in circulation. John acquiesced to my desire to go suss it out for dinner last night.
As we entered the restaurant for my 2nd visit, I once again observed numerous Asian people eating there (which is the classic uninformed American cue for “so this must be good Asian food then”). We flipped to the menu insert titled “Platillos Chinos Cocidos al Vapor” (aka Steamed Chinese dishes). With my new China-vocab, I quickly spotted my good friend: “Yes! They have xiaolongbao! These are the soup dumplings I had in Shanghai! We must get at least 10,” I barked.
Here's a partial shot of Takenoya's "steamed Chinese dishes" menu. To me, 10 pieces of xiaolongbao were totally worth $80 pesos since it meant me not having to spend two days making them.
We decided to go all-dumpling, ordering the 10-pack of xiaolongbao, 6 shaumai de camaron y carne de cerdo (shrimp & pork), and 6 gyoza al estilo taiwanes (these turned out to also be stuffed with pork).
John prepares to dive in for his first soupy-porky dumpling experience. Note the similarity between these dumplings & the original Shanghai dumplings shown above!
The xiaolongbao were first to arrive, and they met my high expectations. (happy day) I would say maybe they didn’t have *as* much broth inside as the ones I’d had in China, but I thought they were great.
Here I am with my shumai friends. Note trendy decor in background!
Next we had the shumai– these have pork filling in the base with a cooked shrimp nestled into the top. Also very good! In fact, these were John’s favorite. (heresy, but I will let it go)
Finally, we had the taiwanese-style gyoza, which are first steamed & then briefly pan-fried on one side.
The gyoza was our last dish, which came with an interesting sauce I couldn’t quite pinpoint– maybe peanut-based? Hard to say. Anyway, these were filled with a mixture of pork, green onions & other stuff, and also very tasty. I will say by this point, we did both agree that perhaps we should have ordered something that *wasn’t* stuffed with pork… (Shock, I know.) But despite the dishes having a lot of pork, they were all great.
Here is a shot of a slightly-melted mango-flavored mochi that I had in Beijing, from the aptly-named boutique store "Mochi Sweets".
We ended the meal with “tempura helado”, aka fried ice cream. This was the only disappointing part– the ice cream had clearly been fried at some earlier point in time, as the tempura exterior portion was chilled & a little soggy. Instead I might recommend the mochi for dessert, which are balls of ice cream covered in a thin, sticky-rice-based shell.
Overall, the two meals I’ve had at Takenoya have both been fantastic. This is one of the few restaurants I’ve visited here in Mexico City that seems to understand pacing– they brought out the dishes one-by-one (vs. all in one swoop, resulting in dumplings sitting on your table getting cold). The service is great & the prices, while not bargain basement, seem reasonable for authentic Asian food. They have a couple hibachi grill tables as well, where the chef cooks things up right in front of you, but we’ve not tried out those. Upstairs, there is a cute lounge area where I am already envisioning hosting a dumpling-fueled happy hour sometime in the future.
Perhaps this exterior view of Takenoya's street-facing kitchen should have clued me in to their dumpling offerings (as depicted in 3 large TV-sized photos near the ceiling)!!
For anyone living in Mexico City who’s been warily avoiding the numerous “Buffet de Comida China” offerings, I would definitely put this on your list for an interesting combo of Japanese food + steamed Chinese food options! Hope to see you there during my next visit to sate my dumpling needs…