Dear Food Diary:
Let me start by saying what’s on everyone’s mind: “I hate their name!”. The Kung Fu part is fine but Little Steamed Buns Ramen is just confusing and unnecessary. That said, their xiao long bao aka soup dumplings or buns are really darn good.
The gem is their shrimp, loofah and pork soup dumplings, a replica of one of my favorite fillings at the king of xiao long baos – Ding Tai Fung. Another favorite is their Shanghainese style wonton soup, which reminds me of my ChubbyMama.
Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen is certainly a very welcomed and much needed addition to the area. Before its arrival, not only was the Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen lacking any decent xiao long bao, I’d say all of Midtown and Uptown had nada.
Soup dumplings before a show anyone? As for me, this is my Shanghainese comfort food.
Fresh homemade made Soy Milk tastes totally different from the ones you get in a carton. The nutty flavors are identical to those found any given morning in China. Very pure, simple and just a touch of sweetness.
Pig Ear in Five Spice Sauce
An aromatic cold appetizer with a ton of texture. I’m a fan of cartilage and soft bone. That addictive snap with the chewier pig skin all around. Drizzled with more of that marinade filled with star anise, cloves, fennel, black pepper and sweetness from hints of cinnamon. I could nosh on these all day.
Shanghainese Spring Rolls
Unlike the usual spring rolls, the Shanghainese version required the cabbage, shiitake mushroom and pork to be stir-fried to a soft almost gooey consistency. Once the filling is cooled, it is then wrapped and deep fried. My ChubbyMama’s version can’t be beat, but these are very good. Perfect when dipped in dark vinegar.
Now to that gem I was talking about. I’ve only had this filling in Din Tai Fung:
Shrimp & Loofah Steamed Pork Buns (they call it buns, which translates to bao)
Pleasantly surprised and excited when I saw it on the menu! I’m sure a lot of people have tried the Ding Tai Fung version, but this is the first time anyone has tried to replicate it in NY. I would give 5 Chubby just for that.
Think of loofah like a milder cross between squash and cucumber. It has a very clean sweetness that plays along well with the umami from the shrimp and pork. As a result, the soupy burst is a little lighter and brighter than the famous crab roe filling. I personally am obsessed with this concoction.
Is this as good as the Ding Tai Fung original? No. But to be fair not many xiao long bao spots in the world can really compare to the super chain.
Shepherd’s Purse and Pork Wonton
My ChubbyMama’s best comfort meals and one of my all time favorite homesick cures. Shepherds purse is best describes as a cross between spinach and watercress. It’s a wild vegetable that has an unmistakable herbal, nutty note – like an grassy sesame oil aroma.
The first time I had it here, the filling was superb. Very crisp vegetables, fresh pork and the wrap was firm and al dente. I couldn’t wait to go back for more. The subsequent times however, were a little mushy and not as perfect.
My theory is that when they first opened (less busy), the veggies and meat were chopped finely and mixed by hand (quite labor intensive) – now that business has grown, they cheated with a food processor (I’ve done that at home and had similar results). Or, it could just have been sitting in the freezer too long. But those are just my guess.
They’ve also decided to add soy sauce to the filling, which as a purist I’m not thrilled about. But I still order them.
It’s nice to have a Shanghainese comfort food spot nearby work and home. Not having to trek down to Chinatown or Flushing on snow days will be very much appreciated.
They do delivery and are on Seamless (though I’m not sure in what conditions the soup dumplings would arrive). The place is tiny so be ready to share tables.
Oh! One very important detail, DO NOT go in expecting your usual Japanese style “Ramen”. They serve a Chinese style hand-pulled noodle soup “la mien” and a knife cut noodle soup “dao xao mien”. Both made fresh in-house (this requires a lot of practice and experience). I’ve heard great things about the beef soup.
811 8th Ave
New York. NY.