“You’re really sucking right now, and I’m not talking about what you’re doing to the dumpling juice,” Red Farm owner Ed Schoenfeld says to me, rather amused that I’ve just spilled the entire contents of a soup dumpling on my shirt. I’m at the new Upper West Side location of his wildly popular Chinese restaurant, which first opened in Manhattan’s West Village in 2011, to learn the proper technique behind eating soup dumplings. If you haven't had the pleasure, soup dumplings are steamed little buns filled with meat and a piping hot broth; they're a fixture in Chinese dim-sum parlors.
Schoenfeld has been a major figure in New York’s dining scene for over 40 years. Once dubbed “the curator of Chinese food in America” by Gourmet magazine, he has been involved in many of the city’s renowned Chinese kitchens, including The New York Times four-starred (now closed) Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan — the restaurant many credit with bringing Hunan and Szechuan cuisine to the U.S. — and Shun Lee.
“Eddie Glasses” — as he is affectionately nicknamed — is the definition of a character. A wealth of culinary knowledge flows out of his mouth almost as quickly as his startlingly candid thoughts. He teaches me that the term xiao long bao comes from the Chinese words for “little” “basket” and “bun,” then, without much of a pause, jumps into similarities between soup dumplings and scrotums. We'll save you from those details.
His mission today is a straightforward, albeit challenging one. There really is quite a science to eating soup dumplings, with disaster lurking behind each and every slurp. Here's what we learned.