What the heck is Little Dragon Buns? Well, that's a direct translation from Chinese (小籠包). It's really little steamed pork buns. If they are made well, they are really steamed pork soup buns. I will explain the soup part later. Though, I don't know why they are called buns. I think they are more like dumplings. There are many places that sell these little buns in New York City, but only one is famous: Joe's Shanghai.
They have two locations, one in Brooklyn and one in Flushing. On my last trip, I ended up at the one in Flushing. Like most Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, both locations are small and crowded. I have never gone there and not have to wait at least 15 minutes. Good luck trying to get a table on the weekend for dinner.
Each order of buns come with 8 and it takes about 10-20 minutes to make. So, be patient! I think 1 order per person is about right. We had 4 girls and 5 orders and it was a little too much. An order of regular buns is $4.65. An order of buns with crab meat is $6.65.
They are going to come out in these steamers and the steamers will be stacked if you have more than one. This way, the ones on the bottom stays hot while you eat the ones on top.
Now, eating these buns require skills. Otherwise you are wasting them and should not bother eating them. Sounds harsh right? But, it's true! So, here's how to eat little dragon buns.
Step 1: Pick it up with the prongs
Pick them up from the top, where the wrapper is twisted together. That's the sturdiest part of the bun.
Step 2: Put it in the soup spoon
I call these soup spoons. I don't know what you call them. Don't drop it.
Step 3: Bite off the top part.
It shouldn't be too spicy.
Step 4 (optional): Add vinegar and/or hot sauce
Just pour a lil bit into the bun.
Step 5: Eat it!
I like to pour out the soup and just drink it on its own. It's thick and so very tasty! It's more than soup! It's like yummy pork juice! Oh wait, that doesn't sound very good. Pork essence? You don't have to pour it out. You can just stuff it in your both. But, I suggest that you pour it out into the spoon carefully if it's your first time. You may under estimate how much soup is in the bun and squirt it out of your mouth. Then, everyone is going to laugh at you and that's not good. Another reason to pour it out is because it may be very, very hot. Seriously like boiling hot.
The taste is very rich and flavorful. The pork to wrapper ratio is perfect. It's never salty to me, just rich. The soup is so thick that if you let it cool, it'll congeal. Some friends only like the pork ones and some only like the crab ones. I love them both equally :) The nappa cabbage that is underneath the buns is edible, by the way, if you need some veggies to even out all that meat.
I usually don't order anything else when I eat at Joe's. I don't want to waste precious stomach space on other food besides these awesome buns! Just thinking about it makes me hungry!!