Tag Archives: peking duck

Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

Soup dumpling is a type of mini-steamed-buns originally from Shanghai, and it is quickly gaining popularity in New York. Its Chinese name Xiaolongbao has the meaning “small” “steaming basket” – which explains how it is cooked.

Since many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. are based on Cantonese cuisine, soup dumplings were introduced as a dim sum dish among other Cantonese dim sums. In New York, one can often order soup dumplings in dim sum restaurants in Chinatown. But if you’re looking for authentic soup dumplings, your best bet would be elsewhere.

Joe’s Shanghai was among the first Shanghai-style restaurants in the city, with its first store opened back in 1995. While the brand is well-established, the taste of the soup dumpling is not as special as one might expect. The dumplings are too big – when presented, they look like they have collapsed in the basket.

Carla Asian Tapas, on the other hand, serve great soup dumplings that outshine any other soup dumpling places I have tried in New York. Located at 38 Carmine Street, the chic Asian tapas serves contemporary Chinese food “with Western flare”, as its owner Luguang said, who is now a longtime New Yorker with a long time dream of opening a restaurant of Asian cuisine.

The restaurant is decorated with a modern flare – a full bar, two main dining rooms with the inner one often used as a venue hosting art and cultural events, and a garden decorated with string lights.

Busy on a Wednesday night.
Busy on a Wednesday night.

Upon looking at the restaurant’s succinct menu, names such as “Peking Duck Tacos” and “Panko Crusted Lobster Roll” immediately jump out. They are original dishes that truly make an effort to combine flavors from the East and the West.

Both the pork soup dumplings and the crab soup dumplings here are extremely well made and taste like the ones I used to have in the popular Taiwanese brand Din Tai Fung – the chain has become so popular that it has opened several U.S. locations in recent years . Indeed, the head chef James Yang at Carma came directly from Taiwan and had worked as the Executive Chef at Din Tai Fung. While at Din Tai Fung, Chef Yang trained chefs for the chain’s international locations such as Tokyo and most recently, Dubai.

The delicate crab soup dumplings has a subtle crab meat flavor and is not overly oily. Both types of soup dumplings have tender and thin outer skin, wrapping around just the right proportion of filling inside. Out of the two, I prefer the pork soup dumpling ($10 for 6pc) as I find that the flavor of the pork meat truly phenomenal.

Soup dumplings with crab meat and pork.
Soup dumplings with crab meat and pork.

A note on the etiquette of eating soup dumplings: when eaten hot – which is always preferred – one should dip the dumpling in vinegar, cut a little opening on the top of the dumpling using their mouth, drink the soup first, then eat the dumpling. This procedure is to prevent the soup from filling and your mouth from getting burnt. The dumplings tend to get cold very quickly. When they are at room temperature, these dumplings can be eaten as a whole at once.

Vegetable dishes and appetizer dishes here also did not disappoint. Cold appetizer dishes developed by the chef were full of flavors and different textures.

What I find special about Carma is that while it draws from Taiwanese, Shanghai-style Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, the finished results are always delicate. The menu strikes the perfect balance of playful experimenting and staying true to authentic flavors.

Shumai with beets.
Shumai with pork and beets.

One of the most exciting items on the menu, the Peking Duck Tacos, however, turned out to be different from what I had expected. Peking Duck served in Beijing restaurants has a combination of extremely crispy skin and savory, chewy duck meat. The tacos however, feature only the duck meat. Nevertheless, for taco lovers, it is a creative take to combine guacamole, crispy taco shells, and duck meat.

While creating new dishes, Carma Asian Tapas also offers Chinese classics that have truly authentic flavors.




Visit Carma Asian Tapas website: http://www.carmanyc.com/

Address: 40 Carmine Street (take the 1 train from campus all the way to Houston St and walk for 3 minutes)


Carnivorous Cravings: Peking Duck House

Peking duck. Most of my other carnivorous indulgences are classics like barbeque or burgers, but Peking duck–this is my favorite. For my 20th birthday, I took a group of my friends, most of whom were unfamiliar with Peking duck, to indulge in what is supposed to be some of the city’s best peking duck. This mecca is more commonly known as The Peking Duck House. It is a nicely decorated and small spot on Mott Street in Chinatown.

Now, for those of you who have never had Peking duck, it is the best. Someone even told me once that it is globally known as the most balanced meal. You have your protein, the duck, your greens, the scallions, and your carbs, the pancakes. Ok, the most balanced meal may be a bit of an exaggeration or just wishful thinking, but it is pretty damn good. The dish is composed of a thin, crepe-like pancake filled with plum sauce, duck, and sliced scallions and then rolled up like a burrito.

Peking Duck House, of course, specializes in this Chinese treat. Almost everyone at the restaurant had ordered at least one duck. However, in addition to the duck, they provide all of the classic Chinatown treats like dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.
The dinner began with a slew of appetizers, including steamed pork buns, chicken dumplings, barbecue spare ribs, vegetable dumplings for the vegan at the table, and spring rolls. My favorites were the steamed pork buns. They are no Joe’s Shanghai, and the dumpling dough is a little too thick, but they sufficed for my pork fix. The little barbeque spare ribs were even better. While all of this was good, we weren’t there for dumplings, after all, but for the duck.

After the duck has been roasted, the waiters carry it out head and all to the customers for our approval. After giving the go-ahead, the waiters returned with two platters filled with sliced duck and its crunchy skin, huge bowls of plum sauce, bowls of scallions, and a huge pile of pancakes.
I immediately dug in, ignoring the plates of chicken, lo mein, and rice surrounding me. The duck was delicious. The pancake is a little thicker than I am used to, but it was still perfect. The duck is rich and the skin crisp and fatty. It is complemented perfectly by the tangy plum sauce and the crunch of the scallions. I think I blacked out because of pure joy as I scarfed down one duck-filled pancake after another.

As a palate cleanser, I dug into the delicious and simple vegetable lo mein, again for the vegan, the pork fried rice, and the chicken. Again, every plate was good Chinese food, but I’m sure you could get equally comparable versions at any number of the restaurants surrounding Peking Duck House.

The duck may be a little pricy at $48, but splitting one between four people makes it only $12, so don’t feel bad, just enjoy!