Very little in the world is more satisfying to me than soup dumplings (or soup noodles – or BOTH!) on a cold, chilly, rainy day. While it’s not super chilly today but rainy, a few weeks back I headed out to meet the BFF and her BF for a gabfest and food at my favorite place in Chinatown for soup dumplings: Shanghai Cafe Deluxe (I’ve actually been back many many times since that post, and have explored the menu a bit more — but you’ll see, keep reading!).
One of the dishes everyone always says is really good here is the ‘stir fried rice cakes’ with assorted toppings, though a LOT of people like this one (mustard greens and pork). I actually didn’t try this one, I’m not entirely sure why not, but I know BFF/BF were very happy with their choice. I think I just don’t like stir fried rice cakes about 90% of the time I have them, so I thought I’d stick with my choices.
The main reason we were there! I foolishly forgot to take a picture of all of our trays, but we each ordered a tray of soup dumplings: mine crab & pork, theirs all pork. Yes, one tray per person! These came quickly and were delicious as expected. Everyone was happy!
The way to tell the difference between the trays of just pork vs. pork&crab is the little carrot strip they put on the tray. I like the crab ones – which have no crab meat, but just crab roe – because you can taste a slight essence of crab in there. Some people think it’s too faint or not there at all, or not worth the added cost (I think it’s usually $1-2 extra per tray when you get pork&crab vs. just pork?), but it adds enough to my enjoyment that I think it’s worth it.
In any case, what sets these apart from other soup dumplings in Manhattan (aside from everything mentioned in this article on CBS New York) is how delicately thin the skin of the dumpling is; how rich and fatty without being greasy the soup inside is; how flavorful the meatwad within it is; everything adds up to a very balanced mouthful of happiness. I like a little black vinegar to cut the fat a bit, but everyone is different and you may like it just.
Last but definitely not least in my opinion… on one of my repeat visits a few years back, I was in the middle of a huge ‘sesame noodle’ kick. This dish, if you’re familiar, is one that is on a lot of random Chinese menus – from takeout places to real Chinese restaurants – and frequently shows up made with peanut butter instead of sesame. Sometimes … okay, a lot of the times, they are gross and you’re left wondering how this is called sesame noodles or why it’s even a Chinese dish! When I was in the middle of my kick, I visited this restaurant and saw it on the menu and decided to order it against all of my instincts.
Guys, I haven’t returned since and NOT ordered them. Cold noodles that look like fettucine but are definitely Asian in nature – wide, flat, thick, white noodles, tossed lightly with a sesame-essence-sauce (that you then finish tossing all together), strands of thinly sliced cucumber, bits of scallions, a scattering of raw bean sprouts, topped with a tiny scatter of sesame seeds… I can’t tell you how much I LOVE THIS DISH HERE. The sauce is smooth and thin with noodles slippery enough that while you toss it, every strand gets coated in this wonderfully rich, nutty sauce. The cucumbers and bean sprouts add a nice cool crunch to each bite, and just brings a ton of smiles to my face.
The best part?? I think this dish is only $5 and comes in a huge portion. I usually can’t finish it, so I take the rest home and have an awesome lunch the next day (add a bit of your own shredded chicken or something for a boost of protein). Also, when I ordered it, I totally sheepishly looked at my two friends and said “I know, I know, it’s not really a Chinese dish,” and they were polite but I could see a bit skeptical. Until they both tried it and they were both clearly surprised as they exclaimed “Wow, it really is pretty good!!” VALIDATION!!! Hahaha.
I think for all of this food – with leftovers to take home! – we paid around $10 a person, and we were super stuffed (I think one tray of dumplings each plus two noodle dishes was a little overzealous, haha). Super cheap, satisfying, and delicious. Honestly, you can’t really beat that.
The company was excellent as always too! 🙂
Shanghai Cafe Deluxe
100 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013