You see through the front window two chefs making dumplings, and, taking this as a good sign, and also taking the recommendation of your girlfriend’s Chinese co-worker, you order them when the waitress comes. Soon you see the dumplings themselves coming. Here they are in their circular steamer:
Stranger to the soup dumpling, you pinch a pouch between your chopsticks. A dip in the dark sauce, an upswing to your mouth. So far a soup dumpling looks like a doughy bag twisted at the top. It smells starchy, feels like slippery plastic chopsticks, tastes sour and spicy from the leftover zing of pickled cabbage, and sounds like the lilting music of the Asiatic languages heard in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Now you pop that starchy sucker into your mouth and bite.
The dough ruptures; the soup gushes out. There is soup in this thing? There is soup. It scalds your tongue. You chew and swallow the molten dumpling as fast as you can. You feel a hot lump falling to your stomach.
Two minutes later you pick up a dumpling with your fingers. A dip in the dark sauce, a plop on the broad spoon, an upswing to your mouth. With a chopstick you puncture the dough and suck out the soup. Then you eat the dough and the pork meatball entombed therein. A soup dumpling feels fluid, gelatinous, and solid. The dumpling sounds like faraway languages. It smells like winter spices, pork, and ginger. To the eye, a soup dumpling looks like a bag of dough, then greasy drops on a flat spoon.