There’s no sensory dining experience quite like biting open Shanghainese xiao long bao. No matter if you opt for pork or crab fillings (or a mixture of both), each bite into these tender, nearly-translucent dough pouches sends a waft of steam straight to the face. Not to mention the savory broth and ground meaty center are only improved with a splash of punchy black vinegar and ginger.
Thanks to decades-old, Chinese businesses (and NYC’s AAPI communities at large), this city is full of incredible versions of xiao long bao. Some have pronounced, twisty top knots and chewy skin, and some are so fragile that even a baby’s pinky nail could puncture it. We’ve listed our 12 favorites all across Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn below so you can eat them all.
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Yoz’s crab and pork xiao long bao have an ultra-fine skin and plenty of roe and yellow crab meat inside. To get them, go into the Golden Mall on Roosevelt Avenue in Downtown Flushing and walk around the first floor until you see TV screens flashing sultry images of bamboo steamer baskets with xiao long bao tucked inside. We also really like the boiled dumplings stuffed with pork and leeks, which are juicy and slightly sweet.
Shanghai You Garden is named after the Yu Garden in the Old City section of Shanghai, which borders one of the longest-standing xiao long bao spots called Nanxiang Bun Shop. At this spot in Flushing, you can choose between 10 varieties of xiao long bao, all dyed with different colors so you’ll be able to tell what you’re eating from the exterior, tender skin. Our favorites are the classic, bright-yellow crab and pork (which taste noticeably crabbier than most other versions in the city) and a giant thick-skinned version where you slurp the soup out of a straw. Get a bunch, cheers with your friends, and then proceed to suck out the meaty soup out of a gargantuan straw. Make sure to order a plate of pan-fried pork buns that have a thick exterior and crispy bottoms.
This St. Marks institution serves a menu full of Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, and Taiwanese specialty dishes. But your focus should be the namesake xiao long bao with nearly-translucent skin and a loose, light-brothed center. The pork and spicy wasabi pork varieties (with a thinner skin and a bit less soup than what you’d find at Joe’s or other Chinatown faves) both have an extra savory meatiness that nicely contrasts the light broth. If you’re looking to expand beyond the classics, The Bao offers a whole variety of soup dumpling flavors, like “super spicy xiao long bao,” salted egg yolk, a semi-sweet black sesame, and one filled with pork and black truffle.
You won’t see any colorfully-dyed exteriors or extravagant filings incorporated into Deluxe Green Bo’s xiao long bao. Just plain and simple steamed flour-dough pouches filled with meaty pork, crab, and savory broth, each perfectly pinched and twisted at the top so you get a chewy knot bite. Deluxe Green Bo has been serving customers on Bayard Street since 1982, and it’s one of our favorite places to go with a small group in Chinatown. Aside from the xiao long bao, get an order of fried tiny buns filled with pork, an extremely crispy scallion pancake, and the hot and spicy wontons that come drenched in cold, thick peanut sauce and hot chili oil. Bring cash, as Deluxe Green Bo doesn’t accept credit cards.
Noodle Village’s soup dumplings have thinner skin than the ones you’ll find around the corner at Joe’s Shanghai. But if you’re looking for some chewy, sticky xiao long bao filled with lots of broth in Chinatown, these are the ones you want. The crab soup dumplings won us over with their rich mixture of meaty liquid and chewy meat, but the pork dumplings here are also excellent. Order some of both for lunch and eat them on Noodle Village’s outdoor patio to remind yourself why you live in New York City.
456 Shanghai is another irreplaceable and long-standing Shanghainese restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown. It’s been around since 1963, serving rotund buns filled with pork as well as other dim sum staples and daily lunch specials. Their plump, thicker-skinned xiao long bao are some of the least expensive on the guide - you get eight pork soup dumplings for $5.50. That detail alone makes 456 Shanghai useful to know about anytime you want a satisfying meal for about two subway fares.
Looking for good soup dumplings in North Brooklyn is like trying to find a talented actress within the Real Housewives franchise - there’s just not a lot of solid options. That is, unless you know about Yasotang Bao, the Chinese mini-chain with a location in Downtown Brooklyn (plus three other outposts in Noho, Jersey City, and Sunset Park). The xiao long bao here are so gorgeously made you might get inspired to throw on a pleated tennis skirt after admiring them on the plate in front of you. We typically go for the spicy pork soup dumplings, which have just as much garlicky broth and minced pork inside of them as the regular pork xiao long bao here, but with an added boost from the sprinkle of “spicy powder” on top. And if you’re not already a fan of chicken soup dumplings, you will be after trying the excellent ones served here.
Maybe you’ve been trying to turn a bag of frozen dumplings into soup dumplings like you’re a Hogwarts student in transfiguration class. Whenever you give up on your spells, order some soup dumplings from Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing instead. Even after relocating to a large new space at One Fulton Square in 2019, this Shanghainese spot is still one of the best soup dumpling places in Flushing. Go with the multi-colored assortment of xiao long bao called “The Lucky 6,” which comes with a sampling of six different filling options like black truffle, crab, gourd, and scallop. Each dumpling’s skin is softer and a little thicker than what you’ll find elsewhere in Flushing, but that just constitutes a generous serving of soup bursting with every bite.
If you want a quick lunch for under $10 in Sunset Park, go to Fei Long Food Court and order some xiao long bao from Shanghai Dumpling House. The food court is attached to Fei Long Supermarket (another place worthy of your time and attention), and it consists of about seven other vendors situated around a sea of tables. The xiao long bao at Shanghai Dumpling House have a moderately thick, slightly chewy skin. The broth inside of each one is usually piping hot, but we’re physically unable to let them cool down before ingesting all of the pleasantly porky flavor. Take them to go and find a bench in the park across the street to enjoy them outdoors.
Joe's Shanghai is often the first spot we take friends, family, or anybody else who’s in town and requests a dinner out in Chinatown. Their dining room is always lively, and the soup dumplings are on every table. They have two options on the menu (crab with pork and just pork), and you should absolutely get at least one order of each. The wrappers are delicate, there’s a perfect ratio of meat to soup, and they’re always piping hot. Depending on the size of your group, you could come here for a couple orders of soup dumplings and be in and out in under 30 minutes. But we think you should stay a little longer for the griddled rice cakes with shredded cabbage and pork and some garlicky green beans with minced pork.
Three Times has two locations in Lower Manhattan (one near Union Square and the other on the LES, right by the Williamsburg Bridge). It was started by a chef who has spent time perfecting the xiao long bao technique at spots like Shanghai Yu Garden and Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao. This becomes abundantly clear when you taste Three Times’ rich and salty steamed pork-and-crab soup dumplings. Their pleated tops give off a decent amount of chew, while still feeling fragile. Plus, the brothy filling stays extremely hot in the center, exploding when you bite into it (we’ve been scorched and don’t regret it). The environment here feels similar to other fast-casual restaurants, which makes it a good option for a quick lunch or solo dinner.
The crab-and-pork-filled soup dumpling you’ll find at Dumpling Legends on Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows isn’t quite bursting with as much broth as some of the other xiao long bao on this list. But the soup is rich and the filling doused with the gingery, vinegary soy gives a nice tang to the otherwise meaty dumpling. While you’re there, consider buying one of their jars of chili oil that sit right by the register - we’ve had it on their wontons in spicy sauce and it was floral, not too spicy, and extremely orange in color.