The term “Kung Fu” in English is almost synonymous with the martial arts fighting style, but in Chinese, it means skill, craftsmanship, and experience.
Therefore don’t be throw off by the name of this restaurant. Xiao Long Bao means soup dumplings, and Kung Fu in this case refers to the expertise. No, not nunchuk wielding, yellow jump-suit wearing madness.
Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao is located next to Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet (an EatBigApple Favorite), on the southern tip of Flushing adjacent to the LIE. This recently opened house of soup dumplings doesn’t feature the popular glass-enclosed kitchen where one can watch dumplings made. You’re simply asked to trust in the fact that their kung-fu is strong (sorry, couldn’t resist). The stylish and somewhat understated decor suits the space nicely, with an image of Shanghai directly opposite one of the flatiron building.
The menu started off concise and focused, then judging from the laminated insert, expanded to include some Chinese favorites. I’m not sure how the attempt to please the masses will tax the kitchen staff, but my goal, like yours, is to try to soup dumplings and other noodle-based offerings (in Chinese, flour based creations are called noodle dishes).
The soup dumplings are truly impressive, ticking off all the right boxes. The skin is thin but strong, the soup pours out impressively when the skin is punctured, and the flavor is spot on. Everything arrives at the table piping hot, so carefully capture the soup in the spoon before attempting to eat the dumplings. In today’s litigious society, I’m surprised this doesn’t come with a warning label.
Wonton in hot oil and sesame sauce, a frequently appearing dish in Sichuan restaurants, was less spicy than it appeared. The grey sesame sauce provided very subtle sweetness.
We followed the dry wontons with wontons in a clay pot. These soup based wontons have slightly thicker skin, and the filling is a mix of pork and shrimp. The flavorful soup seems to be based on pickled mustard plant stems (Zha Cai), though I would suspect a bit of MSG.
Another test of proper Shanghainese cooking skills would be the shengjianbao. Imagine soup dumplings, made into thicker buns, steamed, then fried for a crispy crust on the bottom edge. These were pretty darn good.
There’re more popular soup dumpling spots in other parts of Flushing and Manhattan, but in terms of pure skill, Kung Fu is up there with the best of them. Take the time you usually have to wait in line, and take a short ride down Main St.
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Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao
59-16 Main Street
Queens, NY 11355