In search of the At­lanta’s best soup dumplings

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

At­lanta food­ies have been for­ag­ing for Chi­nese soup buns, slightly doughy dumplings called “xi­ao­long­bao” on Bu­ford High­way for years. Shaped some­what like the swirly dome of a Russian minaret, a well-pre­pared soup dumpling is so richly com­fort­ing that it evokes homey fan­tasies of a bet­ter world, a world where Don­ald Trump is wa­ter­boarded un­til he ad­mits that his pe­nis is smaller than he bragged and we im­peach him.

The lat­est place to gorge on xi­ao­long­bao is which trans­lates roughly as “Tai­wan Spe­cial.” You’ll find it at 4897

at the end of a shop­ping cen­ter near Cham­blee Tucker Road. Warn­ing: At this writ­ing, the restau­rant had not re­moved the for­mer ten­ant’s sign. So look for blaz­ing yel­low let­ters that read “Golden BBQ.”

Yong He Zhi Jia’s soup dumplings are served in large bam­boo bas­kets of eight. I think part of their huge ini­tial ap­peal to Amer­i­cans has been the el­e­ment of child­like sur­prise they evoke. If you hear the term “soup dumpling,” you of course imag­ine a dumpling afloat in soup. But this re­verses that. You bite into the ten­der exterior of the soup bun and there’s an ex­plo­sion of broth in which a tiny pork meat­ball of sorts has been float­ing. You suck the whole ten­der, juicy thing into your mouth and chew. It’s crazy and it’s messy-de­li­cious. You feel like a kid who just dis­cov­ered the cream in­side a Twinkie. And you want more!

Of course, ev­ery­one won­ders how you get soup in­side a dumpling. One imag­ines a cook in­ject­ing the broth with a sy­ringe. But the usual deal is that the pork fill­ing is sur­rounded by a con­gealed lump of broth when it’s wrapped in the outer skin. Thus, when the dumpling is steamed, it melts into liq­uid.

There are many other dumplings/buns on the restau­rant’s menu and, in truth, my fa­vorite was the over-sized pan-fried pork bun. It’s steamed but also fried quickly on one side to sup­ply the bur­nished crunch of a pot sticker. My ta­ble of five or­dered two serv­ings of these.

Yong He Zhi Jia, Bu­ford Hwy. (470-299-8929),

An­other fa­vorite for me was the beef pan­cake. It’s a thick serv­ing of shred­ded pot roast between two lay­ers of a mys­te­ri­ous, al­most crumbly and slightly sweet bread. Think corn­bread. The egg and green onion cake was a de­li­cious ac­com­pa­ni­ment to an­other must-or­der – the beef-noo­dle soup. I know. It sounds bland and un­in­ter­est­ing, but I prom­ise you that it’s with­out equal around town. The broth is dense and deeply, deeply fla­vored. It’s not overly-salty. It’s full of thick noo­dles and mul­ti­ple slices of braised beef.

The temp­ta­tions are end­less and you should feel free to ex­per­i­ment. The restau­rant is ridicu­lously in­ex­pen­sive and por­tions are gi­gan­tic. My friends and I left our ta­ble lit­er­ally blan­keted with empty dishes and a bill of $12 each.

Ser­vice at the restau­rant was great the evening of my visit, but I’ll warn you that English is a very sec­ond lan­guage here. You’ll need to be at least as pa­tient as the server is. Be glad that the menu is il­lus­trated. But know that some things are in­scrutable. How, for ex­am­ple, does goat tripe soup end up on the “health food” sec­tion of the menu? Ac­tu­ally, that prob­a­bly makes more sense than call­ing a man with bow­els for brains pres­i­dent.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­

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