Beer and soup dumplings
What is it about the Shanghai soup dumpling that impels the restauranteur to affix the name “King” or “Kingdom” somewhere in the title of his establishment dispensing of said delicacy? There IS a certain regal bearing to the soup dumpling, similar, you might imagine, to the comportment of King Henry VIII at the height of his considerable corpulence. As you lift the succulent pouch out of its basket, glistening with pork juice, and plop it into the shallow ramekin of dipping sauce (basically soy and vinegar), you can imagine the legendarily fat Tudor King being lifted from his bed at the start of a day vis a vis a spidery, shiny brass contraption with grasping pinchers and deposited with all decorum into a piping hot bubble bath. However, the “King” in the title of the two restaurants in which I’ve consumed this particular variety of dumpling (Shanghai Dumpling King and Kingdom of Dumpling) doesn’t refer to a royal quality in its titular product, but to the supremacy the restaurant is purported to have over all others. Why it should be that dumpling-centric restaurants feel the need to assert their supposed superiority is beyond my ken.
What I do know is that I now consider the throne which Shanghai Dumpling King occupies to be of comparable height to that of Kingdom of Dumpling. From their respective thrones, they eye each other with what I imagine is disdain across the verdant green barrier that separates them, Golden Gate Park (Shanghai Dumpling King on the Richmond side, Kingdom of Dumpling on the Sunset side). While I believe the soup dumplings at the Sunset spot are superior, the Richmond joint cracked one out of the park (forgive the sports analogy) with pork and chive dumplings in a chili-peanut sauce, as well as an amazing salt duck. I’ve always been a fan of cold poultry, usually in the shape of leftover chicken thighs or turkey drumsticks, but this particular fowl was presented chilled on purpose after having been brined for several days and then steamed with aromatics and left to cool.
Shanghai Dumpling King’s final trump card was its lassitude on Bringing Your Own Beer (or wine), which i wasn’t aware of initially until I noticing a diner at a neighboring table pulling on a bootle of Guinness he’d taken from a six-pack he’d propped on the chair next to him. Both places get points for lack of decorative flourishes or any attempt at bed-side manner. I had to pry the salt duck recipe out of multiple members of the staff, progressively emboldened by my rapidly diminishing supply of beer. I ate way to much food, as usual, but only spent 22 dollars (which includes factoring in the three beers I drank with the meal), making Shanghai Dumpling King a very generous monarch.
Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa St.,