NYC Best Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings: RedFarm is Far Superior to Joe’s Shanghai

Date October 17, 2011

Joe's Shanghai Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings

Joe’s Shanghai (above) and Red Farm (below).

RedFarm's Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings

In my RedFarm post last week, I called chef Joe Ng’s steamed pork and crab soup dumpling the best in Manhattan. Stacy, a commenter on the post, asked how RedFarm’s version compares to Joe’s Shanghai, which many consider the finest steamed soup dumpling on the island. After a Thursday night trip to Joe’s Pell Street location at the height of dinner time – the same day and time I ate at RedFarm – the verdict is in: RedFarm’s steamed pork and crab soup dumplings (4 for $10) are far superior to Joe’s Shanghai (8 for $7.60). It’s no surprise considering one is the product of an artist, the other, of a factory. Chef Ng’s soup dumplings featured a broth layered with flavor inside a perfectly steamed skin, delicate without rupturing upon removal from the steam basket. The Joe’s Shanghai soup dumplings arrived hastily, with several already ruptured; gummy, oversteamed skins wading in a pool of pork and crab broth. My final dumpling was fully intact, but the result was lackluster; the room temperature broth mildly fishy and a little funky. Upon finishing this final bite and taking one last sip of Tsingtao, my friend and I were asked to leave and make room for more patrons. It’s obvious that Joe’s Shanghai is more concerned with turning tables than maintaining their reputation. Forget the fact that Joe’s Shanghai offers better value, leave it for the tourists and go find Chef Ng at RedFarm in the West Village. Tell him NYC Food Guy sent you.

Joe’s Shanghai 9 Pell Street b/t Doyers Street and Bowery Link Open 11am-11pm Daily (212) 233-8888

RedFarm Link 529 Hudson Street near Charles Street, New York, NY 10014 Open Daily 5:30pm-Midnight (212) 792-9700

23 Responses to “NYC Best Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings: RedFarm is Far Superior to Joe’s Shanghai”

  1. Turkey sandwich said:

    informative post lawrence thanks. I’ve read green bo in chinatown has some of the best soup dumplings in nyc–any thoughts on how those compare to the above mentioned places?

  2. The NYC Food Guy said:

    @Turkey sandwich,
    I actually have had the soup dumplings at Nice (aka new) Green Bo and I definitely enjoyed them more than Joe’s Shanghai, but that’s not much to brag about considering how bad the one’s at Joe’s were. I really like Nice Green Bo overall, it’s probably my favorite Cantonese joint. The shredded beef with jalapenos and the eggplant in garlic sauce are both top notch. And next door is Mei Leh Wah, home of my favorite baked pork bun. You should see a review on that at some point this week.

  3. Brooklynzombie said:

    I refuse to even read this post. Joes wins every time, and I would die before I ever paid 10 dollars for 4 dumplings.

  4. janet said:

    Being fairly new to NY, I’ve only had the opportunity to try soup dumplings at Shanghai Cafe – have you perhaps had the chance to try the soup dumplings there and had a chance to compare them to either Joe’s Shanghai or RedFarm?

  5. Blaine said:

    I stopped going to Joe’s quite some time ago given the exceptional tourist population. I’ll have to try Red Farm (though double the cost for soup dumplings is a bit troubling), but my mainstay for Chinatown soup dumplings has always been the New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe. Never a ruptured dumpling and a great dim sum menu.

  6. icecreamsandwich said:

    @brooklynzombie agreed!! joes 4 life

  7. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Sometimes you need to pay a little to get a lot. This site may be about finding the best cheap eats, but life’s too short to not enjoy the good stuff. I agree, four dumplings for $10 is a pretty lousy deal, but once you taste them, your mind will be changed. When’s the last time you had Joe’s btw?

    I have never been to Shanghai Cafe. When and where did you move here from? Where do you live now?

    Looks like I’m going to have to give your spot a try too. Care to join me? We can get a dumpling tour going. Who’s in?

    Thanks for the comment! Great to see you (in writing). I heard you moved to LA? Are you back in NYC? If so, dumpling tour!

  8. wriskit said:

    Soup buns are fragile critters and every kitchen produces a few losers on occasion. Lawrence’s Chinatown section lists only two restaurants, Jing Fong and Joes, so while i have no beef with Food Guys verdict based onaone-time trial that Red Farm, a boutique-type newbie, served a superior soup bun to Joe’s, a 3-location enterprise, of which the Flushing branch is most authentic, the claim in the headline that Red Farm has New York’s best soup bun is pure and simple hyperbole. OTOH good to see you back, FG, and trust your GI issues are fully cured.

  9. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Thanks for the comment, good to have you back as well. Based on my Chinatown section, you’re right, it doesn’t look like I’ve had many soup dumplings. But I also didn’t blog for a full year, a time during which I had soup dumplings at New Green Bo, Shanghai 456, Lychee House, and Oriental Garden. And while you’re correct again in calling RedFarm boutiquey, the soup dumplings are the most traditional dish on the menu in preparation and presentation. A testament to the authenticity of chef Joe Ng’s pedigree – not from culinary school, but at dim sum restaurant in Sunset Park Chinatown. Hyperbole is always a risky venture when writing on food – everyone has their opinions for varying reasons – but if it sparks a meaningful debate that reveals the names of other great restaurants some of us have not tried, then I’m keep it coming. Being proven wrong in this case would be a reward. Do you have any favorite soup dumplings?

  10. Seatcrew said:

    Part of the Joe’s experience is how fast it is. It’s the turning the tables that keeps the cost low. If you want to maximizE your joes experience you have to go at an off he when they’re not auto-churning. Also, order he young chao fried rice first, make a bed of it then put your dumplings on top. The rice and dumpling soup are meant to be together.

  11. The NYC Food Guy said:

    I like the sound of that rice/soup dumpling combo but there’s no charm in going all the way down to Pell Street (or to Flushing, for that matter) only to be ushered out of a restaurant as soon as you finish eating, low cost or not. If I happen to give Joe’s one more chance, I’ll definitely try an off hour and I’ll let you know how it goes. Any other Chinatown recommendations?

  12. RWordplay said:

    Much to agree with here. Lawrence, you’re quite right about Joe’s and more’s the pity. I knew the original in Queens and was one of the first to eat, and then eat regularly, on Pell when it first opened in the City. Before the raves in GOURMET and the TIMES, Joe’s was a truly fine restaurant, the Soup Dumpling a delicacy that actually transformed Chinese food in the City. With its fame, gone with the pseudo-Hunan and Szechuan joints, and a 1,000 Shanghainese restaurants bloomed.

    Within a year of its international acclaimed, demonstrated by lines out the door, Joe’s entire menu began to suffer and it never improved. Today it turns out a dumplings that may as well be filled with dishwater, with meat as seasoned with ground newspaper, both wrapped in skin with the texture of a sour wonton.

    RedFarm’s success, is a product, to borrow from Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, is that it was perfected by Ng’s and Schoenfeld’s dim sum at Broadway Brasserie. As a result, the work performed in the kitchen at RedFarm is nearly perfect. But that perfection is not the result of magic but by two knowledgable enthusiasts.

    Ultimately the quality of food is contingent on the quality of ingredients and the care in preparation and presentation, something you can control in a small space. With growth and high expectations, the quality inevitably falls, as the product is no longer “hand crafted” but delivered via an assembly line. Nevertheless the quality can remain high.

    In the end, good food is the product of demanding diners. Sadly, most people can’t tell a fish broth from a chicken broth, a six-hour broth from a can of Campbell’s chicken soup. They eat, yap, text and swallow without tasting their food and then drown it in beer, making any distinction next to impossible. For this reason, Lawrence, your setting matters straight and explaining why, is invaluable. Well done.

  13. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Thanks for always bringing a unique and expertly opinion to the table. Pun intended.

  14. Sal said:

    take my comments off of moderation food guy. what are you so afraid of? you’re about to lose a reader which it doesnt seem like u can afford since your only ads dont even load

  15. The NYC Food Guy said:

    I’m not afraid of anything you have to say. It’s why I put your comments about my Torrisi sandwich and the quality of my photos through. I’m taking this comment off moderation so you can see it next to all the other comments on this post and realize, that while you are a valued reader, your comments contribute NOTHING to this website if they’re lewd or sexually suggestive. I can handle criticism, I’m putting myself out there to receive it. But you’re a wise ass in the finest sense which means you’re obviously intelligent enough to know where my line is by now and that you’re accomplishing nothing by crossing it. I’m genuinely happy and appreciative to have you as a reader. Your insights and critcism – when legitimate – are spot on, but until you prove that your comments are consistently valuable to the overall food dialogue – – than you’ll stay on moderation.

  16. janet said:

    @NYCFoodGuy You should try out Shanghai Cafe sometime!! It’s pretty good 🙂
    I used to live in California, but I recently moved to New York for college! It’s awesome being next to all the foodie spots that you’ve reviewed; I’ve made it my goal to try and hit up as many spots as I can!

  17. Sal said:

    Sexual innuendo and jokes are part of society food guy. i think you need to lighten up a little and not take yourself so seriously — this is a super low budget food blog — not a presidential candidate’s campaign site! take me off moderation already and let your readers make some stupid jokes if they want

  18. Sal said:

    wooooo-hooooooooo. $2.50/dumpling is crazy. no dumpling is worth $2.50

  19. The NYC Food Guy said:


    I’m not getting into an argument with you on my own site. Accept my guidelines or stay on moderation, it’s as simple as that.

  20. NYC Baked Pork Buns: My Favorite is at Mei Li Wah Bakery and it Costs 80 cents | NYC Food Guy said:

    […] not necessarily the best in Manhattan or the best in Chinatown. I don’t want to spark another comment section controversy as I did with soup dumplings. What Mei Li Wah Bakery does offer is my favorite baked pork bun. They […]

  21. Elizabeth said:

    That was a great post, thank you! I haven’t been to RedFarm yet but it’s on my list of places to eat. Plus, I love soup dumplings so now I have to go!

  22. Yin said:

    RedFarm sounds good to try out or for a special occasion, but at 4 for $10, that price is too brutal for me to ever become a regular. I’d either have to pre-game that meal (snack?) or pay far too much to not be hungry.

    Any recommendations for average priced soup dumplings?

    (The one and only time I’ve been to Joe’s was about 15 minutes before they closed. They rushed us a little, but the soup dumplings arrive hot and soupy. Acceptable for the price and no wait, I suppose! We were all very hungry.)

  23. Adam Smitty said:

    This is the thing I’ve wanted to try for longer than anything else on my to-do list. Still haven’t tried…couldn’t find any in Hong Kong where I was at least.

    –Smitty Smurf

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