Mouth Scars and Fortune Cookies: A Chinatown Dinner at New Green Bo

I am embarrassed. I have lived in New York for two years now and how often have I taken advantage of the cultural opportunities just outside my door? How often have I journeyed up to Queens for Greek food or to try the famous arepas from the mythical arepa lady? How many Indian supermarkets have I been to? How many jaunts have I made to Chinatown?

The answers are humiliating–especially for a self-described foodie such as myself. The last question especially: my food writer heros (Calvin Trillin in particular) wax poetic over Chinatown like it’s a food lover’s paradise. And what’s the answer to that last question–how many times have I been there since I moved here? Once–for the video I shot with John and Lisa last year. Only once! I hang my head in shame. I’m no good for you—you should find yourself a better food blogger.

Or wait. Who’s that coming to our rescue? It’s Craig, the new man in my life, and he has friends from out of town visiting and meeting him in Chinatown. Would I like to come? Would I ever!

We arrive at New Green Bo on Friday night and Craig’s friends are not only at the table, they’ve already ordered. This is actually a blessing because ordering for a group this big can be a challenge. And Craig’s friends did an excellent job. There was cashew chicken:


Fried rice:


Some really cool noodles that had a texture unlike any I’ve had before:


Beef and broccoli:


Yes, it was all a success. Maybe, you might say, a bit too safe. These dishes are pretty standard American-Chinese fare. Where’s the danger? Where’s the intrigue? Where’s Kurt Russell battling a man with a puffy face?* [*”Big Trouble in Little China” reference, for those not in the know.]

Bang the gong and bring on the soup dumplings:


Soup dumplings are all the rage in dumpling-loving communities. I have had them only once before: I had them delivered from Grand Sichuan and they arrived at my door perfectly packed and perfectly tempered. Each one was a happy soup explosion in my mouth.

“You have to be careful with these,” said Craig. “They’re VERY hot.”

I raised my eyebrow. How hot could they be?

“Here’s what you want to do,” he said, lifting a soup dumpling to his mouth. “Tear a little hole in it and then blow into the hole.” He demonstrated for us all.


“Ok,” I thought. “I can do that.”

I lifted a soup dumpling with a spoon and as I lifted it to my face I began to wonder how they got the hot liquid into the dumpling. Did they inject it in? Did they form a little dumpling sack and ladle some in? Or didn’t I read somewhere that they make the broth into a gel and wrap the dumpling around the gel and boil it so it becomes a liquid?

As I pondered all this, I put the entire dumpling in my mouth. I bit down and the hottest liquid ever known to man squirted all over my tongue, my cheeks, and my uvula.

“Ahhhhh,” I whimpered. Craig and his friends all lifted their heads in horror.

“I told you not to put the whole thing in your mouth!” shrieked Craig.

It was too late. I was like the guy at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who drinks from the wrong chalice. I literally expected my lips to melt and dribble down my face. Tears welled in my eyes.

When I finally got it down I managed to say: “Dah wath horrabuh.”

But everyone was too distracted eating their nicely cooled soup dumplings which they enjoyed tremendously. “Mmmm,” said a dumpling eater. “Let’s order more.”

They ordered more and I nibbled on fried rice which I struggled to lift with chopsticks. Lifting rice with chopsticks ain’t that easy. And it’s difficult to chew when your mouth is a blistering burn scar.

I suppose taking advantage of New York’s cultural opportunities takes work. On my next visit to Chinatown in 2008, I promise to be more careful.

33 thoughts on “Mouth Scars and Fortune Cookies: A Chinatown Dinner at New Green Bo”

  1. I didn’t know you were a nice gay jewish boy! Now it all makes sense. Glad you liked NYC’s Chinatown so much:)

  2. I had the same experience the first time I bit into a soup dumpling – only I didn’t put the whole thing in my mouth so the boiling liquid ran down my chin and scalded it. Turns out there were directions on how to eat the things on a card on the table…but the dumplings were placed *on* the directions, so we didn’t see them until the table was cleared!

  3. Whee! You finally told who you were kissing! :o)

    Hope your mouth recovers soon so you can live to smooch another day.

  4. I’m sorry you burned yourself! I’ve found the American-Chinese dishes there to be super-greasy and not that special. The better dishes at New Green Bo are actually the more traditional ones. So, you know, for the next time you go back in 2008… ;)

  5. i cant believe ive lived in manhattan for 10 years and have only been to chinatown twice. thank you for demystifying this area for me! i’ll have to try the soup dumplings and bring a tube of aloe.

  6. Woo-Hoo!!! A Big Trouble in Little China reference! One of the greatest movies of all time. Sorry about your burned uvula though, that’s a bummer.

  7. Some really cool noodles that had a texture unlike any I’ve had before

    THAT is what actual Chow Mein is supposed to look like, not whatever they slop together at Chinese take outs or in Chinese restaurants that cater to more Americanized foods :)

  8. i think that noodles dish is called ifumie/pan-fried noodles, it’s a basic noodle dish, Hong Kong style.

    the broth inside the dumplings was similar to aspic, all the rage about xiao long bao!

  9. Sooooo -what was your fortune?

    Have to add this “celebrity citing” note. RACHEL RAY was the Grand Marshal in the Indianapolis 500 Parade last Sat. She didn’t expect anything but corn here, so she was surprised when she was served fresh seafood at Oceanaire. Of course it was “awesome”.

  10. What a cutie! Will you be going to that restaurant again? I hope your burned mouth didn’t ruin it for you, but at least you could feast your eyes on Craig ;-)

  11. It’s funny how so many of the comments are about your “friend”. I’ll add mine to the list too. I wondered if you were gay. I’m glad I’m not the only gay/lesbian jewish blogger. I’m originally from NY too!!

  12. Thank god you finally came out!!! I never wondered if you were gay.. I’ve got excellent gaydar. I’m delighted that you did so on your blog. Believe it or not, there are people who might actually be changed by that revelation – hopefully for the better. Bless you and much happiness w/ Craig. He’s quite the cutie.

  13. Craig is adorable–nicely done.

    I’ve always heard that the filling for the dumplings is frozen prior to being dumplingized, but I do like the Mysterious Chemistry Aspect of your gel hypothesis.

  14. we all knew you were gay all along, and that, in your own time you would come out. what a perfect addition to the festivities of pride month! i read your blog regularly and thoroughly enjoy your postings. chinatown is an awesome place for food shopping as well as dining. i purchased all the ingredients for a fabulous bouillabaise there, as well as stuff for asian cooking.

  15. Mmmm soup dumplings…they’re my FAVORITE. Sorry you had such a bad first impression of them. I hope you wander out to Chinatown more often!

  16. Xiao Long Bao…yummy. I do hope you try it again after you’ve healed. Here’s a tip. The dumplings usually come with a little saucer of soy sauce, vinegar, chili, sliced ginger (or you create your own little dish from table condiments). Take a dumpling and put it in the saucer and leave it there for a minute or two and it will cool down perfectly while soaking up the flavors.

    Don’t feel bad, my boyfriend is non-Chinese and he always burn his tongue eating Chinese food. I’m partially to blame since he see me popping them in my mouth immediately. My Chinese tongue is likes food hot and it guess it doesn’t burn as easily.

  17. “Or didn’t I read somewhere that they make the broth into a gel and wrap the dumpling around the gel and boil it so it becomes a liquid?”

    That is indeed what they do.

  18. whoah whoah WHOAH!! what?? The AG is gay?? hah hah, just kidding, i knew it all along — good on ya Adam, and i do hope your burns heal quickly… keep on keepin’ on!

  19. you and craig are happy? thats what gay means right? right?

    thats what my mom told me.

  20. When I was a young lad I thought these dumplings were made by spooning broth into the dough and having a super dumpling artisan wrap up the dough extremely fast. Imagine my disappointment when I found out they just used cubes of broth gelatin. Any old person can do that!

    On an additional note, this NJ reader is currently checking AG from Shanghai! I’m going out later to try some soup dumplings from the source. I hope they will blow the Chinatown ones away.

  21. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    You’ve lived in NYC for how long?

    I was in Manhattan for five days, and not only did I go to Chinatown (twice), but I also ate at Green Bo.

    While you were there, there’s a great gelateria close by. :p

  22. Everybody who is surprised by the Craig revelation, go back and read the post about corn eaters. March, 2004. I believe Adam “came out” to the blogging community two years ago, or pretty much immediately.

    Read: it was never a secret.

    I am saddened by this post, because alas my community is sadly lacking in anything approaching decent Chinese food. *sigh* I would settle for PF Chang’s at this point!

  23. Adam came out online as early as 2003 in his life-changing Charlie Trotter post on eGullet when he wrote a short play featuring multiple characters including his erm, unit, and his sexuality “Sexuality: Ummm, Adam, you’re gay” in response to some twit saying that he didn’t enjoy the meal because his penis was preoccupied…

    I remember that so well because I laughed out loud about it

  24. I think it’s funny to read everybody flipping out with happiness because Adam is gay. Being happy that someone is gay seems just as offensive as being pissed-off that someone is gay. But, whatever.

  25. I live in the building above New Green Bo and I have them on speed dial for late-night scallion pancake emergencies.

  26. I am sorry you burnt your mouth, that is the worst. I am glad you shared the story though. Even though I’m 8 years late to reading it, I enjoyed the humorous cautionary tale. I just need someone to make amazing vegetarian soup dumplings! Really, it has to be possible.

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