DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Walking home after high school in Shanghai, Chi Zhang would stop for a spring roll, soup or dumplings from one of the city’s many expert vendors.
Now, it's Zhang's turn to serve up the delicacies at the new street food venue he co-founded, Yaso Tangbao, which opened Saturday at 148 Lawrence St. The name translates to Uncle’s Soup Dumplings, an homage to those street cooks.
“The ‘uncle’ means respect for craftsmen,” Zhang told DNAinfo.
“In our town, there were so many generations of expert craftsmen dedicating a lifetime to xiao long bao.”
Zhang teamed up with two high school friends to open the eatery, which serves xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, and other Shanghai street food standbys like sticky rice dumplings, spicy diced pork noodle soup, ma pa tofu and cucumber salad. In the coming weeks, specialties like homemade salty soy milk will be phased in as well, Zhang said.
The ‘Yaso,’ or uncle, in Yaso Tangbao is also a tribute to the restaurant’s chef, Zongxing Tu, a Joe’s Shanghai veteran.
Chef Tu sold his restaurant in Long Island to team up with Zhang. He makes xia long bao by simmering a gelatinous pork stock that chills overnight, solidifying so it can be incorporated into the dumplings’ ground pork center. Tucked into thin but durable twists of dough, the gelatin melts in the steamer, filling the pouch with hot broth.
Tu learned xiao long bao-making in Nanxiang, the town from which the dumplings originate, and has honed the craft for decades.
“It’s like the folk music here, it’s from the folk,” Tu told DNAinfo, with Zhang translating. “It’s very close to our common life. And what we do as artists is make it art.”