My mini-quest for Chinese dumplings in my brief New York visit (see also Manhattan board) led me to sample the offerings at the heavily-trafficked dumpling stall on Main St. at the LIRR Station and at a place on 41st Avenue west of Main. The place by the LIRR Station features "Small Steamed Buns" and "Scalllion Pancakes" but also offers a variety of other savories and sweets. I decided to try the signature Small Steamed Buns and Scallion Pancakes, which both seemed to be popular with passers by. Stimulated by the pervasive Mandarin-speaking atmosphere, I decided to try ordering in my best home-brewed Mandarin. The window clerk looked puzzled at my attempt, but guessed the small steamed buns correctly. When she barked out my order for "congyou bing" in some unfamiliar dialect to a cook, however, the scallion pancakes came out as fried chicken legs. They were tasty enough, though, quite similar to the original KFC recipe.
The "Small Steamed Buns" were literally identified as "xiaolong bao" in Chinese, but were actually smallish goubuli. I have yet to find out what "good" goubuli are like, but these were a bit too dry and bland in the filling to my taste.
I had better luck with my Mandarin at the red-awning place on 41st Avenue (across from Starbucks) named "Yongji Guotie" in Chinese ("Memorable Potstickers?"). I spotted shengjian bao, sort of a round domed potsticker beloved of Shanghainese, and the server responded to my order with a big smile. "Ah, yi kuai qian!" (one buck), she said. Unfortunately, the language exchange was the best part of the experience. The dumplings, though appropriately browned, even blackened, on the bottom, lacked the requisite savory greasiness for street-grade shengjian bao, as well as the traditional chive studding on top.
I also spotted Tianjin Goubuli USA on 40th Road too late for a trial, but put it on my list for my next visit. It's the place with the overhanging sign reading "BEST BUNS" in big letters. Alas, I waited in vain for a suitable subject to pass beneath it while I photographed the sign.