Xiao Long Bao (Small-Steamer Buns 小笼包)
What is it?
Translated literally, xiao long bao means small-steamer buns in Chinese. The bite-size dumpling contains minced pork, which is then wrapped in thin flour skin pleated on the top, and steamed in a bamboo basket. The most special part of the Shanghainese delicacy is the rich savoury soup inside the dumpling. The broth is made of chicken or pork broth mixed with gelatin and then chilled to make an aspic. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin into soup. Traditionally, only pork is used in the filling, but other variations can include crab meat, shrimp and vegetables.
When to eat it?
You can order it year round.
What do you need to know before ordering?
You can tell a good xiao long bao by looking at the skin: it should be thin and almost translucent.
Eat with a spoon, so it collects the wonderful hot soup, but be careful as it may spurt out when bitten into. You can enjoy the dumpling on its own or dip it into a dish of shredded ginger and vinegar (which is said to help cut down on the grease, so you can eat more without feeling full).
Where to eat it?
Founded in 1958 Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung has perfected the art of making xiao long bao, and has locations around the world (including in the US, Japan and Australia). You can find the one nearest to you at: www.dintaifung.com.tw/eng/store.php?cid=4. The chain has reputation for excellent quality control and friendly service. For those visiting Hong Kong there is a large and popular Din Tai Fung restaurant in Kowloon: Third Floor, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Tsa Tsui; Tel: 852-2730-6928.
If you want to go back to the xiao long bao’s local roots, we recommend Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai, 90 Huanghe Road, by Fengyang Road; Tel: 86-21-6327-6878.
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