Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xiaolongbao

Xiaolongbao are a pretty special treat.  I remember having them as a kid, but I don't recall having a good xiaolongbao any time during my adult life, at least not until recently.

Xiaolongbao are confusingly called "soup dumplings" in English, even though they are not what the Chinese would call dumplings, and frankly the appellation "soup dumplings" would be more appropriate for jiaoziThey fall into that classification of bao, which is translated into "bun" in English.  Their distinguishing characteristic is that the bun is filled with broth, hence the translation soup dumplings.  If you bite into a hot xiaolongbao, they will practically explode in and scald your mouth, which is not pleasant.  The trick is to bite a small hole in the side of them and slurp the broth out, then eat the now less explosive bun and its pork filling.

I had not eaten xiaolongbao for a long timeAccording to the guidebook I had with me in Singapore, there was a good place that served them somewhere off Orchard Road, but I failed to find it.  When I moved to Philadelphia this past fall, I had xiaolongbao at the Sang Kee Noodle House on 36th and Chestnut.  They were okay, but not what I remembered from my childhood (which of course is always a difficult standard to meet).  A few months later, however, a friend and colleague of mine mentioned Dim Sum Garden, a small restaurant located on 11th Street, in the underpass where people catch the Chinatown buses to New York.  The surroundings are less than pleasant, but the little restaurant itself is simple and clean, and their various buns and dumplings are excellent. Their menu features xia jiao, shumai, and most importantly, their flagship dish, xiaolongbao.  They offer two varieties -- one made with the traditional pork, and the other a mixture of pork and crabmeat.  They are freshly made, meaning you have to be careful when you eat them, but they are delicious.     

Check around your city or neighborhood and see if you can find a place that specializes in these little guys -- you will not be disappointed!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds great. We'll have to find someplace that makes these out around our neck of the woods.