Menuism Dining Blog
Dining education for foodies

xlbFor those who you are afficianados of Shanghai Cuisine, the word “Xiao Long Bao” may be a familiar term, but for many of you where a visit to a Chinese restaurant usually finds you ordering old standbys like Orange Chicken and Egg Foo Young, the word “Xiao Long Bao” or XLB for short may evoke something mysterious and maybe, even just a little bit scary. So what exactly is a “Xiao Long Bao?” To start, the literal translation for xiao long bao is “little basket bun.” Since XLBs are traditionally dumplings steamed in bamboo baskets, the name is quite fitting.

However, these dumplings are different from all the rest in that they will have a filling of hot soup and meat and/or vegetables. It’s almost like a Won Ton soup – in reverse! This soup filling is why XLBs are also known as “soup dumplings.”

By the way, something that may add to the confusion is that, XLBs may also show up as “Steamed Pao” or “Shanghai Steamed Buns”, depending on which restaurant you visit. But then, a rose by any other name – well, you get the picture. So if you don’t see them on the menu, be sure to ask.

Given the special nature of XLBs, there are actually instructions on how to enjoy the eating of them. One way to eat your XLB generally involves pouring Chinese black vinegar into the small saucer which contains ginger that usually arrives with your order. Gently dip the dumpling into the vinegar and than deposit onto a Chinese soup spoon. Take a bite out of the skin and sip the soup out. Then you can drizzle some vinegar on top along with the ginger and then enjoy the rest of the dumpling. Of course, there are may be other ways to eat XLBs, but in the end, just find the way that works best for you, keeping in mind that the soup coming out of the dumpling may be quite hot. For me personally, I add black vinegar to my Chinese Spoon before adding the XLB since I like to sip the soup along with the vinegar.

It’s fun to expand your culinary experiences and try the flavors of the world. I hope that you’ll give the “Xia Long Bao” a try and who knows, you may just find your next favorite food.  So if you’re curious about XLBs and are interested in trying them out, then you may want to keep an eye out for them at your local Chinese restaurant or even just ask.  I’ll even give you a head start and give you some places to check out below.

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
1108 S Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA
(626) 574-7068

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao
38-12 Prince Street
Flushing NY 11354
(718) 321-3838

Lao Shanghai
2163 S China Pl, Ste 1F
Chicago, IL
(312) 808-0830

Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa Street
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 387-2088

Lao Wang Noodle House Inc
945 S Federal Blvd # D
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 975-2497

Posted by on April 4th, 2009

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