Xiao Long Bao 小籠包
Crab Roe XLB (our favorite) at Jia Jia Tang Bao from our China Live team visit to Shanghai in Spring 2014
You might be familiar with them, love them, and even eat heaps of them. Also known as soup dumplings that originated in Shanghai, the Chinese name is pronounced “shout” (without the “t”) “long” (with a long “o”) bao (like “tao”). For an audio lesson, check out https://imtranslator.net/translate-and-speak/
The word literally translates to little basket dumpling, named after the bamboo baskets they’re steamed in. Unlike American dumplings that are balls of dough, the Chinese variety contain fillings. XLB’s are in a category of their own, because in addition to the meat based filling, they also contain brothy deliciousness that bursts in your mouth when you bite into them.
The classic XLB is made of an unleavened flour-based skin on the outside with the texture a bit more delicate than a noodle and semi-transparent. What sets apart the perfect XLB from a mediocre one is how thin and elastic the skin is in order to protect the precious meat and soup inside without breaking. The classic filling combination is ground pork, green onion, and lots of fresh ginger with variations in additional ingredients like shrimp, crab, or even truffle. The meat filling is combined with gelatinized broth made from fatty cuts of pork, like the jowls and the skin. When the dumpling is steamed, the gelatin inside melts into the flavorful soup.
Incredible how they make XLB at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai
The traditional dipping sauce pairing is Chinese Zhejiang black rice vinegar topped with thin slivers of ginger. Sometimes a splash of soy is added as well.
There is a method to how you eat XLB’s to prevent scalding the inside of your mouth and spraying soup everywhere when you bite in. Delicately pick one out of the steamer at the tip with your chopsticks. With your other hand, hold a soup spoon waiting underneath the dumpling. Bathe the dumpling gently into the dipping sauce and plunk into the spoon. Make sure to top with a few strands of ginger. Take a small bite either at the tip or side of the dumpling and suck out the juice. This step also helps let out some of the steam inside. Then plop the tasty morsel into your mouth. Here’s an entertaining lesson on how to and how not to eat XLB’s.
Now the fun part, where to find these treats. You will not find them at traditional Cantonese dim sum restaurants. You will find them at specifically northern Chinese dim sum restaurants or Shanghainese restaurants (although Yank Sing is an exception and does offer XLB’s). If you’re a big fan of these dumplings, you may be familiar with Din Tai Fung, a world-renowned restaurant chain that makes what is considered to be the best XLB’s anywhere. The nearest locations are in LA and Orange County.
Hope you will check out ours when China Live opens! We are bringing in top pastry chefs from Shanghai and will make our XLB fresh to order from authentic recipes that include a secret ingredient. And we will also be introducing an equally famous dumpling that will make its debut at China Live….known inside circles as SJB (a la XLB)!
Here are several spots around San Francisco (& Shanghai) to answer your craving:
China Live (opening 2017)</strong
Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa St. (Between 34th and 35th Ave.)
Kingdom of Dumpling
1713 Taraval Street (Between 27th and 28th Ave)
1935 Taraval Street (between 29th and 30th Ave)
640 Jackson Street (between Grant and Kearny)
101 Spear Street (at Mission)
Yank Sing #2
49 Stevenson Street (Between 1st and 2nd Street)
Jia Jia Tang Bao
Huanghe Lu (near Nanjing Xilu), Shanghai China