Ever since having my first taste of a Xiao Long Bao—variously referred to as "soup dumplings" or "juicy steamed buns" on American Chinese menus—I've yearned to taste them at the source in Shanghai. But it turns out that XLB are only half of the soup dumping story.
'xiao long bao' on Serious Eats
Taiwanese export Din Tai Fung, famed for its xiao long bao and long wait times, just opened their second location in the Seattle area. We stopped by for an early visit to see how the dumplings (plus a whole bunch of other dishes) stack up.
Spend a day in this Asian food mecca just outside of Vancouver and you can start with dim sum, end with night market fare, and feast proudly on fried chicken, ramen, bubble tea and more in between.
Last week, Ben and I had an animated debate on whether or not soup dumplings (xiao long bao) can travel in a to-go box and still taste delicious. "You can't do it," he said. "You will regret it." Ben was laying down the soup dumpling gauntlet, and I was up to the challenge. I went off to find out.
When considering foods eaten out of context—that is, foods eaten in a country or region that they do not originate from—the question of authenticity and what it means to be "authentic" is always a vexing one. Take, for example, Xiao Long Bao—the soup-filled dumplings hailing from Shanghai that have since been popularized throughout the world. Even referring to them as "dumplings" is enough to set off some food scholars who insist that they are distinct from what we traditionally classify as dumplings. The question is, what does it mean to be authentic and more precisely, is it even possible for authenticity to be preserved across the many barriers of language mapping, social custom, and regional tastes?
What's the longest you've ever waited in line for a dumpling? If you've been to a Din Tai Fung, the Taiwan-based dumpling and noodle chain famous for their xiao long bao (steamed soup-filled dumplings), chances are you've waited at least an hour. Can these soup-filled tiny little buns live up to their reputation?
Finding the best Xiao Long Bao—the famed soup-filled dumplings from Shanghai—in New York has always been a pet project of mine, but it's not an easy goal to accomplish. Given the magnitude of the task, I decided to break it down into more manageable, walkable segments. For our first installment, I limited my search area to Manhattan's Chinatown.
When it’s bone-chillingly cold, soup is usually the order of the day. Yet sometimes a gigantic steaming bowl is simply too much. Sometimes you crave soup in small, self-contained packages. That’s where xiao long bao, or Shanghai soup dumplings,...