Wednesday, September 24, 2008

小笼包 Xiao Long Bao ............... best soup dumplings in Singapore

"Xiao Long Bao" 小笼包 (directly translated as - buns in a small basket), or soup dumpling is a Shanghainese dish that was originally or still steamed in small baskets. This is a common dish that is served in many Chinese restaurants especially during their dim sum hours. These little dumplings are typically filled with pork. The intricate skill of making the xiao long bao 小笼包 is to have them steamed and then resulting in a flavorful soup inside the skin. The minced meat is usually combined with the right proportion of gelatin and then wrapped into the skin (made of flour). When the dumplings are steamed, the gelatin melts to form the soup contained inside the skin. Nowadays, there are different variants of this soup dumpling by varying the different type of filling.

The photo above shows how the dumpling is typically picked up with the chopsticks. Looks easy but its a skill. In order to have the dumpling taste nice, the dumpling's skin should not be too thick but yet it needs to be thick enough to hold the meat and soup inside. The trick to pick up the dumpling without bursting the skin and spilling the "priced" soup is to hold the dumpling at the portion where the skin is the thickest. This is the tip of the dumpling where the folds on the skin converges. After you grab this tip firmly, but not too tightly, slowly lift the dumpling off the basket in a slow and controlled manner. Place it onto a spoon that is held by your other hand (always ready and near enough to dive in to salvage any spills from "accidents"), then into your mouth. Personally, I like to poke just a small hole and suck the soup dry before eating the rest. Toast to yourself with Chinese tea when you've completed this feat. Vinegar and sliced ginger are the common condiments that go with this dish. 

When I crave for this food I'll go to;

1) Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao 
The skin has a good thickness and texture. The soup and pork is made good. I'll come here for the original flavored dumpling (filled with pork). Some how the dumplings in the Ngee Ann City outlet is the best although there are several Crystal Jade's branches on the island.

Address : Ngee Ann City #04-27 
Tel : +65 6238 1661

2) Nanxiang Steam bun restaurant 南翔馒头小笼包
It is a franchise out from Shanghai. The original stall is in Shanghai Yu Yuan. (Comments on the taste, with reference to Crystal Jade) The soup is not as tasty and the skin just a bit thicker for my liking. However, when I'm here I'll like to have the soup dumpling that has its pork filling mixed with crab roe. This is premium good stuff. I'll definitely order the deep fried crab meat with crab roe (comes in the form of fried balls and contains soup in it). There's also the King sized soup dumpling that you just drink the soup from a straw.

Address : 200 Victoria Street, #02-53 Bugis Junction
Tel : +65 6835 7577 

3) Qun Zhong Eating House 群众 / Jing Hua Xiao Ci 京华小吃 
The boss will not allow you in unless your party of people have all arrived and virtually has a "black" face every time I was there. (Comments on the taste, with reference to Crystal Jade). The soup is less salty but taste good. The skin is slightly thicker. When I'm here, I'll order the pot stickers 锅贴, (or gyoza in Japanese). The filling inside this fried dumpling is good. For desert, have the peanut and sesame filled balls in osmanthus soup 桂花汤丸. The osmanthus makes this desert extra fragrant. 

Address : 21 Neil Road
Tel : +65 6221 3060 

4) Din Tai Feng 鼎泰丰 
This is a franchise out of Taiwan. I'm reluctant to put this on the list but its many people's favourite. Personally, I think it does not taste as nice as the ones above EXCEPT FOR THE ORIGINAL STALL IN TAIPEI. 

Address : 290 Orchard Road, The Paragon #B1-03 
Tel : +66836 8336 

Cost : about S$20~30 per person.

Country : Singapore


Nate @ House of Annie said...

Thanks for the reviews. We have a good XLB store here, according to friends. We will have to try it out someday soon!

Scenes in Singapore life said...

have you tried the ones in Lao Beijing? I love the XLP in their Velocity branch.

Unknown said...

To P. chong : Lao Beijing...... Its a long time since I've been there ..... will go try ehen I'm around the area. Thanks for the lobang!


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