From a quaint shop with over a century of history to a global brand, xiao long bao is not hard to find in Shanghai. Just follow your nose or the queue, like I did, and you’ll be able to savour this particular dish, from some of the best restaurants in Shanghai.
1. De Xing Guan
This restaurant has been serving up this delicacy since the Qing dynasty, and for good reason – generous, fatty pork fillings in a thicker, Shanghainese dumpling skin. The xiao long bao‘s skin is smooth and not flavourful, which is why they are usually accompanied by vinegar. Dip your dumpling in the vinegar, then, savour the soup that oozes out, and finally the pork filling that has been hand-kneaded to porky perfection.
Location: De Xin Guan, 471 Guangdong Lu, near Fujian Zhong Lu 广东路471号, 近福建中路
2. Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung started out on the streets of Taipei in the 1980s and have since expanded their empire to other Asian countries, and even garnered a Michelin star in Hong Kong. They owe their success to a little dumpling that could – savoury pork packages that are served in perfect temperature that won’t scald your tongue. As explained by the restaurant manager, the dipping sauce is one serving of soy sauce to three servings of vinegar, mixed with ginger. Inside your mouth, lightly pierce the skin with your teeth. Let the soup embrace your taste buds, then mix it all in – the skin, the meat and the soup – the perfect ending to these delicate delicacies. Imagine training for three months to serve these dumplings. That’s the standard procedure at Din Tai Fung, and it’s evident in the taste and the presentation.
Location: Various locations across Shanghai and China. www.dintaifung.com.cn
3. Fu Chen
The Shanghainese know that Fu Chen’s xiao long baos are as authentic as they come. Don’t believe me? Just watch as the throng of locals visit the restaurant and you know you’re in for a treat, as I knew I was going to be. Bouncier, meatier with the fragrance of the rice wine and soy sauce, the xiao long bao is best topped off with vinegar. Each bite seems like time has gone into remission, so remember to take it slow before you’re pulled back into reality.
Location: Fu Chun, 650 Yuyuan Lu, near Zhenning Lu 愚园路650号, 近镇宁路
4. Nan Xiang Xiaolong Mantou
With over 100 years of experience, Nan Xiang Xiaolong Mantou must be doing something right with their xiao long baos. I accidentally stumbled upon the shop located near the City God Temple in Shanghai’s old town because of its noticeable queue. And the herd mentality compelled me to follow the long line of people to this sanctuary of soup dumplings. I approached the tiny window to place my order and instantly there appeared a box of xiao long bao to my right, waiting to be consumed. No marks for presentation here, but once these dumplings hit your taste buds, they’ll take you up into the gastro-sphere of goodness.
Location: Nan Xiang Xiaolong Mantou, 85 Yuyuan Lao Lu, near Fuyou Lu 豫园老路85号, 近福佑路
5. Yang’s Dumplings
After days of eating steamed dumplings (which I’m not complaining about by the way), I looked forward to visiting Yang’s Dumplings. They are not xiao long baos but actually a variant known as sheng jian bao or pan fried pork bun. Xiao long baos’ skin is supple, with a starchy texture – a complete contrast to the sheng jian bao with its crunchy skin. But make no mistake; it is still filled with juicy pork and soup bursting with flavour. I miscalculated this by only biting off half the dumpling and watched in agony as the soup flowed onto my plate. For the full experience the dumpling should be in your mouth before you take the first bite, just make sure it’s not too hot!
Location: Yang’s Dumplings, 97 Huanghe Rd; 黄河路97号