Want to suck on some succulent xiaolongbao, but don’t know where to go besides the tourist trap of Yu Yuan or Din Tai Fung (which really isn’t actually Shanghainese)? All through this week, Shanghaiist has got your back. We’ve checked out as many xiaolongbao places as our stomachs can bear, from the highest rated locations on Dianping to places we’ve heard of through word-of-mouth, and now we’re giving you the down low on what to expect. Track all the places we try here, and feel free to give suggestions of other great XLB destinations in comments!
Location: 650 Yuyuan Lu near Zhenning Lu, 愚园路650号, 近镇宁路
Price: 6RMB for 6 Fuchun-style xiaolongbao (富春小笼包); 16RMB for crab roe xiaolongbao (蟹粉小笼包)
Located relatively close to many expat haunts, Fuchun’s one of those places that are constantly named as local joints expats should try. Most recently, they were touted as a place to go instead of Din Tai Fung by CNNGo and Gary Wang (of The Shelter) has called it his favorite in all of Shanghai. So what did we think?
The Fuchun-style Xiaolongbao: *** out of 5
SKIN: The skin was a little on the thicker side, but held together well – yielding under a firm bite without hints of doughiness – and it didn’t get mushy.
FILLING: The meat is savory, fresh tasting and there’s a lot of it. In fact, it’s worth mentioning that Fuchun had some of the larger xiaolongbao we’ve seen this entire week. Six is most definitely enough to satisfy and feel comfortably full after.
SOUP: While the proportion of soup to meat was even and well done, the soup itself tasted slick with oil. Yes, there should be fat (that is what it is, after all), but the fat should be dissolved into liquid, not sliding into your mouth like a shot of corn oil. Was not a fan.
The Crab Roe Xiaolongbao: **** out of 5
SKIN: Fuchun managed to do a slightly thinner and less sloppily wrapped skin for the crab roe xiaolongbao. Perhaps this is what 10 extra kuai gets you.
FILLING: Because it certainly wasn’t the crab roe in the pork. Of all the many crab roe xlbs we tried over the last week, Fuchun had the least amount of actual crab roe. In fact, it would’ve been basically undetectable in the meat if we hadn’t been specifically looking for it. Still, this subtlety isn’t necessarily a bad thing – whatever they added helped lighten the already decent pork filling, making this a tastier option from the heaviness of their Fuchun-style versions.
SOUP: And the soup was much better. Not only did this soup contain the crab essence, but it was also much less noticeably oily. Perhaps Fuchun had decided that instead of hitting you over the head with actual xie fen, they’d rather impart the subtle taste of crabbiness through the juice.
The location/service/other: *** out of 5.
The tables weren’t free from that stickiness you find in most Shanghai fast food joints, and looked quite well loved. But the crowd there spoke to how popular the food is, and we were pleased with how fast our xiaolongbao got to us, considering how many people there were. The ordering girl out front was friendly, and utensils came as soon as we sat down.
Overall: If you’re in the area, it’s worth making it a local XLB spot. Slightly cleaner than a hole-in-the-wall joint and their xiaolongbao are big enough to make a meal out of. We’d skip the Fuchun version and pay 10RMB extra for the crab roe though, since it seemed to guarantee more care, more flavor and less oiliness.