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: 749 Kangding Lu near Jiaozhou Lu, 康定路749号, 近胶州路
Price: 5RMB for eight Nanshan-style Xiaolongbao (南删小笼); 4RMB for four Wuxi-style Xiaolongbao (无锡小笼)
Located about ten minutes walk north of Jing’an Temple, ShanShan Xiaolongbao blends in so well with the rest of the store fronts around it that we may have walked right past if not for the line stretching almost out the door. Word of mouth told us this place is worth a try. Obviously a popular lunch spot for locals, ShanShan seems to embody every aspect of the typical Shanghai xiaolong joint. We ventured in to find out whether their xiaolong could separate them from the pack.
The NanShan-style Xiaolongbao: **** out of 5
SKIN: Thin to medium skin, flexible without collapsing in on themselves, somehow less translucent but still tender. One thing ShanShan’s got going for them is packaging. Paste two eyes on these little guys and you’d get an exact replica of their cartoon dumpling mascot out front. Smaller, cuter, and more compact, each dumpling stood at attention waiting to be eaten.
FILLING: Smaller dumplings means smaller filling, but the fact that you get eight of them more than makes up for this. The meat was standard in flavor, a well-balanced savory mix of pork.
SOUP: Pleasantly lighter and less oily than some other places we’ve visited, the soup was fresh and salty, a good compliment to the equally palatable filling.
The Wuxi-style Xiaolongbao: *** out of 5
SKIN: Larger and thicker than the NanShan xiaolong, with the expected translucence but in no way an improvement over the smaller, cheaper variety.
FILLING: The filling was strong and sweet, offering more bulk and more flavor but not necessarily more satisfaction. For the extra price, we were left gazing back toward the simpler variety.
SOUP: Typical of Wuxi-style xiaolong, the soup was sweet in flavor, thicker and a bit more oily. If you prefer sweeter xiaolong varieties, this one is worth a try.
The location/service/other: ** out of 5
The place was crowded as we walked in and crowded as we walked out. Service was quick if not immediate, they obviously prepare for the rush. Tables are of the standard orange plastic variety, seats bolted in place, and come equipped with well-worn teapots of vinegar and little else. No spoons offered, but they did have bottled Pepsi (albeit warm.) The most notable thing about this place may have been the patrons and the fervor with which they crowded in line. As we walked out, it was hard to suppress amused shock as a neighboring woman snatched up our leftover xiaolong for herself. I guess if that’s not a seal of approval, what is?