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: 338 Zha Pu Lu near Jin Hai Ning Lu; 虹口区乍浦路338号(近海宁路)
Price: 4.5RMB for 6 pork nanxiang xiaolonwagbao (南翔小笼包); 8 RMB for crab roe xiaolongbao (蟹粉小笼包)
With its respectable rating on Dianping, we couldn’t help but stop by this small joint to check out their recommendations. This one has the added benefit of being located very, very close to Gosney and Kallman’s Chinatown, in case you want to munch on something cheap and filling before a night of wild and crazy cabaret/drinks.
The Pork Nanxiang Xiaolongbao: *** out of 5
SKIN: The skin was well rolled, without the doughy flavour that some other places liked to include. It was strong enough to cradle the soup without letting it spill for the journey from steamer to spoon, while still remaining delicate.
FILLING: The filling seemed to slide around in the package more than other xiaolongbaos we had tried, the slightly springy ball of meat did the trick but was a little too elastic to compete with the best.
SOUP: At Wuyunde the soup managed to separate the filling from the skin quite obviously, letting the meat inside shift from side to side. The soup itself was slightly oily but not over-seasoned.
The Crab Roe Xiaolongbao: ** out of 5
SKIN: It appeared to collect at the top of the xiaolongbao, getting gradually thinner as the dumpling sloped to the bottom. Fortunately the dough at the crown was not dry but pleasantly warm and moist.
FILLING: Crab meat seems to be a difficult thing to detect in crab roe xiaolongbaos, and this one was no exception. In fact, it probably was just pork. The consistency was similar to that of the pork xiaolongbaos, being slightly spongy and springy when eaten.
SOUP: With the lack of crab meat, the soup was especially rich with the taste of roe as if to compensate by crowding our taste buds.
The location/service/other: *** out of 5.
Expect a bit of a scowl from the waitress when ordering, they aren’t the most welcoming bunch of girls. The xiaolongbao steamers were quick to arrive, however, and sometimes are even garnished with a lump of extra dough or ginger. The décor has transformed this hole-in-the-wall, to a comfortable little restaurant adorned with lanterns and small wooden seats.
Overall: If you’re looking for good value xiaolongbao in Hongkou, go! With it’s kitschy but adorable transformation, it sections itself away from other rowdy restaurants. The xiaolongbao may not be perfect, but they are certainly delicious and for the prices we really shouldn’t be complaining at all.