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!
Xi Yuan Wuxi Xiaolongguan 锡缘无锡小笼管
Location:64 Beihaining Lu 北海宁路64号, Phone: 021-63648060
Price: 12RMB for 12 Shanghai Nanxiang-style xiaolongbao (南翔小笼包); 15RMB for 8 Wuxi-style xiaolongbao (蟹粉小笼包)
This shop received rave reviews on Dianping for its use of fresh ingredients and its overall cleanliness despite being located on a busy street. The dumplings are prepared in the morning but steamed and served on request rather than left sitting on the steamer all day. Take-away is available and served in bamboo baskets rather than disposable Styrofoam boxes. You can also call ahead to ask them to start preparing the dumplings a few minutes before you arrive.
The Shanghai Nanxiang-style xiaolongbao: * out of 5
SKIN: The skin was too thick for the relatively smaller-sized xiaolongbao, but would have been the perfect consistency if they were just slightly bigger.
FILLING: While it tasted fresh, the meat was quite fatty and did not really taste like pork.
SOUP: The soup was salty and clear and in just the right quantity. However, it tasted rather generic and had carried no meat flavour. A forgettable experience.
The Wuxi-style Xiaolongbao: *** out of 5
SKIN: Slightly chewier and thinner than the Nanxiang baos, they were perfect for the larger sized dumplings.
FILLING: Abundant and steamed to a perfect succulent consistency. The chunks of ginger in the meat are also a pleasant surprise and give a good balance to the sweet soup.
SOUP: The dark soup was very fragrant had a sweet, syrupy taste – somewhat like the sauce found in Dongpo pork stew. It might come as a shock to first-timers but grows on you after the second bite.
The location/service/other: The shop was located on a busy street and as there is no door between the shop and the walkway, the sound of traffic can be heard from within the eating area. There was also a lot of activity – truck drivers chatting or moving goods – around the entrance though the inside of the shop was comparatively calm. There was not much ambience in the shop, think fluorescent lights and bright orange plastic tables but it was clean and service was pretty pleasant. Waitresses took time to explain that the larger xiaolongbaos are a Wuxi speciality and even gladly shared the recipe (the sweet sauce is made by boiling pork skin, dark soy sauce and sugar for two to three hours) when we asked. Good for one’s beauty when eaten too, they smilingly add.
Overall: It’s slightly more expensive than the regular hole-in-the-wall but the larger size and abundant filling of the Wuxi dumplings make the price worth it. Go if you you have a sweet tooth or if you are looking for a different take on the regular xiaolongbao.