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!
Qiancheng Jiu Jia 前城酒家
Location: 408 Tangshan Lu near Dantu Lu 唐山路408号(近丹徒路), Phone: 021-63648060
Price: 4.50RMB for 6 Shanghai Nanxiang-style xiaolongbao (南翔小笼包); 10RMB for 6 Xiefen xiaolongbao (蟹粉小笼包)
After hearing praise upon praise heaped on Fude Xiaolongbao, we went to this farther off area of Hongkou to check it out. To make it worth our while, we also looked up this place, which had decent reviews on Dianping. Thank goodness we did, because Fude was an absolute disappointment. With only one version of XLB to choose from (Nanxiang), you would’ve thought they’d do it right. But the skin was mushy, the pork a little dry and the soup… eh. We walked despondently to Qiancheng and was luckily greeted by some of the better fare we’ve tried thus far. Phew.
Nanxiang Xiaolongbao: *** out of 5
SKIN: While decently thin and not too doughy, the skin was a little flat – which felt like it may have been left in the steamer a little too long.
FILLING: There was not as much pork as some of the other Nanxiang Xiaolongbao options, but what they had was decently flavored and moist.
SOUP: The soup was a little on the watery side, tasting a little like the water that comes out of boiled dumplings. But it benefited from being light by not being oily.
Xiefen Xiaolongbao: ***** out of 5
SKIN: The Xiefen version of the skin stood up much better than its Nanxiang sister, managing to be just barely translucent but firm to the bite.
FILLING: One of the best combos of crab roe and meat that we had. The roe didn’t overpower the pork, but made itself known nonetheless. It’s great to find that kind of balance.
SOUP: It suffered from the same light consistency as the nanxiang, but also benefited from being flavored by the crab.
The location/service/other: *** out of 5.
Besides being pretty far from the average person, this outlet suffered from a very bare bones design. Chopsticks were tattered wood, which made us wonder about their cleanliness. Waitresses got our order mixed up, which was surprising considering we were one of three tables there. But the cooks were friendly and, more importantly, the xiaolongbao was solid.
Unless someone gives us any reason to try it again, we’re going to pass up Fude and head to this place instead. It surpassed its more famous neighbor (kind of, it’s two or three blocks away) in every respect. Also noteworthy: It’s 24 hours, so if you find yourself way up in Hongkou at three in the morning, here’s a place to go.