Introducting the Xiaolongbao-down

January 19th, 2008 · 3 Comments

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Introducing: The Xiaolongbao-down
an introduction

Saturday, January 19th 2008

by Jason Chin
Eat Vancouver editor

Xiaolongbao are steamed Chinese dumplings filled with soup. It’s really as simple as that, but for some difficult-to-explain reason I’m obsessed with them. If I had to guess at the source of my affection for these little pillows of soup, I’d say it has to do with the sheer ingenuity of them. As impossibly thin little wrappers precariously encapsulating a spoonful of piping hot soup, the xiaolongbao defies all known laws of physics. Of course, it probably also doesn’t hurt that they are completely delicious. Properly made, the soup inside is incredibly rich, thickened a bit by the flour from the pastry and highlighted by a morsel of fatty pork. They’re also fun in that there’s a variety of strategies from the asbestos-mouths who will down them in one bite, to the method I personally pioneered. In short, what you do is put a little ginger-spiked vinegar in your spoon, plop a bao in the spoon, make a little hole in the pastry and then suck. Once enough soup is extruded, it’s time to bite down and finish it.

I first discovered authentic xiaolongbao when I was traveling through China with my friend Des two summers ago. I barely knew what they were before that, but after my first taste in a little restaurant overlooking a popular shopping district (the Nanjing Dong Lu), I knew deep in my brain’s heart that I would never be the same. The xialongbao in Shanghai were simply magnificent, deep soulful soup in ethereal wrappers with nary a leak to be found. I was obsessed.

So, the current venture is to find the ultimate xialongbao in Vancouver and with Shanghainese restaurants springing up at a remarkable rate, I think we’re going to do pretty well. In order to keep the magic alive, Desmond, my tireless traveling companion in China, and I will be doing all of the ratings, although we may be dining out with other friends. As with the phodown, all ratings will be performed independently to avoid any contamination caused by discussing the baos. We will also rate the samples directly after the meal to ensure that our memories are still alive and strong. The rating categories are as follows:

10 points – soup
10 points – pastry/wrapper
10 points – meat
5 points – service and atmosphere
5 points – other items; this is a category not found in the phodown and perhaps the most debatable. Des and I had countless arguments over this but in the end, we felt that no one is going to order just xiaolongbao at a restaurant and the quality of the other items leads to better enjoyment of the experience. It may even enhance the xiaolongbao as a whole. So it’s in, but it’s only 5 points.

Thus begins the great xiaolongbao-down of 2008! As always, please submit your recommendations so we can be sure to hit all of the top spots.

Tags: Administrative Notes · Chinese · News · Xiaolongbao

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 edmoist // Jan 19, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Hi Jason! I like this idea! You always got good ideas for this site! Best in the Buisness! In your five point “other” category you may want to consider the condiments. Perfectly slivered ginger is essential to the Xiaolong Bao experience. I am not sure if you guys were lucky enough to try the famous Ding Tai Feng Xiaolong Bao while in China, but if you didn’t you should check them out. Even though they are from Taiwan and not Shanghai they are commonly considered the Bao Champ. I had the fortune of eating there in Taiwan a few times. They have an English site with lots of info and self promotion:

    In your final write up I will also be very happy if you make a pun about the competition ‘bao’ing’ out! Zap!

  • 2 Jason // Jan 20, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks Tim, for the advice and the encouragement! You are always so supportive.

    Yes, vinegar and ginger quality has to be factored it. Done!

  • 3 Yvonne // Jan 27, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I vote for Top Shanghai in the Save-On-Food complex on Ackroyd & #3… also Shanghai River.. and this place I forgot the name of near Staples on #3 Rd…

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