Foodie Friday: Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao: Chinese soup dumplings

xiao long bao

a.k.a. “exploding meatball dumplings”

This is what my brother called them when I first tried the dumplings, and the nickname’s stuck in my head. It’s true, too. If you pop the whole thing in your mouth, the soup underneath the skin sprays right out and scalds your throat. Over the years, I’ve acquired the proper skill to eat xiao long bao. You need to hold the dumpling over a spoon, bite a small piece of it, suck out the juice, and then eat. For visual learners, here’s a video on how to do it right:

There are actually two types of xiao long bao that I’ve experienced:

  •  The Shanghai-style comes with a thick skin.
  •  The Taiwanese version features a more delicate outer layer.

Hands down, the best dumpling house I’ve eaten at is Din Tai Fung (I go to the Arcadia branches–there are two right next to each other). At the restaurant, there’s a glass kitchen where you can see the chefs preparing the dumplings. The steaming baskets are on full blast, and many swift hands mold the tiny discs of dough. They place a dab of filling in a circle and twist it into a dumpling with one smooth motion.

I’ve also been to the Din Tai Fung in Taiwan, in Taipei 101. It’s a fancy mall interior with high-end brands and bright lighting.

At first, the setting seemed odd to me because I was visiting Taiwan to glean cultural insight. When I bit into the succulent xiao long bao dumplings, though, I was reminded that I was sitting in an iconic building. Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building from 2004-2010.

And like New York’s  One Times Square Building with its emblematic ball drop, Taipei 101 celebrates in style and shoots fireworks out of its sides for the new year:

How does food reconnect you to culture?


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  1. Lol, funny. That very much looks like me at dim sum! Come to think of it, last Christmas I translated a bunch of family favourites from my Czech grandmother’s cookbook and gave a folder of them to my middle daughter. She loved it. There are plenty of yummy dumplings in the Czech tradition but ones I love are a boiled sweet dumpling filled with fruit, like an apricot or cherries, and you eat them sprinkled with melted butter, cottage cheese and sugar…mmm…and then you go for a 10 mile run to run off the extra calories. :)

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