It may look like an ordinary dumpling but the xiao long bao, which means "small basket dumpling," has much more to offer than its appearance lets on. It's an art form of sorts-from its meticulous preparation down to the complex technique required to devour it sans the mess. While they may look like innocent, ping pong-sized buns sitting in a bamboo basket, these little dumplings are definitely of the cunning kind.
Also known as the "soup dumpling," xiao long bao originated in China during the North Song dynasty. Adding a nice surprise to the regular dim sum formula is a spoonful of steaming soup packed inside a flour dough pouch. The soup, a tasty broth made from ham and chicken stock, is molded into gelatin cubes before it is encased with fresh ground pork and stuffed inside the dumpling shell. The dough itself is especially complicated to make-it has to be thin enough to let the flavors speak, yet thick enough to carry the weight of the filling. Each wrapper’s edges, carefully folded over several times, lock in the flavor before the dumplings are steamed.
And while delicate craftsmanship is involved in its preparation, eating the xiao long bao is just as tricky. Tempting as these little buns are, popping them into your mouth could burn your tongue. Here’s a tip: Gently pick the dumpling up with your chopsticks and place it on the soup spoon. Poke a little hole on the dough, or better yet, nibble on it. Sip on the warm broth as it oozes out of the dumpling, then make your way to the moist, meaty bun. Xiao long bao tastes best when dipped in black vinegar with shredded ginger.
From the splurge-worthy to the pleasantly cheap, SPOT.ph names the restaurants serving the best xiao long bao in the metro who have nailed the taste and texture of this intricate dumpling delight.