Xiao long bao or tang bao (小笼包 or 湯包), known in English as soup dumplings, soup buns, or juicy buns, are type of dumpling originating from Eastern China. Shanghai claims to be the home of these luscious little snacks, but some claim that Wuxi was where the first xlb was created. The Chinese name literally translates to “little steamer bun,” which refers to the bamboo basket the dumplings are cooked in. You can follow trails of steam to one of many xiao long bao stalls throughout Shanghai. The classic xin rou (鲜肉) or pork dumplings are the original, but you can also get xlb with hairy crab roe, salty duck egg, black truffle, and more! The juicy and delicious dumplings are served piping hot in the basket with lots of dark vinegar and shredded ginger on the side. Eating the soup dumplings is an art in itself – some take the time to let the dumplings cool, then pop the whole thing in their mouths, while others take a nibble, suck the soup, and then eat the rest. Both ways are delicious!
Although xlb are offered all over the city, finding a really good one can be difficult. Here I’ve compiled a list of some of the xlb I’ve visited around town. If you’d like to share a place for some bomb dumplings, please email me!
Jia Jia Tang Bao
A canteen-style hole in the wall in Luwan, serves up several varities of xlb, including crab roe and pork and salty egg. Go early, they run out!
Nanjing Tang Xiao Long Bao
Get down and dirty at Nanjing Tang on the food street, Shouning Lu. Strong stomachs only.
Ling Long Fang
The BEST place for xiao long bao, ever. Owned by the same people as Jia Jia Tang, but slightly cleaner and less busy.
Apparently this place is quite famous. They do a few varieties – some with shrimp and steam them on demand. They also do mala tang (spicy soup).
With chefs from Ding Tai Fung on deck, Simon’s turns out cheap and delicious dumplings.
Nanjing Guan Tang Bao
My personal favorite – a humble stall in (very) Northern Jing’an. The filling is perfect, but try to get a fresh batch so you don’t get gummy wrappers.
Ding Tai Fung
An international chain serving up perfect (but incredibly expensive) soup dumplings. Generic, but delicious. Prepare to wait in line at the XinTianDi location.
Nanxiang Mantou Dian
Don’t. Even. Bother. Total tourist trap in Yuyuan Gardens offering long lines, thick skins and flavorless fillings.
Gary Soup’s XLB Report Card
Check out the @GarySoup blog for even more xlb reviews – he’s got you covered!