Shanghai Dumplings: A Mouthful of Delight

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Shanghai dumplings or xiao long bao are one of my favorite things to eat. As you bite into these delicate dumplings, you get a burst of flavorful goodness. What is it about these dumplings that make them so unique? It’s not the soft delicate pork that makes it special. Xiao long bao are yummy because you get a splash of delicious soup that explodes from the dumpling and into your mouth.

I still have regrets when I traveled to China in 2004 with a tour group. Lodging, travel, and food was all inclusive. We always ate family style with the tour group. At one of the restaurants in Shanghai, we were given a plate of xiao long bao. There was just enough for each of us to have one. I remember it being one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten. I kept thinking, “what a tease!” My regret is that I didn’t do anything about it. I should have ordered my own plate.

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Where do you find xiao lung bao when you aren’t in Shanghai? Luckily, there are places in the Bay Area where you can find them. Many high end dim sum places will serve them, but it really is a tease because an order might only have three dumplings. I like to get my fill of xiao lung bao at Shanghai Dumpling King in the Richmond District of San Francisco. One order comes with ten dumplings. For six of us, we requested three orders which equals thirty xiao lung bao.

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The dumplings are cooked over cabbage in bamboo steamers. The tricky thing about xiao lung bao is not tearing the dumpling skin, otherwise the soup spills out leaving you a dry dumpling. Carefully using chopsticks, pick the dumpling from the top and place it on a Chinese soup spoon. Pour over some of the ginger and black vinegar that comes with it. Bite into the dumpling from the spoon that way you save any soup that may spill out. They are delicious!

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Shanghai Dumpling King is a hole in the wall. The food is very homey and generally pretty tasty. In addition to all the xiao long bao, we also had a wide variety of other food with highlights that included the pork and preserved vegetable fried rice cakes, soy braised lion head meatballs, and pan fried pork buns. Dessert is not typically something I care for at Chinese restaurants, but I always look forward to it here. They make sugar egg puffs, which is a cross between a beignet and a popover. They come out piping hot with sugar poured on top.

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