Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to eat Xiao Long Bao - without making a fool out of yourself

Bravo! You have gotten it onto your spoon without breaking it.

Xiao Long Bao (or Siew Loong Bao in Cantonese) is a staple in Taiwanese and Shanghainese cuisine and a must order at Leong's Legend and Keelung at Chinatown. Interestingly, you'll find the same dish in many Cantonese restaurants masquerading as one of the dim sum dishes - it's like finding fish and chips served as a tapas.

So how do you know whether the xiao long bao served to you is freshly made? One fool proof way is to lift it up gently from the tracing/grease paper that it is sitting on in the bamboo steamer: if it can be lifted of easily, you can be assured that the piece has just been made and laid on the steamer, otherwise it would be stuck fast and you'll have to pry it away.

Assuming that you somehow managed to lift it up and settle it nicely on your spoon, what you do next will determine whether you're likely to order the xiao long bao again during your next visit. A gentleman who sat at the next table when I was lunching at Keelung made the mistake of biting into his xiao long bao directly. The soup within spurt onto his his Hugo Boss and I don't think he'll be in a hurry to try the dish again.

first, get to the soup

Anyway, the soup within the xiao long bao is too often neglected. To derive the maximum pleasure of the dish, bit the top bit of (as shown in the photo above) and slowly sip the soup within, and let it swirl around your tongue a bit.

and then the rest of it

When you're done with the soup, add some ginger slices doused in vinegar (usually provided with the dish, and if not, ask for it) into the resultant gaping hole. Admire it for a moment before shoving the whole thing into your mouth. Make no mistake about this, do not, under any circumstances take it in two bites. That's like biting a Mentos sweet into halves or taking a shot in two small sips - some things are just meant to be taken in one go.

That, my friends, is how you should eat xiao long bao.

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Lucie said...

hahaha thanks! I've had trouble with this dish before - my Shanghainese friend loves to order it whenever we go to Chinatown ... and I always end up with soup leaking out. So now I know! :o))

C K said...

You're welcome! Hmm, try holding it up using your chopsticks at the thicker part at its tip so that it wouldn't break easily. Then again, I'm sure your friend would have mentioned that as well. :)