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Ian_Lee

Xiao Lung Bao (Steamed Soup Dumpling)

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Gary Soup
hmm .. . my google skills must be lacking. all i came up with was a bunch of weblogs of people who had eaten there.

You were probably trying to be too clever. I just typed "Din Tai Fung" (but without the quotation marks) in the Google box and the answer was the first one out of the hopper.

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marcopolo79

Both of you are too clever for your own good, the address you found is not for the original 鼎泰豐, but for the trendy, more expensive, less tasty branch on 忠孝東路, the real 鼎泰豐 can be found at the following:

北市信義路二段194號

Taipei, Xinyi Rd, Sec. 2, #194

Belive me, the difference is tremendous, the 忠孝 is a whole lot of expensive nothing, but I was treated to lunch at the original restaurant this week, and I have to admit, the 蟹粉湯包 were good, really, really good, the kind of 大飽口福 you can't stand to clean the bits that get caught between your teeth with a toothpick kind of good.

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englishboy

mmmmm....thanks for the reminder re xiao long bao

just back from Shanghai where I had THE most delicious xlb at Yuyuan Temple. Unlike earlier poster, I ascended to the 3rd floor where the food is best (but also most expensive)

It was a busy Sunday and the waiters kept tring to get us to leave (arrived 10.40am, already busy) so had to order more and more food to keep our table - what a hardship!!

Back to Shanghai in 3 weeks - bring it on xlb!!!!!!

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Gary Soup

Marco was right., confirmed by DTF's own website. I was snookered by the site I found, which said the one I cited was the "first branch" (obviously intended to mean of the orginal store.

The DTF website, http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/eng/, has a fascinating account of DTF's founding. It started out as a cooking oil shop on Linyi Street, and was still a cooking oil shop for a while when it moved to Xinyi Road. The introduction of bottled vegetable oils caused the founder to re-think his product line, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It's all academic, though, as DTF's xiaolong bao will never trump Shanghai's. 8)

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skylee

I've listened to Ian Lee and given 鼎泰豐 another try, this time in Shanghai (the shop at Xintiandi). It was very good. The food was not bad (given the price it should be good), the service and environment were first class (N times better than the Hong Kong branch). Can't say I had seen better service in Shanghai.

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Ian_Lee

After all the hip about Xiao Long Bao, here is an advice for your health:

You may raise your cholestrol reading if you over-devour XLB.

Why is XLB so juicy? Here is what I heard about its recipe.

Each XLB contains many small dices of frozen pork skin. After steaming, the lard is melted and turn XLB extremely juicy.

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englishboy

(puts on best homer simpson voice) - "frozen pork skin..aaaaaaahhhhh"

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bhchao
Why is XLB so juicy? Here is what I heard about its recipe.

Each XLB contains many small dices of frozen pork skin. After steaming, the lard is melted and turn XLB extremely juicy.

Quite a few times the juice inside the XLB squirted onto my shirt everytime I took a bite into one of them. This always happens at this one restaurant I visit. Fortunately nobody except my friend noticed.

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bhchao

Din Tai Fung opened its first branch in Korea two months ago in Myeongdong, Seoul. When the franchise opened in Tokyo, Japanese customers became crazy over xiaolongbao and even migrated to Taipei in waves to try the dumplings at the original store. http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/culture/200507/kt2005072117322265480.htm

hmm, I wonder if there will be a similar xiaolongbao fever in Seoul.

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Gary Soup

Din Tai Fung and Nanxiang Xiaolong, DTF's spiritual mother, seem to be stalking each other. After the copycat DTF had the nerve to bring a branch to Shanghai, the Nanxiang started to open branches, covering DTF in Tokyo, beating DTF to Seoul, and now opening in Singapore after DTF.

Nanxiang Xiaolong's opening in Singapore

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bhchao

Maybe Nanxiang Xiaolong should open a branch in Taipei, DTF's home turf. 8)

If it does, I wonder how that would affect the business at DTF's Taipei branch.

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Gary Soup

If Taipei would permit it, it would make for a nice bit of xiaolong bao diplomacy.

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bhchao

The NYTimes published a 4-page article on culinary treats in Shanghai. It talks about Nan Xiang xiaolong, dipping xiaolong bao and sheng jian bao in Zhejiang vinegar, the restaurant Bao Luo, and Xin Ji Shi. The article also features a slide show on chefs preparing cong you bing and sheng jian bao.

http://travel2.nytimes.com/2005/10/09/travel/09shanghai.html

....Thicker-skinned dumplings, sheng jian bao, fried cheek-to-cheek in shallow iron pans and then steamed, were dusted with chives and black sesame seeds. We followed instructions to dip them in the exceptional black Zhenjiang vinegar...

There were crepes at other stalls - delicate cong you bing, or scallion pancakes, and ji dan bing, a kind of breakfast burrito. To make that, a short-order wizard spread batter on a drum-shaped grill with what looked like a painter's spatula, broke an egg on top, added a dab of fermented soybean sauce and threw in some chives, coriander and mustard-plant leaves. The whole process took just a minute. Then he slapped either a salty cruller called you tiao or a piece of crisply fried bean curd skin across the finished product and rolled it up like a scroll. Mr. Vongerichten, in seventh heaven, pronounced it "the best breakfast in the world."

By that time, I felt fat as a Strasbourg goose, but my eating buddies insisted that we stop at a 24-hour noodle shop on Shandong Zhonglu, behind the Westin, to watch a particularly deft cook do his stuff. "No need to eat," said Mr. Leung, a Hong Kong-born Chinese. "Just watch." Sure. We watched, all right, as a huge ball of dough was kneaded and rolled and tossed and hacked into ragged little squares that reminded Mr. Vongerichten, an Alsatian, of spaetzle, and twisted and stretched and flipped and folded into long, supple noodles. But of course I had to sample a bowl of beef noodle soup, lightly curry-flavored, before we left, and of course that spoiled my lunch.

Bao Luo, in the French Concession, is all you might expect a Chinese restaurant to be - big, raucous, smoke-filled, dingy despite the marble on the walls - and more. It's open until 6 in the morning, and it often features a parade of fashionistas in thigh-high white boots around midnight. Its menu provides a primer of home-style Shanghainese cooking, however bizarre the English translations (for example, "lima bean curd with crisp hell"). Cold dishes first - amazingly tender, custardlike tofu, a reproach to the flannel-like stuff often served outside China, topped with coriander and chili oil; ma lan tou, made from the crunchy stems of the boltonia flower (a member of the aster family that I grow, but don't eat, at my farm in Pennsylvania); "drunken" chicken, marinated in rice wine; and kaofu, bran cubes flavored by five-spice soy sauce. This is no cuisine for the squeamish.

Warm plates filled the table as six of us struggled to keep up. Ti pang, the fabulously fatty Shanghainese pork shank, was luscious as foie gras. (One of our six, Tina Kanagaratnam, a Singapore-born food writer, told me, "Shanghai girls say that if you don't eat the fat you won't have good skin.") Crystal river prawns, bathed in egg whites before stir-frying, and yu xiang qiezi bao, spicy caramelized eggplant, were among my favorites. Patrick Cranley, Ms. Kanagaratnam's husband, a fluent Mandarin-speaker from Baltimore, noted that this was originally a Sichuan dish, long ago adopted by Shanghai as its own. "Something in the Shanghainese character," he said, "helps them to absorb, adapt and flourish."

Having emerged intact from Shanghainese culinary primary school, we moved directly to postgraduate studies at an unprepossessing four-table hole in the wall called Chun, a block from the Jin Jiang Hotel, where Chou En-lai and Richard M. Nixon issued their momentous communiqué in 1972. Susan Shirk, the State Department's top China expert in the Clinton administration, recommended it, and Dingli Shen, the Shanghai-born, Princeton-educated executive dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, joined us there. He had never been before, he said, but by the time we finished a lunchtime feast, which cost less than $8 a head, under the naked, unforgiving fluorescent bulbs, he assured us that he had never eaten better in his native city.

That didn't surprise us a bit. Not after Lan-Lan, the round-faced, T-shirt-clad 47-year-old proprietor, who resisted all attempts to discover her formal name, had brought out her wares: among other treats, more heavenly tofu, served with salted duck egg yolk and clam strips; thin-shelled river shrimp, roe still attached, steamed with ginger; whole pomfret braised in soy (with plenty of Shanghai's beloved sugar added) and the pièce de résistance, giant snails whose meat had been removed, then chopped, mixed with pork and spices and reinserted into the shells. I don't know which was better, the fragrant juices we sucked out of the shells or the meat we pried out with toothpicks.

"To be born in Shanghai is a great privilege," Dr. Shen mused. "You get better education, better economic opportunity, better health care, better everything than elsewhere in China." To which I added, "and some of the world's best food."

Soup dumplings are the province of specialists armed with minuscule rolling pins. The most famous of all are made at the three-story Nan Xiang restaurant, adjacent to the ancient Yu Garden, whose teahouse served as the inspiration for millions of pieces of "willow pattern" china. All the world adores Nan Xiang, so reserve a day ahead, or resign yourself to a long wait.

Try in any case to wangle a seat on the third floor, the only place where the most scrumptious dumplings are served - those whose filling includes crab roe as well as the usual crabmeat, pork and scallions. Two things set great dumplings apart from ordinary ones: the quality of the "soup," or broth, which at Nan Xiang has the mellow richness of the best veal stock, and the texture of the dumpling skins, which at Nan Xiang are translucently, meltingly thin. Wobbling winningly in their steamer, these tidbits are rivaled in Shanghai only by those at Din Tai Fung, a branch of a legendary Taipei dumpling house, which also has an outlet in Arcadia, Calif., near Los Angeles....

Xin Ji Shi is the serious-chow champ of Xintiandi, whose name means "new heaven and earth." It may well serve the best hong shao rou, or red-cooked pork, in town, made from cubed pork belly bathed in a sauce made from star anise, sugar and Shanghai soy sauce, which is considered China's finest. The décor may be upscale, nouvelle Shanghai, all burnished wood and smoky glass panels, but the cooking is traditional. Our meal at Xin Ji Shi was also memorable for a basket brimming with big, rosy prawns, roast chicken and dried chilies and for a bottle of 1993 Corton brought by Mr. St. Pierre, much less so for an eel dish totally overwhelmed by a sweet, sludgy sauce....

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Gary Soup

I just returned from Shanghai and made it a point to survey the state of xiaolong bao there. Three significant conclusions were:

1) The Nanxiang Xiaolong Mantou Dian, once bearer of the gold standard for xiaolong bao, has slipped badly in quality, at least at its flagship store (maybe they are making greater efforts overseas).

2) Din Tai Fung (Xintiandi branch) XLB are very good, better than Nanxiang's (sad to say for this foreign, er, provincial, upstart). However, they are RIDICULOUSLY overpriced (RMB 45 for 10 baozi!) and the restaurant is unbearably pretentious.

3) Possibly the best XLB anywhere in Shanghai today can be found at Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家湯包) at Henan Lu anf Wenmiao Lu in Nanshi (thanks to blogger Liao Yusheng for this tip). They are markedly better than than DTF's at about ONE TENTH the price (RMB 6 for 12 baozi). I found them comparable to those made by the Nanxiang 15 years ago, prior to its reconstruction as a tourist venue.

xiaolong bao at Pudong Airport's food court (RMB 15 for 8 pcs)

sheat03.jpg

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horas

*

I'm not sure if it's the same dish (xiao long bao) but I know it as:

[pop= to cook/shāo]烧[/pop][pop=sells/mài]卖[/pop]

-

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skylee

xiaolongbao and shaomai are not the same. The photo above is xiaolongbao [note that it is served with vinegar (sometimes with ginger)].

This is shaomai ->

燒賣

xinsrc_4920802191143535485743.jpg

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skylee
2) Din Tai Fung (Xintiandi branch) XLB are very good, better than Nanxiang's (sad to say for this foreign, er, provincial, upstart). However, they are RIDICULOUSLY overpriced (RMB 45 for 10 baozi!) and the restaurant is unbearably pretentious.

I like the Xintiandi Branch a lot (the food, ambience, service). It's service is wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy better than the branch in Hunghom/Hong Kong. But I agree that the food is overpriced.

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bhchao
Din Tai Fung (Xintiandi branch) XLB are very good, better than Nanxiang's (sad to say for this foreign, er, provincial, upstart). However, they are RIDICULOUSLY overpriced (RMB 45 for 10 baozi!) and the restaurant is unbearably pretentious.

XLB at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia costs $6.50 USD, or 52 RMB for 10 baozi.

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