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"Xiao Long Bao" Journey to J&J (review + pics)

pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 11:09 AM

Being a Din Tai Fung fan for a couple of years now, I didn't realize that there were quite a few other restaurants that also served excellent xia long baos or for short, XLBs, until I read AquaW's post on J&J followed by the thread by ipsedixit ranking the restaurants with the best XLBs. Thanks a lot to both of you!!! With my curiosity aroused, I decided set up a restaurant series where I'd take my dining group to both J&J and the other restaurants listed in ipsedixit's message.

But first, a little explanation about XLBs, which I took from wikipedia.org. So what exactly is "Xiao Long Bao?" To start, xiao long bao (literally "little basket bun"; also known as soup dumpling) is a type of baozi (filled bun or bread-like item) from the Southern provinces of China, including Shanghai and Wuxi.

XLBs are traditionally steamed in bamboo baskets, hence the name. It can be filled with hot soup and meat and/or vegetarian fillings, as well as other possibilities. The fillings are wrapped in something like a jiaozi wrapper that turns almost translucent after being steamed. Shanghai steamed buns can be recognized by their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gathered up into fine folds at the top, prior to steaming.

To eat XLBs, first take the dumpling and deposit it into a Chinese soup spoon and if desired add the vinegar and soy sauce. Some places may also have shredded ginger. Take a small bite of the skin and suck out as much of the flavorful broth as possible. Then eat the rest of the dumpling from the spoon.

Our first "XLB" journey took us to J&J. By the way, what we may refer to as XLBs shows up as "Steamed Pao" on their menu. We didn't know that until we asked the waitress. Our group ordered a total of 9 dishes. Two them were the Steamed Pao with Crabmeat and the Steamed Pao with maybe a Pork/Crab mixture? I honestly don't remember, but what I did remember was that both were tasty

In general, here's my take on the J&J's XLBs. The thing that I didn't like was the thicker, chewier wrapper. It just seemed more difficult to bite into it the without the broth already starting to come out. Maybe, just a little bit thinner? I thought that the fillings were great - very meaty, very juicy, not as refined as you would find at Din Tai Fung, but more rustic, something a Mom would make in her kitchen. That somehow gave it more appeal. Overall, I liked the XLBs at J&J and it's nice to have more than one alternative for certain foods that you like.

As mentioned, the XLBs weren't the only items we ordered. There were 7 more dishes that were a part of this meal. Standouts for me included their Green Onion Pancake which was light, flaky and with lots of great onion flavor as well as the Eggplant in Brown Sauce, which had a sauce to die for.

The pan-fried dumplings were also amazing with a meat filling that was just as juicy and flavorful as the XLBs. Finally, the Fried Crab Shanghai Style was finger-looking good and the sauce had a nice hit of heat without being overwhelming.

The XLBs at J&J are definitely quite delicious and apparently, some of the other items on the menu are tasty as well. I'm just glad that J&J isn't too far from me because I certainly want to make a return trip sometime soon to check out some of their other dishes.

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

J&J
301 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91804
(626) 308-9238

- Next up is Mei Long Village

Thanks,
Abby

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  1. eatdrinknbmerry RE: pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 11:28 AM

    Palate, thanks for the detailed review. I've been wanting to try this place for a while... but always end up going to Mei Long Village. I stopped going to Dragon Mark Inn as well - not so good. Looking at the photos, the skin of the XLB does look thicker which will taste too doughy. The potstickers (guo tieh) on the other hand, are nicely fried and appear very juicy. For potstickers, I love Noodle King's (Valley Blvd - wendy's plaza) and Mandarin Noodle Delis (in TC) - both fold them the long way - almost 5" long. Also, tried the potstickers at 10053 this weekend - wasn't very pleased with them. Have you had the Beef Noodle Soup at J&J?

    1 Reply
    1. re: eatdrinknbmerry
      pleasurepalate RE: eatdrinknbmerry Apr 2, 2007 12:01 PM

      Hi eatdrink...no, I haven't tried the beef noodle soup yet at J&J yet. Perhaps next time. Thanks for the recs for Noodle King and Mandarin Noodle Deli. I'll check them out sometime.

    2. c
      condiment RE: pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 11:40 AM

      The basic problem with the XLB at J&J is that you can walk all of 30 feet, to Mei Long Village, and get better ones. Or stroll across the street to Green Village. Or, at least on some days, go next door to Dragon Mark. If J&J were in Culver City, or even in Chinatown, it would be a destination restaurant, but this is a really tough neighborhood.

      1 Reply
      1. re: condiment
        eatdrinknbmerry RE: condiment Apr 2, 2007 12:03 PM

        I forgot about Green Village since I used to go to the one next to Golden Deli. But yes, they have good NRM (beef noodle soup) and XLB.

      2. ipsedixit RE: pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 01:24 PM

        I like the thicker, more rustic, versions of XLB.

        But then, that's just me ...

        Thanks for the great review.

        1. a
          AquaW RE: pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 01:55 PM

          I, too, prefer the thicker-skinned, hardier varieties - but glad that ipse & I have expanded your XLB horizon ;)

          Now I gotta try the eggplant too!

          ~H.C.
          http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com

          1. d
            debra RE: pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 02:27 PM

            A friend and I recently tried J&J as well, and I thought their crab (thanks ipsedixit, yes craB) and pork XLB were very flavorful, although I prefer the thinner skin of DTF's XLB. We also ordered the Sesame Noodles, which I have to say tasted like a little piece of (thick and sticky) heaven. It was like melted Sesame (think peanut) butter over noodles. I don't know if this is a typical rendering of Sesame noodles, but boy was it satisfying. We also had the cut long beans which were in a delicious (not too) spicy sauce with bits of ground pork, and the Gee-something rice cake w/pork --which were little chewy slices of rice cake, with a few shreds of pork, and some minced up green veggie (the Gee-something), very good as well. We really enjoyed everything.
            If you're going to Mei Long Villiage, in addition to the XLB, I highly recommend the Jade Shrimp, lions head meatballs, and the sweet fried Shanghai spareribs --all repeatedly recommended, and thoroughly enjoyed by all 6 of us.

            4 Replies
            1. re: debra
              ipsedixit RE: debra Apr 2, 2007 02:30 PM

              "A friend and I recently tried J&J as well, and I thought their crap and pork XLB were very flavorful ..."

              Hmm, I think you meant crab and not "crap"? ...

              :-)

              1. re: debra
                wizardx RE: debra Apr 2, 2007 03:41 PM

                You are so right about Mei Long Village I want to try so many other things on the menu but I can't seem to get away from the lions head meatballs and the spareribs... with 2 orders of XLB of course...

                1. re: wizardx
                  w
                  wilp RE: wizardx Apr 2, 2007 10:13 PM

                  try the Green Tea Duck next..

                  1. re: wilp
                    wizardx RE: wilp Apr 2, 2007 10:52 PM

                    Green tea duck and the Jade shrimp ...

              2. j
                Jerome RE: pleasurepalate Apr 2, 2007 11:59 PM

                I prefer Giang Nan (DeYueLou) on Garfield to Mei Long Village (which is very very good in any case).for the XLB.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Jerome
                  e
                  Erik M RE: Jerome Apr 3, 2007 08:08 AM

                  Jerome,

                  Last month, based largely on posts here at Chowhound, I did a xlb "tour" of Din Tai Fung, Mei Long Village, J&J, and Giang Nan on the same day, and I must say that I was most puzzled by the version at Giang Nan. [Giang Nan made the list based solely on your strong and repeated recommendations.] While the flavour of the dumplings was quite good, they completely lacked for "soup." What gives?

                  DTF:

                  http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                  MLV:

                  http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                  J&J:

                  http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                  GN:

                  http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                  E.M.

                  1. re: Erik M
                    j
                    Jerome RE: Erik M Apr 3, 2007 01:57 PM

                    Strange. I've had them there and they've had the broth. Perhaps they got pierced or something. Very strange. ALL they have as far as I know in re Xiao Long Bao are pork and pork/crab. And they've been scalding with soup. Very strange.

                    1. re: Jerome
                      e
                      Erik M RE: Jerome Apr 3, 2007 02:16 PM

                      Thanks, Jerome. I suspected that something was wrong, as I couldn't believe that you would otherwise favour their version over the rest.

                      A quick question: Do you know if Giang Nan prepares the crabs for the xlb in house? It was recently said here that J&J does as much, and now I am curious to know if that is the case at any of the other places I visited.

                      E.M.

                      1. re: Erik M
                        ipsedixit RE: Erik M Apr 3, 2007 02:39 PM

                        Not Jerome, but Erik what do you mean by "prepares the crabs for the xlb in house"?

                        Do you mean does Giang Nan mix the crab/pork themselves as opposed to buying it from a Chinese equivalent of Sysco?

                        If so, then I believe all self-respecting dumpling places (Giang Nan included) make their own xlb fillings.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          j
                          justagthing RE: ipsedixit Apr 3, 2007 02:42 PM

                          I think he is referring to do they buy the whole crab and prep it themselves or do they buy just the crabmeat?

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            e
                            Erik M RE: ipsedixit Apr 3, 2007 02:47 PM

                            No, no, my understanding was that J&J, unlike many (any?) other establishments around, starts their process with whole (live?) crabs, i.e., the crabs are first cooked, then picked and prepared as a crab filling.

                            E.M.

                            1. re: Erik M
                              ipsedixit RE: Erik M Apr 3, 2007 02:50 PM

                              Hmmm ... that, I don't know.

                              1. re: Erik M
                                j
                                Jerome RE: Erik M Apr 9, 2007 07:12 PM

                                interesting. I don't know. But my understanding was that the original crab/pork wasn't made with crab meat as such but just with the ovaries or with what the japanese call the "miso" - the white crabby stuff inside the carapace that isn't the firm meat.

                                1. re: Jerome
                                  k
                                  KirkK RE: Jerome Apr 10, 2007 03:19 PM

                                  Jerome - When we visited J & J this was the pile of crab they were working on...we just assumed it was for the Xiao Long Bao, but maybe we're mistaken.

                                   
                                  1. re: KirkK
                                    ipsedixit RE: KirkK Apr 10, 2007 03:24 PM

                                    I seriously hope that pile was indeed intended only for the xlb fillings ...

                                  2. re: Jerome
                                    e
                                    Erik M RE: Jerome Apr 10, 2007 03:50 PM

                                    Ah, that would make sense. Just such a thing appeared to be visible at the "eye" of a few of the dumplings in our order.

                                    Regards,
                                    E.M.

                      2. WildSwede RE: pleasurepalate Apr 3, 2007 08:01 AM

                        Hi Abby, thanks for the write-up & pics! My favorite dish was the eggplant one (#47) and the Shanghai-styled noodles (#100). The Paos (XLB) were okay (#70 & 71) and I, personally, could have done without the Pan Fried Million Layers Cake w/onion (#83), but everyone else at the table loved it. The Gee-Tsai with Meat Wonton (#10) was actually a very bland broth with the wontons (which were quite substantial and not all bad) was okay once I jazzed up the broth. Stuffed Fried Dough (#19) was just plain weird. Meatballs wrapped in dough with veggies and a sauce. We also got the fried crab Shanghai style was good, but I think I would have preferred the Hot Spicy Crab myself. Sometimes I just feel that it is too much work for crab and I think I felt that way here. Next time, I want to try the Sour & Spicy Noodle Soup.

                        1. raytamsgv RE: pleasurepalate Apr 3, 2007 02:40 PM

                          Thanks for the review!

                          1. b
                            bite bite RE: pleasurepalate Apr 3, 2007 04:05 PM

                            Great review -- thanks -- esp appreciate the primer as I am, as yet uninitiated to XLB (hoping to remedy this soon) and great to get a sense of not only what this dish is but also how to eat. Looking forward to the next post.

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