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Real *Taiwanese* xiao long bao (not Shanghai/DTF style)

The xiao long bao served at every night market and street corner in Taiwan are not at all like the sort of XLB we commonly eat here in LA, which are more Shanghainese in style. (Even Din Tai Fung, which is owned by Taiwanese people, do not represent the sort of XLB commonly consumed across the country).

Authentic Taiwanese XLB are much more doughy, with not a lot of soup and a distinct flavor and texture unlike anything I've had in LA. In fact after many years of eating XLB in Los Angeles, on my first visit to Taiwan I was at first excited by the prospect of XLB on every street corner... but that elation turned to dismay as I discovered these rustic, homemade things are extremely dissimilar that what I had gotten used to consuming in Los Angeles. However... the funny thing is that now that I've been out of Taiwan for over a year, I am finding myself strangely craving them again.

Can anyone help?

Mr Taster

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  1. mei long village does the trick for me. thicker skin and more rustic.

    not sure what you mean by the distinct flavor or texture though....and i'm from taiwan.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wilafur

      No, Mei Long Village is much more in the style that I'm used to eating here. When I say doughy skins, I mean doughy... like 1/2 cm thick (perhaps a little thinner).

      Perhaps I should qualify this by saying that I've eaten the bulk of my xiao long bao at little homestyle road stands in small villages outside of Taichung. Perhaps this is a regional way of preparing them. While I've travelled all over the island, I don't precisely recall if I'd eaten XLB in other parts of the country.

      On my next visit I shall have to go on a country-wide XLB tasting challenge.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        it may be regional. but then again, my consumption of xlb's in taiwan has been limited to only taipei and tainan. the funny thing is that the xlb in taipei tended to be more thin skinned ala dtf and the xlb's in tainan tended to be a bit thicker skinned like mlv. go figure.

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Just returned from Taiwan last week. I know of what you speak, having spent lots of time in Hsinchu and having these XLBs sold in rectangular paper boxes with chili-based sauce in a baggie. The doughy is a bit spongy, and the filling is pork-based.
          Unfortunately, I can't offer any help, other than to ask a Taiwanese owner for suggestions.

          1. re: ristretto

            Yes yes yes

            Glad you mentioned the chili paste sauce, which I forgot to mention. They are always served with this condiment along with julienne ginger and a black, thick-ish sauce (soy? vinegar? Not sure...)

            I imagine that anyone who has spent time in Taiwan eating street food will know exactly what we're talking about. They're everywhere, and are nothing like the XLB commonly found here in LA (or Shanghai).

            One interesting point to note is that when your "everyday" XLB are these rustic, rough-and-tumble variety that cost about $1 for a tray of 8, going to Din Tai Fung in Taipei becomes a high class indulgence reserved only for foreigners or really special occasions. (The price in Taiwan is the same as it is in LA-- about $7-8 for a steam tray... an ungodly price by local standards)

            Mr Taster

      2. Try Ho Ho Kitchen in El Monte (same strip mall as the more well-known Dumpling 10053). That's the closest I've found. J&J in San Gabriel comes close as well, but Ho Ho is better.

        Some will argue (not me necessarily) that the "Taiwanese" style XLB is a product of peasants who don't have the know-how, or even the wherewithal, to know how to make real XLB. Sort of like what those 'cue masters say about cooks who parboil their bbq meats.

        Ho Ho Kitchen
        10053 Valley #8
        El Monte

        2 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I don't doubt what you're saying. My first impression on tasting them was to be repulsed by them. But now.... I dunno. I want them. I'll give Ho Ho Kitchen a shot. What else do they make that's worthwhile? Do they make a decent version of those deep fried glutenous meatballs? (forget the name in chinese) We've yet to find a really good one... tried the ones at Sinbala but they were just so-so.

          Do you know if they are made this way all over the island?

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            The DongPo Porkbelly (東坡肉) is great. When I used to live in the area, I'd cook up a big pot of rice at home, order a DongPo porkbelly to go, and then go to town!

            Don't have a lead on the meatballs, but you can try Won Won Kitchen in Temple City.

        2. You're not talking about sheng jian bao, are you?

          1 Reply
          1. re: PandanExpress

            Sheng jian bao are made with risen dough (i.e. dough with yeast), and are pan-fried.

            They are nothing like XLB -- either the traditional Shanghai version or the bastardized Taiwanese variety.

          2. Never set foot on the island of Taiwan, so I'm not sure -- are you talking about tang bao? http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1088/7...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              No, that's not it... you can get those in Shanghai as well. What I'm talking about is like ipse says. It's most likely a bastardized peasant-y version of "proper" XLB.

              Mr Taster

            2. Maybe Kang Kang Food Court in Alhambra has what you're looking for. A Taiwanese hang out of sorts with different regional Chinese cuisine. They got all kinds of dumplings and maybe the ones you're looking for. Kind of place where you step up to the cashier or hot table and order what you see.

              Kang Kang Food Court
              27 E. Valley Blvd.
              Open 7 days 7am-midnight?

              2 Replies
              1. re: monku

                Kang Kang's sister restaurant, Shau May, is on Garvey and Lincoln and is similar (but with a wider order-from-menu selection, if I recall rightly), but I'm fairly sure that they specialise in pan-fried juicy dumplings.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Never been to Shau May, but the menu at Kang Kang's has a pretty wide selection too. Their specialty dumpling seems to be that pan fried soup dumpling, but they have others including XLB, but called something else on their menu.

              2. I'm sort of stumped by the varying terminology, but I was just at Mama Lu's in Monterey Park and their skins were much thicker than DTF. Also, Luscious Dumplings makes a thicker, different shaped soup dumpling. Pictures to illustrate:

                Mama Lu:
                Luscious Dumplings:

                I'm definitely interested in learning what all these variations are because I LOVE XLB.

                9 Replies
                1. re: jjsawrey

                  Luscious Dumplings does not have XLB.

                  If you look at the Chinese name on the menu, the picture you have on flickr is really just steamed dumplings with pork (8 pc. to an order).

                  Also, what you have in the picture is pleated, and constructed in a crescent shape of a dumpling -- not the typical boa, which is more round and shaped like a pin-cushion.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I understand that they are a different shape. That's exactly why I recommended them since there was so much confusion about what Mr. Taster is looking for. Also, whether or not they are XLB, they are soup dumplings. They are not simply steamed. And at most restaurants that serve soup dumplings, they are not translated as such. One often has to ask for the soup dumplings.

                    1. re: jjsawrey

                      On this board, as well as most discussions of Chinese food, soup dumpling=XLB, i.e., soup dumpling is not a generic description of dumplings with a brothy content. Maybe "juicy dumplings' might be a better description of non-XLB dumplings, though to my knowledge that's not a technical term.

                      1. re: jjsawrey

                        No, sorry, but the supposed soup dumplings at Luscious Dumplings are not XLB, nor are they "soup dumplings" (whatever that term may mean).

                        The dumplings in the flicker set from Luscious Dumplings are steamed pork dumplings with added gelatin, but at the end of the day they are just really dumplings ... made with dumpling skins and folded and pleaded like typical dumplings.

                        They're even called "steamed dumplings" (i.e. tzeng-jiao) on the Luscious Dumplings menu.

                        In fact, when you think about it even authentic Shanghai XLB shouldn't even be technically called "soup dumplings" ... XLB are baos. There's nothing "dumpling" about them ...

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I agree with ipsedixit. The Chinese characters on Luscious Dumplings' menu do not say xiao long bao. Instead, it's more like "steamed, soup filled, pork dumpling." Nevertheless, they are quite tasty.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Still, it is curious that every other bao I can think of is a stuffed bready pocket whereas XLB are pasta-based. Certainly the confusion between the two is understandable to the casual observer.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              This is because every other bao is generally Northern (e.g. Beijing,Tianjin) in origin; whereas XLB is a Shanghainese creation.

                      2. re: jjsawrey

                        Bravo, jjsawrey, gorgeous pictures! Hard to capture the joy of slurping as well as those pictures.

                        1. re: Ciao Bob

                          thanks ciao bob. i take pictures of almost all food-related outings.
                          and we are always on the lookout for soup dumplings - xlb or not!

                      3. The version sold at Nanxiang Mantou in Shanghai (allegedly the inventor of XLB) is more doughy than the thin skinned version.