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Apr 16, 2009 10:30 AM

Xiao Long Bao - XLB in Edmonton?

I 've just learned that I have a big hole in my gastronomic experience: I must confess I have never eaten an XLB. Apparently it is "one of those foods that you absolutely must try in your lifetime."
Where can I find a reasonable rendition in Edmonton until I make it to Richmond?

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  1. I've wondered this exact thing quite a few times felix. I hear so much about perfect skin/soup ratio....if someone does fill us in on a hidden gem, I'll be there right beside you!

    1. for proper xlb, probably in a home kitchen
      All the ones I've had here have been regular steamed dumplings - no soupy-ness.

      13 Replies
      1. re: anonymoose

        Could you please tell us where you have been in Edmonton that they serve soupless XLBs so that we know they are not the real thing?

        1. re: anonymoose

          xiao long bao means 'small basket dumplings' and has nothing to do with soup. In Shanghai, which is famous for soup dumplings, if you order xiao long bao you are likely to get dumplings with soup inside, but in other areas of China, not. (I think soup dumplings are overrated, but maybe have never had really good ones.)

          Tang bao, or guantang baozi, more specifically refer to dumplings with soup inside.

          The only place in Edmonton where I ate decent xiao long bao with soup inside is now closed. Joes' Shanghai on 51st ave and 90th street or so had soup dumplings, but they were just ok and I don't know if they are still around.

          I found an Edmonton online menu which has xiao long bao (translated 'small cage dumplings'), #6 under appetizers. the website has contact info so it might be worth a call to see if their xiao long bao are 'soupy'.

          1. re: pepper_mil

            I think there's still a lot of confusion as to the differences. A quick Google search shows that there isn't a lot of agreement in forums and blogs!

            My experiences of tang bao is that they're a lot bigger, with more soup inside (hence drinking with a soup spoon or straw), whereas xlb is smaller and has just a bit of broth.

            Spicy Garden used to sell the non-broth xlb but I haven't ordered it in a long time so I'm not sure if they still do. I bet Garden Bakery have it on their menu too, if you look. Without the broth, they're basically the pan-fried dumplings but in a different shape and steamed instead of fried. You can buy them frozen too, and cook them in a steamer at home (when steaming use a layer of cabbage leaves underneath the dumplings to prevent sticking and to add flavour).

            1. re: anonymoose

              Here in Vancouver (and in all of the North American Chinese centers - eg TO, LA, NYC, SF, etc) xiao long bao is synonymous with Shanghai-style soup dumplings (thin skin, gelatin-based soup, with pork and or crab meat ball). Din Tai Fung (which is a chain of Taiwanese origin) is the place that purportedly serves this particular archetype. (It isn't as good as the some of the XLB you can get here, IMO).

              In China you will experience variations in style and nomenclature. Some spots call it tang bao, or xiao long tang bao (and at some places, a tang bao is the huge XLB with the straw.) To add to the confusion - if you order tang bao at Din Tai Fung in Taipei you will get the non-soupy steamed dumplings with soup on the side (you are meant to add the dumplings to the soup).

              Here, the best XLB have translucent skins so you can see the broth and meatball inside. The dumpling should look plump. The skins have to be resilient in order to make the journey from the steamer to your spoon. The dumpling should be swimming in soup (not just wet and mushy). The pleating on top should not form a dense, doughy zone (the best dumpling makers have special pleating techniques to avoid this - DTF have a signature 18 pleat circular pattern on top, for example. The flavour, meat ball density and grind will vary from place to place as well - some spots add flavouring from char sui or a Chinese ham to the broth which adds a smokey nuance, for example.

              You will only get a good one if it is made fresh to order (not frozen or refrigerated prior to steaming).

              I've tried to make them myself a number of times as an experiment. It's not easy to get it right. It takes a lot of experience. I ended up with (at best) non-soupy, deflated dumplings. The frozen ones also don't steam up right - not soupy (mushy dumpling), easily punctured mushy skin, etc.

              The pics below are what we call XLB here...first picture is from Lin's, the next two are from Long's. The fourth image (from Shiang Garden - a very good dim sum restaurant in all other accounts) is a pic of how it can go wrong - deflated, non-soupy dumplings.

              1. re: fmed

                Thanks for the information everyone.

                fmed - your pictures and knowledge are awesome. Once again your culinary choices in Vancouver sound and look fantastic; part of my desire to try and find a solid XLB is because of you. Cheers!

                1. re: fmed

                  Hey fmed - has anyone done a survey of tang bao in the Vancouver/Richmond area? I usually end up at the Kirin on Cambie and order the boon tong gow (which is in Cantonese and I assume is the same as tang bao - or maybe I'm mistaken).

                  1. re: anonymoose

                    I haven't seen such a survey (yet). It's not something I usually order - unlike XLB...if I see it on the menu, I feel compelled.

                    1. re: fmed

                      It sounds like I better wait until we are back in Vancouver/Richmond. Fortunately we are booked for a visit on the July long weekend. A scan of the board shows one unequivocal recommendation for Long's and a probable one for Shangai Garden, together with mixed reviews for Lin's, Shiang Garden and others. Do these need to be updated?

                      1. re: felix the hound

                        For an XLB tour of the area I suggest:

                        Wang's (in Crystal Mall - accessible by Skytrain - Metrotown stop)

                        Lin's - The XLB there is great...but the service can be comical at times. When the food is good, it can be great.

                        Long's - great little restaurant. Go for the XLB, the Drunken Chicken, and the Salted Egg Yolk Puffed Rice, and some sort of soup to put it in. Classic Vancouver Shanghai food (with SIchuan tossed in).

                        Chen's - (Richmond) One of the best. Also a very good authentic Shanghai restaurant.

                        The Place (Granville and about 64th?) - Lin used to own this place. Also get the Dan Dan Noodle - they use a deep, dark sesame sauce.

                        Shanghai River - very good. Try the crab XLB (though I prefer the pork). Top notch Chinese restaurant.

                        There are a bunch of others that are pretty good but not great...(Shanghai Wonderful, Shanghai Wind, Top Shanghai, Peaceful, and a bunch of others...and many I have not tried)...but that should get you started.

                        1. re: fmed

                          There's two we like in Richmond - Shanghai Wonderful and the small one in the food court in Aberdeen Mall (far right hand side).

                          Best XLB I've had hands down was in Cupertino, California..

                          1. re: fmed

                            Thanks fmed. That's plenty of choices.
                            I also read your "new champion in Vancouver" thread from 2008.I take it you have been to Shanghai River since and tried their XLB.
                            I am looking for a place that has both freshly made XLBs or an "XLB lady" AND excellent other dishes onsistently.

                            Lastly, I am a little puzzled that Kirin and Fisherman's Terrace, that are often cited for their Dim Sum, are not mentioned regarding their XLBs.

                            1. re: felix the hound

                              >>I also read your "new champion in Vancouver" thread from 2008.I take it you have been to Shanghai River since and tried their XLB.

                              I have been back to Shanghai River - but due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to take pics. I have also been to a few other places...I should update that thread soon.

                              >>I am looking for a place that has both freshly made XLBs or an "XLB lady" AND excellent other dishes onsistently.

                              Then with that criteria, It's hard to beat Wang's (which is a food court stall) Long's, and Chen's (both are little holes in the wall).

                              Shanghai River - on the other end of the ambiance spectrum - is also very good.

                              >>Lastly, I am a little puzzled that Kirin and Fisherman's Terrace, that are often cited for their Dim Sum, are not mentioned regarding their XLBs.

                              I don't remember seeing it at either place, actually. XLB is a Shanghai/Northern many dim sum places (which are typically HK-Cantonese) don't serve it.

                              Many of the Cantonese dim sum places are (from what I hear) starting to serve XLB now with the recent surge in its popularity....I haven't been dim summing much outside of a couple of family-fave spots so I have no first hand experience on these places. In any case, most Cantonese-HK places don't do a good XLB.

                              1. re: fmed

                                Thanks fmed. I have all the information I need and I am now ready for my first XLB experience.