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Soup Dumplings in SF Chinatown

Eliznan Dec 20, 2009 07:34 AM

I'm interested in finding soup dumplings in Chinatown. I know about Shanghai Dumpling King and Yank Sing. Both are suppose to be really great. But was hoping to find something a little closer to where we're staying on Nob Hill on Christmas Day. Any recs?

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  1. Melanie Wong RE: Eliznan Dec 20, 2009 07:43 AM

    None I would recommend.

    "Soup dumplings" is not a term used in sf. You might try the xiao long bao at Bund.

    30 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      Eliznan RE: Melanie Wong Dec 20, 2009 01:01 PM

      Thank you - I know they are referred to differently in SF (that's how we refer to them in NYC). If not in CHinatown, who has the best?

      1. re: Eliznan
        chefj RE: Eliznan Dec 20, 2009 01:05 PM

        Just do a board search for "xiao long bao" there has been lots of disscussion about this already

        1. re: Eliznan
          Melanie Wong RE: Eliznan Dec 20, 2009 10:43 PM

          Well, actually the Joe's product is derived from but seems to be different from the xiao long bao made here and in Shanghai. Xiao long bao is pinyin for the Chinese name for these little buns.

          Since it's Dungeness crab season now, you might want to try a fresh crab version.

        2. re: Melanie Wong
          Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Dec 20, 2009 01:33 PM

          I think "soup dumpling" is the standard English translation. Bund Shanghai's menu uses it:


          Bund Shanghai
          640 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 20, 2009 10:33 PM

            I haven't been to many Shanghainese restaurants in the last year to comment on up-to-the-moment vernacular. But I have seen "little steamer dumplings", "little dragon buns", "steamed dumplings" or "Shanghai style juicy dumplings" far more often on menus. The middle character for "lung" means the steamer basket, is a homophone for the word for dragon, and the character for dragon is part of the basket character. It always makes me smile to think that these dumplings are cooked by steamy dragon breath.

          2. re: Melanie Wong
            c oliver RE: Melanie Wong Dec 20, 2009 04:06 PM

            What do they call XLB in SF?

            1. re: c oliver
              Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Dec 20, 2009 05:34 PM

              We call them "XLB" (not "soup dumplings"). If you do a search on this board for XLB you'll get a gazillion hits.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                c oliver RE: Ruth Lafler Dec 20, 2009 05:40 PM

                Well, that's what they're called in NYC also. I thought maybe SF had some OTHER name for them. But let's face it, not everyone is willing to learn the Chinese name, hence "soup dumpling."

                1. re: c oliver
                  yimster RE: c oliver Dec 20, 2009 09:39 PM

                  Xiao Lung Bao is Chinese name it not that hard. Meaning either little steamer buns or little dragon buns. Years ago tanspace and read menus and it was half and half. I think the real name was steamer but dragon read better both are said lung.

                  1. re: c oliver
                    Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Dec 21, 2009 11:26 AM

                    Well, the OP is from NY, and she used the term "soup dumplings." The thing is, there is a distinction, in that I would expect that someone from NY who is asking for "soup dumplings" as opposed to "XLB" is talking about the style of soup dumplings served at Joe's Shanghai, which are not "authentic" xlb. In other words, the American term "soup dumplings" might refer to the Americanized version of the dish, while the Chinese (or derived from Chinese) term "XLB" is more likely to refer to the more traditional version of the dish.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      tvr172 RE: Ruth Lafler Dec 21, 2009 12:16 PM

                      This is getting silly. We know what the OP meant.


                      1. re: tvr172
                        Ruth Lafler RE: tvr172 Dec 21, 2009 01:40 PM

                        No, we don't. We still don't know if she's looking for NY-style or traditional-style soup dumplings/XLB.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Fajap RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 8, 2010 03:22 PM

                          What is a NY-style XLB? I've had XLB in Shanghai and I live in NY. I've yet to have a XLB in NY that is as thin skinned and good as the ones I've had in Shanghai but from the many I've had in NY, it seems like they are the same dish. We call them XLB here too. Among other things. We are flexible like that.

                          1. re: Fajap
                            Ruth Lafler RE: Fajap Sep 8, 2010 03:46 PM

                            My understanding is that the XLB at Joe's Shanghai (which are the ones most non-Chinese NYers are familiar with) are quite a bit bigger than the traditional XLB.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              c oliver RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 8, 2010 04:17 PM

                              Wow. Amazing timing. We're in SF for about 36 hours and had XLB at Bund Shanghai today. They are smaller than Joe's - 8 to an order and smaller than a golf ball. I've not made an exhaustive study of the subject :) but of the the five or so places we've had them, these are the best IMO. The wrapper is so thin. Love it. Here's a picture.

                              Bund Shanghai
                              640 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA

                              1. re: c oliver
                                wolfe RE: c oliver Sep 8, 2010 04:29 PM

                                The ones at 12 and 1 o'clock seem kind of puny. English vs US golf balls?

                                1. re: wolfe
                                  c oliver RE: wolfe Sep 9, 2010 10:11 AM

                                  :) I was reluctant to post this picture cause the wrappers don't look nearly as thin as they were. Puny. YES. THAT's our excuse for having TWO orders. Up til now, the excuse was that we hadn't finished our beers. Thanks, wolfe.

                                2. re: c oliver
                                  Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Sep 8, 2010 04:50 PM

                                  Oh geez. Now I'm craving XLB. Maybe I can hit Shanghai (Oakland) for dinner.

                                3. re: Ruth Lafler
                                  Fajap RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 9, 2010 11:31 AM

                                  It's a pretty big city so I can't really comment on what most NYers are familiar with in any category (be it food or otherwise). I've never been to Joe's so can't comment on that either but I'm sure you're right about their XLB being big. C. Oliver's review sounds good so I may check out Bund Shanghai while I'm in SF this weekend.

                                  Bund Shanghai
                                  640 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA

                                  1. re: Fajap
                                    Pei RE: Fajap Sep 9, 2010 12:53 PM

                                    I second the recommendation. But order to your heart's content, because I was able to eat an entire order myself and polish off an order of mushu pork. It was only slightly too much for a very hungry me at lunch time.

                                    1. re: Pei
                                      c oliver RE: Pei Sep 9, 2010 03:26 PM

                                      The red braised pork shank is amazing. But it really IS an insane amount. I don't have the picture on the computer and we're not at home for several weeks. Their soups look fantastic also.

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Sep 9, 2010 04:28 PM

                                        The thing about red braised pork is that, like most braised dishes, it's as good or better the next day (assuming you have access to a fridge and a way to reheat).

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                          yimster RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 9, 2010 05:22 PM

                                          Ruth many times this dish is made ahead of time and then reheat and served to you. During Chinese New Year this one of the dishes served at our family first dinner of the New Year. The member of the family tasked with dish normally cooks this dishes a day or two ahead so the flavor of the meat marries with the sauce. Many Chinese dishes are better the next day. Cooking time can be up to four or five hours.

                                        2. re: c oliver
                                          grayelf RE: c oliver Sep 9, 2010 11:14 PM

                                          Is shank the same as red braised "upper pork leg"? That is what we had at Bund and it was indeed the Matterhorn of meat.

                                          1. re: grayelf
                                            yimster RE: grayelf Sep 10, 2010 06:56 AM

                                            Depending on how you look at the pork leg yes and no. The best piece of the leg to use is the area near the hoof not the shoulder itself. The best part in my opinion is the right combination of skin, fat, tendon combine with just the right amount of meat. The meat by itself can be on the dry side. It should be about 6 to 8" in length. about 2 1/2" in diameter on the small end and not more then 5" in diameter on the large end. If you have a good butcher you can request that cut.

                                            1. re: yimster
                                              grayelf RE: yimster Sep 10, 2010 08:43 AM

                                              Here's a (bad) pic of what we had at Bund but it gives an idea of the gargantuan size (note comparison to XLB basket). Despite appearances,it was quite dry and not fall aparty as I had surmised it would be from posts...

                                              1. re: grayelf
                                                c oliver RE: grayelf Sep 12, 2010 09:25 AM

                                                That's got to be the same thing altho ours was red. And it was super moist and "fall aparty." Boo hoo for you :(

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler
                              c oliver RE: Ruth Lafler Dec 21, 2009 01:51 PM

                              I've had XLB/soup dumplings at a number of places in Manhattan and Flushing. What makes them authentic or not? I had them at some little joint in some little alley in SF and they had no broth inside. Is that traditional? If so, I think I'll keep the NYC ones :)

                      2. re: Melanie Wong
                        Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Dec 21, 2009 01:14 PM

                        King of Noodles and Kingdom of Dumpling, among others, translate XLB as "Shanghai soup dumpling" on their menus.

                        And Joe's Shanghai calls its soup dumplings XLB.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          wolfe RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 21, 2009 01:32 PM

                          So does Koi Palace call it Shanghai steamed dumplings but what is the correct name of shredded duck burrito.

                      3. d
                        david kaplan RE: Eliznan Dec 21, 2009 04:18 PM

                        If you want xiao long bao, I think Bund (posted above) is your best bet in Chinatown, and a very respectable, mid-priced rendition: good firm skins and soupy filling.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: david kaplan
                          tvpartytonight RE: david kaplan Dec 21, 2009 05:03 PM

                          That's great. But the original poster wants soup dumplings, not XLB. Please stay on topic.

                          (Yes I'm joking).

                          1. re: tvpartytonight
                            Eliznan RE: tvpartytonight Dec 22, 2009 05:03 PM

                            As the ORIGINAL poster, I find all of this back and forth amusing. I would and will go for XLB. I have a 10 yr old who loves soup dumpliings, regardless of their originality. And we've had them in many good places. I'm just trying to find a similar if not exact product in SF.

                        2. soupçon RE: Eliznan Sep 8, 2010 07:57 PM

                          Since this thread was resurrected, it's pertinent to note that Z&Y Restaurant makes decent XLB.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: soupçon
                            c oliver RE: soupçon Sep 8, 2010 10:23 PM

                            Interesting. I thought they were Cantonese. Thanks for the tip.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              grayelf RE: c oliver Sep 8, 2010 10:28 PM

                              That is interesting. We have endless discussions about the "best" XLB (or whatever, I mean the non-NY ones) on my home board. The only thing we routinely agree on is "don't order XLB in non-Shanghainese restos" so when I see posts like soupcon's (and references to the great XLB at Yank Sing), I feel strangely compelled to go try them on our next trip.

                              Yank Sing
                              49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                              1. re: grayelf
                                soupçon RE: grayelf Sep 8, 2010 10:48 PM

                                That's a good rule of thumb, but less and less useful. It's not surprising that a skilled Cantonese-style dim sum chef specializing in steamed dumplings can master the making of xiao long bao if properly motivated, and Yank Sing certainly hires the best. As for Z&Y, the chef/owner was formerly in government service as chef for the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, and well trained in a lot of disciplines. He also has a Shanghainese wife.

                                Yank Sing
                                49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

                              2. re: c oliver
                                soupçon RE: c oliver Sep 8, 2010 10:51 PM

                                Z&Y or XLB? Z&Y features Sichuan Cuisine, and XLB are, of course, Shanghainese.

                                1. re: soupçon
                                  c oliver RE: soupçon Sep 9, 2010 07:32 AM

                                  Sorry. I meant the resto not the dish. And glad to know it (the resto) is Sichuan.

                                  1. re: soupçon
                                    Foodnut8 RE: soupçon Sep 10, 2010 10:19 AM

                                    FYI Bund across the street from Z&Y has fallen off quality wise. XLB, dumplings, other dishes were pretty dismal a couple weeks ago.

                                    On a Saturday Bund had 5 tables filled, Great Eastern across the street had people waiting on the sidewalk, and Z&Y was fairly full.

                                    Great Eastern Restaurant
                                    649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                    1. re: chocomel
                                      Pei RE: chocomel Sep 10, 2010 11:41 AM

                                      That's how I feel too. Bund's food is "clean" tasting and doesn't give me the McFeeling after I'm done eating. That can be hard to find in Chinatown. I've sent a few groups of friends there and haven't heard a complaint yet.

                                      1. re: Foodnut8
                                        c oliver RE: Foodnut8 Sep 12, 2010 09:28 AM

                                        We were there on last Weds. for lunch and two couples that came in right behind us had to wait a bit for tables to clear. We only had XLB but they were terrific. I'm sorry you had a bad experience. And I'm glad we didn't :)

                                2. c
                                  chocomel RE: Eliznan Sep 10, 2010 10:44 AM

                                  I've stopped by Bund a few times with work people, recently about a couple of weeks ago. I really like how clean their food tastes - not overly cloying/salty/greasy. I think it's one of the better chinese restaurants within SF and can satisfy my chinese food cravings. :)

                                  1. d
                                    dclee012 RE: Eliznan Sep 10, 2010 01:48 PM

                                    I've had a lot of xiao long bao (XLB), and from my experience the juice, pork grease, or "soup" part of the dumpling is a bonus. I've had XLB with little or no juice and XLB swimming in juice. In recent years, the soup has somehow become the focus, leading to the term "soup dumpling," which is a bit of a misnomer. But since everyone likes the juicy ones, "soup dumpling" appears to be here to stay, even though there are plenty of better translations.

                                    Personally, I like to educate myself and pronounce ethnic foods by their authentic names, despite sometimes butchering the pronunciation. Imagine if carne asada burrito was a difficult term for me, and I insisted to call it a "Mexican meat wrap" -- or if all I knew about pad thai was its number on the menu!

                                    Anyway, thanks for the recommendations. I have yet to try the referenced restaurants that serve XLB in SF. My standard has been Ding Tai Fung.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: dclee012
                                      ML8000 RE: dclee012 Sep 10, 2010 02:26 PM

                                      I had Shanghai Dumpling King's XLBs and DTFs (in LA) within a week of each other and SDK were superior. DTF in Taiwan and Asia would be a different story however.

                                      Shanghai Dumpling King
                                      3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                      1. re: ML8000
                                        Chandavkl RE: ML8000 Sep 10, 2010 07:03 PM

                                        Actually the majority of the Hounds on the LA board prefer other places to Din Tai Fung. However, there's a lot of power in the name, and every time rumors of a Bay Area branch circulates, people go into a frenzy.

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