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Soup Dumplings

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Hi all. I am looking for a decent rendition of the soup dumpling in the area. I saw something in the Sea Times about a place in Issaquah but would prefer to stay closer to Seattle. Thanks.

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  1. Fu lin is the closest thing to passable, though a bunch of mine were open when they arrived. Tea Garden they all had soup, but the dough was super thick and the meat very ginger-y.

    1. Chiang's Gourmet serves a pretty decent xiao long bao (which is smaller than a tang bao). I've heard that Yu Shan is good as well. Macky's (in Issaquah) was not impressive.

      Some places in Seattle serve xiao long bao that are commercial, frozen products. They're pretty good, but you might as well get some frozen ones and steam them yourself for 1/3 of the price.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chococat

        good XLB (xiao long bao) as they are referred to in the SF board is like the holy grail for me and seattle chinese food. I haven't heard through my family's grapevine of any places that served it here. I will have to try your suggestions. Will have to to go to Top Shanghai in Vancouver this saturday to set the baseline.

        1. re: shaolinLFE

          Harbor City's XLB are pretty darn good - good dough, great filling & seasoning, execution is usually reliable if they're not slammed.

          Sometimes we have to wait for them; other times we go late(1:30pm) and they're not making them any more. But xiao long bao are usually there, and I recommend asking when you are first seated - the cart ladies will put the word out in the kitchen.

        2. re: chococat

          I'll def be heading to Chiang's in the next few weeks. I will report my findings.

        3. Judy Fu's has good dumplings http://www.snappydragon.com/ and depending on where in Seattle you live they deliver.

          Fu Man Dumpling House is also good. Not a great building, but good food. It is a little far north, but good.

          http://www.yelp.com/biz/fu-man-dumpli...

          1 Reply
          1. re: PaqpIn

            While both of those places have good dumplings (Fu Man's rock!) - neither has xiao long bao.

          2. There is no such thing as soup dumplings / xiao long bao in the Seattle area. Every place that attempts it here fails miserably. While I can understand setting the bar a little lower for Seattle, it's not even meeting minimally low standards, I'm afraid. Every restaurant in Seattle (tried them all - dim sum places, Chiang's, etc.) has absolutely dry - as in soup-less - xiao long bao. As much as we hate to hear the words "drive north" as typically useless foodie advice for Seattelites - in this particular case there's really no other option.

            For those interested, the absolute holy grail of xiao long bao in Vancouver is at the Crystal Mall food court in Burnaby (something called "Shanghai Wang" or something like that) Hand-made as you order them, with the skin as thin as Vietnamese rice paper. Steamed to perfection and filled with perfectly-seasoned soup. $3.75 for 5 of them, and it's always at least a 15 minute wait in line. Better texture and flavor than anything I've had in Vancouver and among the quality of the top ones I've had in Taipei and Shanghai.

            8 Replies
            1. re: HungWeiLo

              De-lurking...

              I have a short Chowdown report on Crystal Mall here for those interested:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/691117

              And some pics of Wang's Shanghai's XLB here:
              http://picasaweb.google.ca/gustibus.m...

              1. re: fmed

                That's the one. Nice pictures!

                1. re: HungWeiLo

                  So what do you call the House Little Pork Buns that Yu Shan serves cooked to order, six for $6? They have a thin shell and burst with hot liquid when you bite in. I love them, authentic or not.

                  http://www.yushanchinese.com/

                   
                  1. re: RandyB

                    I've had them there too, but thought they weren't done very well over there either (it was quite dry and soup-less when I tried them).

                    They did, however, have a very excellent Peking Duck.

                    1. re: HungWeiLo

                      Too bad you didn't have them at their best. My only disappointing experiences at Yu Shan was the one time I went on a Tuesday night. They are closed that day for lunch and seemed to have a B-team staff for dinner.

                      I haven't tried the Peking Duck because I haven't had anyone interested in planning ahead and sharing.

                2. re: fmed

                  Great photos fmed.

                  1. re: forkit

                    Thanks forkit!

                    Unfortunately, Wang's is gone. Replaced by Xu Xu. The XLB are good...but not as good as Wang's.

                3. re: HungWeiLo

                  Agree with HWL's input in this regard. I usually do not try the XLB served in Seattle, but upon a first visit to Chiang's this weekend, I did. Typically oversized, soupless, thick-skinned dumplings were served.

                  (I did enjoy the fritters, soy milk, and some of the other northern breakfast items, as well as the chinese broccoli with enoki mushrooms).

                4. What we need to do is organize a movement to get an outpost of the Din Tai Fung franchise in Seattle. That would be fantastic.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: eat.rest.repeat

                    Second DTF, although I tried the location in LA and it was a pale shadow of the original in Taipei.

                    Perhaps this place will work? It's not open yet, but would be more convenient than Mackey's-

                    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/201...

                    1. re: pusherman

                      DTF is probably becoming a victim of its own success. They're expanding so fast and their quality is suffering from having to oversee operations internationally (they even serve them on Cathay Pacific business class now). I actually had the odd experience of catching the Taipei branch on a bad day and the LA branch on a good day - so my experience was the opposite of yours. When talking with the locals in Taipei, they said that there were better ones (at least equally good, and less expensive) within 2 blocks of the Xinyi flagship store, and they were right.

                      1. re: HungWeiLo

                        I've only eaten at the Shanghai and LA locations and I thought that they were pretty fantastic. The last time I had DTF was a couple of years ago though. I would venture that DTF on a bad day is still an upgrade from what we have in Seattle.

                        1. re: eat.rest.repeat

                          I went to the LA location of DTF in January and it was fantastic. The XLB had wonderfully thin skins and, when you lifted them, the weight of the soup inside made the bottoms hang like water balloons. The pork filling and the ginger on the side were great.

                    2. re: eat.rest.repeat

                      I was actually sort of kidding because I didn't think it was very likely but: http://gastrolust.com/2010/05/dumplin...

                      Hooray!

                      1. re: eat.rest.repeat

                        Oh god Lincoln Square. $15 for 6, then?

                        It's good news, but it's kind of an iffy business proposition if you ask me. Can they survive just on business from foodies and the Chinese community alone? It's not like they're going to pull people over from PF Chang.

                        1. re: HungWeiLo

                          Ha, I don't know what the prices will be but it might not be too far off from 15 for 6. I think that they will actually do quite well. Look at Facing East's ability to have a consistently packed house of mostly Chinese customers and the rest foodies. While the rent will be higher in Lincoln Square than the block away at Facing East, I think that they will generate buzz quickly and do well. I also hope that this spurs some of the Richmond, BC XLB shops to consider opening up an outpost down here to compete.

                          1. re: eat.rest.repeat

                            I would be surprised if they charged 15 for 6---i think that would put off a lot of the potential Chinese customers. Dumplings are a fast meal. They can probably do okay at lower prices with quicker table turnover.

                            Myself, I would prefer that some variety of Chinese food other than XLB wander down from the North--maybe a really good Hunan restaurant or some Chinese Muslim food or a real Shanghai place. . . .mmmmmmmmmmm

                      2. re: eat.rest.repeat

                        I wouldn't say no to visiting DTF in Seattle but I have to say, when we lived in LA there were better places to get XLB. If I recall correctly, we liked some of the other dumpling offereings better than the XLB

                        1. re: eat.rest.repeat

                          OMG yes please. I would promise to visit at least 1ce a week, and to bring lots of people!!! Din Tai Fung are you listening??

                          1. re: jiaotzegirl

                            It looks like they listened to you, jiaotzegirl.

                            http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

                            1. re: Mike CP

                              Wouldn't have expected them to open a location in Seattle before SF or NY, but I would imagine this further raises the possibility of other locations if this one in Seattle is as successful as the one in LA (and worldwide, for that matter).

                              1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                I'm glad to see it here, but seriously, the one in LA was like 1/100th as good as the original one in Taipei, and was not even as good as the franchise in Shanghai. But I'll probably go anyway.

                                1. re: pusherman

                                  The one in LA was actually pretty good when it first opened, but I guess quality control deteriorated over time, especially when the restaurant is so far away from the ones in Asia.

                                  1. re: pusherman

                                    "1/100th" Really? That's tough to accept.

                                    1. re: equinoise

                                      1/100th is probably an exaggeration, but the truth is there is quite a difference between the one in LA and the ones in Asia. In fact, the ones in Taipei are probably at the top, with the ones in the rest of Asia being a close second and the one in LA trailing significantly behind in third. You can tell by the taste of the pork, the firmness of the dough, and the fragrance of the red bean they use in the dessert filling, among many other things.

                                      1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                        In the case of Seattle, I think a chain with a track record of producing decent XLB, even if it is 1/100th of the quality back in Taipei, is better then the current state of soup dumplings in the area.

                                2. re: Mike CP

                                  "For him and other native Taiwanese, he says, Din Tai Fung dumpling houses are the equivalent of McDonald's -- in that they're ubiquitous and provide patrons with certain consistency in product and in service. "
                                  yikes. I hardly know what to say. . . . Not a big selling point from my perspective. . . .
                                  That said, we used to frequent the place in SoCal. And now that he mentions it, hmmm, maybe it was a bit micky-d-ish. Not a lot of "soul" for lack of a better word.

                                  Not my fav in the universe of dumplings but, as my oldest pup would say, any dumpling is better than no dumpling.

                                  1. re: jenn

                                    Beggars can't be choosers. This is Seattle after all, land of mediocre Chinese chow.

                                    1. re: jenn

                                      Yeah, they're actually quite proud of their McD-ish consistency - it's down to a science. Each dumpling has to be a specific mass of meat, with a specific number of ruffles on top of the dumpling pressed with how many fingers, etc...they even serve them on 1st class Cathay Pacific flights now. How long until supermarket frozen food aisles a la Cheesecake Factory.

                                      Did anyone else hear about the story about the LA DTF where the Mexican kitchen staff, after having been trained in making the xiao long bao, took off and opened up some upscale Chinese bistros in Mexico City's financial district and is doing quite well? Pirate xiao long bao!

                                      But no matter one's opinion on DTF - we really don't have anything remotely close in quality.

                                      -----
                                      Cheesecake Factory
                                      401 Bellevue Sq, Bellevue, WA 98004

                              2. I have been to the Din Tai Fung in Korea, and was not a huge fan. I'm curious if anyone saying that XLB don't exist in Seattle has tried the Fu Lin ones. While not great, they were actual XLB so I would disagree with HungWeiLo. That said, the ones at the Crystal Mall in Burnaby are fabulous and I maintain that Chen's Kitchen in Richmond has the best I've ever had from travels in NY, SF, Beijing and Vancouver.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dagoose

                                  A couple of remarks on this topic:
                                  Equating xiaolongbao with "soup dumplings" may be a little misleading; I've eaten many a XLB, in Taiwan mostly, that contained no soup (only a little liquid that seeped from the filling) and wasn't intended to. Second, if you're in Taipei and want to avoid the crowd and long waits at Din Tai Fung, especially the original Hsinyi Rd. branch, which is a madhouse, try Jin Din Shiao Kuan (in Hanyu Pinyin that would be Jingding Xiaoguan), at 47 Changchun Rd. (phone 02-2523-6639). Same style of food as DTF and very tasty, but without the insanity and tourist buses. I ate there last week and was highly satisfied.

                                2. O'asian has just added Dragon Balls (soup dumplings) to their weekend dim sum. They were very good. Had a nice burst of soup. One of the set was a little dry, but the rest were well done.

                                  -----
                                  Dragon Ball Restaurant
                                  15609 Main St E, Sumner, WA 98390

                                  1. Too bad you don't want to go to Issaquah. I live out here, and the opening of Macky's has been a boon to food lovers here. The soup dumplings are awesome. Delicate skin, nice pop of soup, and well balanced seasoning on the filling, with a bit of vinegar sauce on the outside. I've had nothing disappointing there, including the duck. The proprietors are exceedingly friendly, and willing to accommodate any off-the-menu requests. Make the trip...then go to the Issaquah Brew Pub, to further validate the trip.

                                    1. Ping's Dumpling House and Market actually now has some pretty good XLB IMO. Until recently I think they were only available on weekends. I went in this week and they are now available 7 days. The server talked up the "juicy pork" version while a sign seems to indicate crab and beef are also available. This batch definitely overcame the typical ID problems of either being too thick in the wrapper or lacking soup. In neither respect does it surpass DTF, but it is reasonably close to some of the specialized places in NYC and YVR that I've been to.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: equinoise

                                        I had these recently and they were delicious

                                      2. I liked the soup dumplings at Rocking Wok in Wallingford, though admittedly I don't really have a reference point for this dish.

                                        1. Hing Loon in the ID. Far and away the best dumplings.