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Jan 29, 2013 06:20 PM

Amazing XLB

I just had the best XLB I've had in a long time at Red Kings in Chinatown. They are called Steamed Shanghai Juicy Dumpling. Also had amazing Shredded Chicken* with spicy green pepper - very flavorful but not a contest to see how much heat you can endure (Han Dynasty). The only dish I didn't love was the Dan Dan noodles - it has some kind of aromatic that is pretty bitter. We've been working our way through Chinese restaurants in Philly and this is definitely our favorite. An underrated gem.

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  1. Can you compare these either with Dim Sum Garden, Sakura Mandarin or any NY based XLB like Joe's?

    6 Replies
    1. re: cwdonald

      I recently moved to Philly and haven't been to Sakura yet but hear they have good XLB. Red Kings definitely better than Dim Sum Garden at least for XLB. . I am from San Francisco and these compare favorably (which is excellent). I actively search out XLB wherever I go and these were probably the best I have had in 3 years.

      1. re: cwdonald


        Have you tried both XLB (aka soup dumpling or juicy buns) from Dim Sum Garden and Sakura Mandarin? Which of the two you like better? I have had from both places, but I had them separated by more than two years apart, so it can be difficult to judge which a huge time elapsed. In my mind, they are about the same. Maybe I will go back to Sakura one day and just to remind myself.

        1. re: cwdonald

          I went to Red Kings maybe 1-2 years ago (I think) around the time they first opened. While the flavor of their XLB was good I thought the skins were a little thick and gummy. They also stuck together and were structurally unsound. Personally I prefer the XLB at Dim Sum Garden. Ive never been to Sakura Mandarin, but no places in philly compare to the best of Flushing or even manhattan chinatown..

          1. re: vnair2

            You should try them again. The skins are neither thick nor gummy. I grew up in San Francisco but its interesting that although there is amazing high end Hong Kong Style Dim Sum and other regional favors - it is less easy to find great hole in the wall places there. That is why I am so happy to have found Red Kings. Not planning to go to NYC to get my every day fix :)

            1. re: laurag2

              Its been awhile since I went, so I will definitely give Red Kings another shot. Now Im hungry, perhaps ill get XLB for dinner.

        2. Went to Sakura Mandarin last night and ordered the steamed crabmeat and pork soup dumplings and also the Taiwanese sponge gourd and pork tangbao (which are kind of like soup dumplings or xiaolongbao, but with more soup and often a slightly thicker skin). Each order came with six dumplings and each dumpling was about 2" in diameter, which is a little bigger than I prefer for XLB. The XLB had skins that were a little too thick for my taste and were topped off with crab roe. Many folds, but quite a few of them had melded into each other which led to a very starchy mouthfeel. The filling inside was dyed crabmeat ("crabmeat?") surrounded by pork with plenty of not very flavorful soup. The crabmeat in the filling had a strong fishy taste. Crab and pork is my usual order for soup dumplings and these were just not good enough for me to order again.

          The Taiwanese sponge gourd and pork tangbao used the same skins, but had fewer folds as they are not folded in the same manner. Sponge gourd dumplings usually involve a much finer dice of the sponge gourd, but I guess the coarser dice was fine. Loose pork filling and lots of soup with a clean flavor made a good impression. I would come back and order these again, but they were mentioned on a separate sheet in Chinese, so I'm not sure if they are part of the regular rotation.

          7 Replies
          1. re: mookleknuck

            Is "Taiwanese sponge gourd" si gua (絲瓜)? I've never had dumplings with it in them. And speaking of dumplings, why isn't there a Din Tai Fung on the East Coast when there are 3 on the West Coast?

            1. re: msiangal

              Yes, sponge gourd is si gua. I took the "Taiwanese" to be the adjective the restaurant, Sakura, used to describe the tangbao. I've had plenty of tangbao and xiaolongbao with si gua in them overseas. A nice addition.

              I suspect most of the East Coast doesn't <quite> have the audience to support one, but maybe NY or Toronto...? Either way, I've been to at least three or four in Taipei multiple times each, including the flagship store, and I was more impressed by the Xinyi store's advanced toilets than any of their offerings. DTF is overrated.

              1. re: mookleknuck

                I've only been to one DTF (in Hong Kong), but I *love* it. agreed that I don't see it working that well here in Philly. A post on another thread gave some ridiculously high price for the franchise fee, which wouldn't be all that surprising.
                I don't see it meshing that well with what philly tends to like; there's nothing seasonal about it, it's a large-scale chain - the one I go to is in a mall - so i'm not expecting one here. but if there was one i'd sure go there.

                1. re: Bob Loblaw

                  Do you mean this post?

                  DTF is nice enough and generally has consistent product and service, so I think it's great for certain purposes, like business meals or whatever. But their XLB are not the best and, really, no one specific dish on their menus is ever the best. It's great for conveniently gathering a number of good things on the same menu, but if I want something really good, I'd rather go elsewhere for that specific dish that I'm craving. Completely agree that it probably wouldn't succeed here in Philly.

                  1. re: mookleknuck

                    yup, that's the post i was thinking of.
                    i'm finding this thread a bit frustrating. we're *very* far from DTF and the more I think about them the more I wish I could go there right now.

                2. re: mookleknuck

                  Thanks for the clarification. Will have to try some dumplings with si gua soon.

                  I gotta agree with Bob on DTF though. The only one I've been to in Taipei is the flagship. Strangely, I actually enjoyed the food at one in Kuala Lumpur better. But then when I'm in Taipei, all I really want is beef noodle soup and night market food!

              2. re: mookleknuck


                Just hit Lake Tai and Sakura Mandarian tonight. Ordered XiaoLongBao from Sakura Mandarian since I haven't had it for a long time and was difficult for me to compare to the ones from Dim Sum Garden.

                My findings are not too different than you. The XiaoLongBao from Sakura are noticeably larger with more filling, and because of this, the skin has to be thicker. Though, it wasn't too thick to the point which I object. Of the 6 baos, two of them have holes. One is very small, and the other one is larger. I have eaten XiaoLongBao from Dim Sum Garden multiple times, and have never had a broken one. Other than that, I think the XiaoLongBao from Sakura are reasonable. They don't taste as sweet as the ones from Dim Sum Garden.

                All in all, I probably rate them about the same in my view, maybe just a small preference for Dim Sum Garden.

              3. After this review went to Red Kings today to try it. The staff were trained in the same school as Charlotte from Bibou, they could not have been nicer, treated me like good family. l will admit l was the only person there at 6:30.
                Now to the food, first they were not serving the XLB, only the ones with crabmeat, ordered them and found no crab, also they were gummy and not structurally sound, three fell apart before l could even get them to the spoon, even compared to Joe's Shanghai in NY these did not make the grade.
                Second thing l tried was the hot/sour soup. It was flavorless with little given other than broth and seasoning was all black pepper, no note of vinegar or red pepper at all.
                Third thing was salt baked frog's legs. Heavy batter on small very bony pieces, not my style of Chinese frog's legs.
                Everything came scaldingly hot.
                Check was $ 33 with tax/tip

                3 Replies
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  <l will admit l was the only person there at 6:30>

                  I said that. It isn't a very popular place for most of the day.

                  <scaldingly hot>

                  Temperature hot or spicy hot?

                  I won't keep my hope too high for the XLB at Red Kings as it is probably not its specialty, but I will give it a try one day. Having them falling apart is definitely not a good thing.

                  Hot and sour soup is easy to make but difficult to master. I don't mind it is not crazy spicy. In fact, I think the common mistake is to simply make it spicy and yet not favorful. As for frog legs, I am never a fan of it. Thanks for the review.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I did read a review that said the crab ones were not great. Did not try those.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger


                      I went to Red Kings too. My feeling is probably no better than yours, if not worse, and I am a fairly easy person to please. I always have something good to say about most restaurants. I like Tan Wong, M Kee, Joy Tsin Lau, Ocean Harbor, Ocean City, Terakawa, Four Rivers, E Mei, Dim Sum Garden, Sang Kee...etc...etc.

                      Here is my review if you are interested:


                    2. The original comment has been removed
                      1. Ok, I admit that I had to Google XLM. Had no clue, never heard of it. But now that I have read the post and some of the Google results: I would love to try it! So all you hounds that know this dish; please where does one find excellent XLB?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Bacchus101

                          Board favorites are at Dim Sum Garden. I had them last fall and thought they were nothing to write home about. cwdonald often mentions Sakura Mandarin, which I tried two nights ago. I will probably hit Red Kings soon and maybe Dim Sum Garden again soon to do a proper comparison. I just had some very mediocre pork XLB out in Lansdale at Chong's Dumpling House - don't go there.

                          1. re: mookleknuck

                            I think Dim Sum Garden is ok, and is good, but not great. I actually have slightly better XLB in New Jersey -- which is weird. I thought Sakura Mandarin XLB (more than 4 years ago) were reasonable. Let's just say I have much worse XLB. For example, I once had XLB at Sang Kee. My god, that was really bad. I even called the waiter and told him that the XLB were not very bad, and he said that this just aren't their specialty.

                            So I will phrase it this way. Dim Sum Garden XLB are not the best, but they are good enough for me and they are probably the best in Philly Chinatown.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              "... and told him that the XLB were not very bad..."

                              You mean they were so bad that you told the waiter that they were TERRIBLE? Yeah, I think that XLB is a trend that I'm waiting for unqualified restaurants to get over. I just wish customers could and would be more discriminating and then just to go places that are really great so that poorly made XLB stop proliferating.

                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                I like Sang Kee. I think it has good Hong Kong style foods which is difficult to find elsewhere. For example, in my opinion, Sang Kee's congee is not much different than those of Tan Wang or M Kee. However, Sang Kee offers dishes like "Baked Seafood Fried Rice with Cheese", which is very unique.

                                Anyway, one day, I ordered XLB in Sang Kee along with a congee or something. The other dish was good, but the XLB were horrible. I don't mean I am being an elitist and that the XLB did not live up to my delicate tongue. No, I mean they were really bad. They were hard, stiff on the skin (as if they were dried out) and the filling were not juicy.

                                I cannot remember if I told the waiter right away or during the next visit, maybe it was the next visit. I politely told him about my experience with the XLB, "Your XLB are not very good, are they?". He then said "Yeah, we are very good at Chinese BBQ and congee, fan, noodle and rice (粥粉麵飯) type of dishes, but we are not good at XLB. They are not our specialty and we only offer them because sometime customers ask for them". I believe he then told me that they don't even make their XLB and that they are frozen in the freezer until people ask for them.

                                So I guess I am saying that I am happy whenever I find reasonably good XLB. I am a easily satisfied person. :)

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Agree, Sang Kee Peking Duck House's XLB are absolutely terrible.

                                  I still daydream about XLB at Din Tai Fung in Taipei. I've never been to any of the other locations, but the original's XLB are amazing (plus I like the crazy wait in the street, enter through the kitchen, narrow stairs environment).

                                  I keep trying XLB everywhere I go, but I don't know why I bother, since no one else ever lives up to those memories (not to belabor the point, but Sang Kee's are an insult to Chinese food).

                                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                    Oh yes. Din Tai Fung. Just amazing. It was the first time I had ever had XLB. Nothing else has ever measured up.

                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                " I even called the waiter and told him that the XLB were not very bad,"

                                I meant

                                " I even called the waiter and told him that the XLB were not very GOOD,