|Helen at Dumpling Cafe in downtown Boston|
|Dumpling Cafe's Xiao Long Bao|
I've noticed that restaurants call these steamed buns by different things - Steamed Minced Pork Buns, Yangchow Steamed Buns, Small Steamed Buns, Shanghai Buns... To be sure you're getting the right thing it might be better to ask for them using the Chinese. "Xiao", means "small" and is pronounced "show", as in shower. "Long" refers to the bamboo steamer and is pronounced "long" as in room, "Bao" means bun and sounds like "ow" in about.
|Eating Xiao Long Bao the proper way|
The xiao long bao I had on Friday was at a new restaurant in Boston called Dumpling Cafe ( 695 Washington Street, Boston. Tel: 617-338-8858) It's open everyday from 11:00 am until 2:00 am. Great for late night snacking. There I am standing in front of the restaurant.
It's obviously very popular with the lunch crowd because by noon the place was packed with a waiting line. On a scale of 1 - 10 ( 10 being perfection), I would give it an 8. The bao were a little larger than the Shanghai style and I think the menu referred to them as Taiwan style. See how they fill the bamboo steamer and overlap over the sides of the spoon? These were the tastiest and soupiest bao I've ever had in Boston. You get 6 large bao per bamboo steamer for $5.95 and if they're filled with pork and crab, the price for 6 is $6.50. By the way, this restaurant calls xiao long bao "Mini Steamed Buns." See what I mean about the nomenclature?
For fabulous Shanghai style xiao long bao there is a fantastic chain of Shanghai dim sum restaurants called Din Tai Fung,with shops in Asia, Canada and the West Coast of the USA. Unfortunately they haven't come to the East Coast yet. Go to their web site ( www.dintaifungusa.com) and you'll see a nice close up picture of their specialty - Shanghai xiao long bao. The xiao long bao at Ding Tai Fung are more like the ones I enjoyed in China when I first went with my mother and brother in 1972. So far I've been to about 4 different Ding Tai Fung restaurants ( Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai and Toronto) and they all have wide open kitchens ( behind huge panes of glass) where the xiao long bao are continually being handmade. Behind the chefs are towers of bamboo steamers waiting to be filled and steamed. The xiao long bao at each location were all delicious!
Do I have a recipe for xiao long bao? Sorry to disappoint, but no, because I don't make them at home. In fact, I don't know anyone who makes them at home. My mother never did. It's a specialty that's complicated and time-consuming to make. We all go out to have them. I do have other dim sum recipes that are relatively easy to make -- but that will have to be another time.
So, check out the Dumpling Cafe when you're in Boston and investigate Ding Tai Fung if you're lucky enough to have one near you. Both are well worth the effort to find.