Xiao Long Bao The Soup Dumpling

“We handcraft food for your tastebuds,” reads the business card of Dinesty Chinese Restaurant in Richmond. I’m here as a lunch guest of Rae Kung who insisted that I taste what is her favourite place for the Shanghainese soup dumpling, xiao long bao. Many online food forums have spurned passionate debate over who has the best, fresh vs frozen, thick vs thin, and I’m here to savour a thin version that Kung refers to as a “Taiwanese style.”
The open kitchen at Dinesty reveals busy cooks handcrafting wontons, noodles, dumplings and buns reflected in the restaurant’s extensive menu of snacks, side dishes, noodles, soups and entrees.

The dumpling is unique in that it contains a pocket of pork broth, added in gelatin form when being formed, and upon steaming, the gelatin liquifies, hence the name soup dumpling. Inside, a ball of ground and spiced pork rests inside the broth and the full meal deal awaits the lucky diner. A dish of flavoured black vinegar is served on the side for those needing a bit of tang.

Because they’re brought steaming to your table, it’s best to sit a dumpling on a spoon first, to cool down. Then enter the kingdom via the side where you see it’s flat. Maybe cut a tiny entranceway with your teeth and suck in the rich luscious juices, then slurp that dumpling right into your mouth. It’s a smooth segue. A cohesive unit with just the right amount of saltiness with good rich meatiness and a thin skin that allowed for a balanced taste sensation. Like.
Then came an order of panfried xiao long bao, an ethereal presentation that’s kind of genius in its simplicity. It’s really more of a steam-fry. Water is added to the bottom of a pan and in so doing releases some of the starch from the dumpling. It’s allowed to reduce, settle and cook to the right crispiness, like a really thin pancake. The dumplings are presented on top and sprinkled with a few sesame seeds.
I find this technique completely awesome. The dumplings contained the same soupy porky goodness but with the added bonus of a crispy element.
From the steamed bun side of the kitchen, we ordered mashed taro and gingko buns for dessert.
Three rather sensuous-looking buns with just a kiss of colour arrived. Not cloyingly sweet, balanced with again that smooth taste, the wat, noted in an earlier post.
The taro and gingko combined produced a rosy hue, and was completely enjoyable with a cup of tea.
Handcrafted and labour intensive, a cuisine that’s steeped in tradition and yet the price point is $5.95 a plate. Cooking this good and this talented would be around $14 at my local small plates tapas bar. This is not only exciting, delicious and educational but it’s actually affordable and doable on a regular basis.

2 Responses to “Xiao Long Bao The Soup Dumpling”

  1. tfshao says:

    Are they as good as the ones in Ding Tai Feng in Taipei or the branches in LA and Bellevue?

  2. I’ve never been to Ding Tai Feng but you might want to make the trek to Richmond and sample the offerings there.

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