In search for a bit of comfort food as the temperatures start drifting southward, I was reminded that one of my absolute favorite treats are the delightful mouthful bites called xaio long bao, or lovingly referred to in the West as a soup dumpling. Pros will simply say XLB. However you order them, first timers to the dumpling always shout as they take their first nibble.
XLB’s are traditionally made with pork and a gelatin made up of stock that when steamed inside the tiny bun release their full juiciness.
You may also find other varieties of the XLB, including crabmeat or vegetarian.
The most common way to eat the soup dumpling is to transfer the morsel from the basket to a short, wide soup spoon. This allows you to manipulate the dumpling and nibble off the end to slurp out the juices. From there, you remove with chopsticks and dip into a bowl of vinegar that is typically provided. After all the requisite saucing, devour the dumpling whole and chew with a giant grin packed with flavor.
Throughout the Dallas area, there are very few of the Shanghai dumplings. One of the absolute best-in-our-area versions can be found in Plano at a tiny, but beautiful Chinese restaurant called Yao Fuzi. Their dumpling is light with a desirable thin skinned wrapper.
Last evening we tried out the dumpling bar at Royal China, the oldest Chinese restaurant in Dallas. Their hand-stretched noodles are legendary. But it would appear that the noodle-maker is off every other Tuesday. Make a note of this in case you have a hankering for all things hand-stretched, and noodle.
Being that the noodle canoodler was off resting didn’t take away from the evening. There was plenty of action going on at the dumpling bar including making these elusive XLB’s.
Soon after ordering, the prepared dumplings were steamed and on the table in a flash. The XLB’s were served with a variety of sauces, including the traditional black vinegar, a spicy chile sauce and a fresh ginger water.
Nibbling off the end and taking the first tell-tale slurp we were all excited to find these specimen juiced and ready for all-on munching. Soon the steamer basket was empty and we were ready for a refill.
Royal China is located on the North-East corner of Preston and Royal Lane in Dallas.