Battle Of The Dallas Soup Dumpling

xlb1by Steven Doyle

For reasons unknown I go ballistic over soup dumplings about this time of year. There is no xiao long bao season that I am aware of, but perhaps this is typically the hottest time of year and I want to settle in for some lighter bites. Or perhaps I get my fill of the juicy dumpling then wait it out for a year before devouring thousands of them once again. Regardless of the reason, I have been on a self-inflicted soup dumpling tear.

Before we get started, I realize that Dallas is not the Mecca of the little dumpling. I have found better bliss in New York, Canada and of course, China. But this is where we live and I set out to find the very best in our own backyard.   

xlb2

Officially the dumpling is called xiao long bao, or XLB’s, which basically means a soup filled dumpling. The neat trick behind the dumpling is to have an ever-so-light dough that is thin to the point of translucence, fill it with a tiny meat ball and a flavorful broth in the form of gelatin or aspic. The skin should be soft and tender rather than thick and fluffy.

The tiny bun arrives at the table steaming hot, so it is necessary to nibble an end to release some of the heat, and slurp a bit of the juiciness waiting inside. You can replace some of the soup with several liquids, including flavorful vinegars. Then the bite-sized delicious ball can be popped into the mouth and eaten whole. This is generally followed with a smile and a slight orgasmic eye roll. Repeat.

There are a mere handful of places in the area that sell the dumplings, but to our finding only a smaller few that do the dumpling justice. We did the heavy lifting and ate all of these dumplings in two nights. If we left off your favorite dumpling, please, by the love of God, let us know and we will add them to this list within hours – after tasting, of course.

xlb3Royal China sends plenty of sauces to the table, but not necessary

Royal China: This is actually our favorite dumpling. It is light, smooth skinned with an ever-so slight resilience to the steamed dough, a perfect bite. The meatball is high on flavor, a pork ball at that. the soup is strong, but not salty in the least. These bad boys are made perfectly right before your eyes with a side show of a cross-eyed and smiling noodle stretcher. You would be favored by sampling these today. Fun fact: Royal China is the oldest running Dallas Chinese restaurant.

Jeng Chi: Our second place dumpling made in wooden baskets stacked as high as you order. This kitchen is open with full view to the diner, but that is typically far from your perch Yet it is still reassuring that all can be seen should you so desire. It is a huge factory of a dumpling station, as they put out thousands of the XLB daily. These come in two sizes, but seriously I could not see the difference. The large are made both with crab and pork and come six to an order, with a fair amount of soup. Not nearly as much as there should be, or could be for that matter, but still a solid dumpling. The skin was well made, but not at ethereal as it could be. The small dumpling is actually the same size but made with only pork. You get eight to an order in the small, but the pork has a very strong flavor that could be slightly off putting. The dining experience more than makes up for the not-so-perfect XLB.

xlb5 jengJeng Chi has  a solid dumpling

DSC09327Yao Fuzi XLB

Yao Fuzi: At one time this was our very favorite dumpling. Perhaps there has been a change of the guard at Yao, or a different dumpling maker, but these were not as juicy as they once were. In fact, barely soupy at all on the visit this week. The skin seemed over worked and on the thicker side. The atmosphere is probably the best of all the restaurants we visited, and the food is truly delicious, but the dumpling is simply not the best it could be. You might ask the server to ensure extra soupiness on order as they are all hand made. This may work, but there is a bit of a translation difficulty with the staff at times.

shanghai

Shanghai: This is a wonderful little hidden gem in North Dallas that when I mention to people they simply scratch their heads. The food is rock solid, inexpensive, and they make the dumpling of choice today. Look for the ‘juicy buns’. However, these are not as good as they should be. The night I visited, no, every visit, the dumplings were definitely abused. Overworked and tough, the skins have been overworked. There is barely enough soup to actually call them a juicy bun, and I almost demanded a re-wording. My dining partner for the evening only ate one of the dumplings, leaving the rest for me to care for. There were dumplings left in the basket at the end of the meal, something I have never witnessed.  In addition to all this, the buns took a whopping 30 minutes to make, arriving much longer after our entrees.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Dumplings, Steven Doyle

5 responses to “Battle Of The Dallas Soup Dumpling

  1. DemigodH

    That place that used to have the Taiwan II sign even though it had changed to a Shanghainese restaurant had my favorites though I’m not sure if they’re still open. At BeltLine and Greenville near Maxims.

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  4. Staci

    Thank you! I live in Dallas and back in 2007 we went to NY to see my brother graduate. He took us to a place that had XLBs and I loved them to pieces. Well I have been miserable ever since because I could never find a place here worthy. Went to Yao Fuzi and wasn’t pleased. Going to Royal this weekend. I’m so excited that I might have a chance to experience and sated those withdrawals I’ve had over the years.

  5. Lee Birnbaum

    Unfortunately, the fact is, although the Dallas area is really catching up to other major cities in many food areas, including various Asian foods, still extremely lacks in quality compared to major US cities with large china towns, and certainly compared to Asia, when specifically looking at xiao long bao.

    The places mentioned, such as Royal China, Jeng Chi, Yao Fazzi, etc… in my humble opinion just isn’t worth eating that dish at all. Their wraps are way too thick to start with… compared to the real deal that is.

    However, there appears to be a first sign of hope for our area, if you are willing to drive to Irving. 😦

    The place is called Fortune House.
    I do not recommend this place for anything except the xiao long bao.
    Other dishes are tempting, but just average at best.
    However, the xiao long bao specifically, in my opinion, hits the minimum level for ‘worth eating quality” !

    Is it as good as the world famous Din Tai Fung (or even their lower quality california locations)? – or some of the great NYC places like “The Bao” in the village, Little dumpling in little neck, or Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing ? – No, silly, ofcourse not, however, it makes a good run, and definitely blows away the earlier mentioned ones in our Plano/Richardson/Dallas area.

    While I’m at it, if you guys are plano area based serious Chinese food fans, check out Taipei Station Cafe for beef noodle soup (and other dishes – all their stuff is rather good), and Dumpling House (next to Bavarian Grill) for decent, large variety dumplings (but no Xiao Long Bao).
    Little Sheep is also good Mongolian hotpot (and a chain that is good enough to exist in NY, California, and much of asia as well) – though these days, my favorite chinese hotpot is JT5 in plano, which includes AYCE both hotpot + korean BBQ.

    But right now, I’m so proud of DFW for it’s recent upgrade of Korean food !
    But I willn’t dilute the thread and go into that here…

    Happy eating !

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