Sunday, December 7, 2014

Xiao Long Bao

It's not like me to write about food. I am certainly not very adventurous when it comes to food.

Case in point, I spent 365 days living in Korea and I estimate that I went to McDonald's around 250 times. Perhaps slightly less because sometimes I went to Burger King or had pizza. The main thing is I ate at North American fast food joints a lot. I'm a little ashamed to admit that, but if you know me it probably isn't hard to believe that was the case.

I didn't even try the famous bibimbop. I also barely tried kimbap because I didn't really like it. These were both very common meals or snacks that people ate there. I just stuck to french fries and chicken nuggets.

Starting out in Shanghai with my girlfriend Michelle however made food and trying new foods a little more of a priority. The most famous food in Shanghai is xiao long bao (show long bow is how I pronounce it, but they don't always understand me. When that happens I have to show them a picture from my phone of the chinese words 小籠饅頭). It is sometimes known as the Shanghai soup dumpling.

Lots of places sell these dumplings, but we wanted to have our first taste of them to be the very best. Researching online we found that the best could be found in the Yu Yuan garden area. Apparently that is where all the tourists go to get the dumplings, including Chinese tourists. It is also the first, or a branch of the first xiao long bao restaurant.

We took the metro there, as per usual. It took us a while, but we finally found the area we knew these tasty buns to be in. There were pagoda  buildings and we saw a lot of gimmicky tourist stuff on sale. After walking around and asking some people we finally found an English sign that pointed us in the right direction. The arrow said Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant.

When we arrived, there was a large line. I stood in it while Michelle took a rest on a bench. This would also serve as our dining place as the line was only for take out. I only had to stand in line for just over an hour, hungry and salivating with anticipation.

They didn't disappoint. We ordered a large dumpling and a basket of small soup dumplings to share. The large one was not very special, but the small ones were quite good. We had read about the best way to eat them. First you need to puncture the top of the dumpling ever so slightly to allow some steam to escape. Next you pick it up with the chopstick and you slurp some of the soup out before you place the rest of the dumpling in your mouth and chew.

The dumplings are usually made with pork inside, but also commonly have crab as well. If you don't puncture the dumpling to let the steam out you will likely burn your tongue.

Upon reading and researching for this post, I did not find the old website that I used to find the dumpling place or that lay claim to it being the best one. I have found a reference to a few different places having the best ones as well as one that bad mouths the place I am writing about. I may just have to try the new places out sometime.

One of the best ones that was mentioned was another place that we have tried before. It was good, but there was a long wait in between trying both of them. The second trial occurred in the French Concession area and it was a nice sit down chain restaurant. It was also a little on the pricey side and it also had a bit of a wait time, although we received a number instead of having to stand in line for an hour.

I do want to find that website again as I have done a few other things from that site. I'll have to consult Michelle to see if she remembers it or has it written down.

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