One of my favorite foods in the whole wide world is Xiao Long Bao aka XLB. XLB is a dumpling which literally translates to "little basket bun".
These are commonly found in the areas of Shanghai and Wuxi, China. Here in the US, XLB are also referred to as Soup Dumplings.
These little pockets of love are worldly. A thin, slightly translucent, unleavened dough surrounds meat which has been steamed. In preparation, the meat includes a good amount of gelatin that once steamed, turns into soup within the wrapper of the dumpling.
Most commonly served with vinegar and slivers of ginger, I love to eat my XLB in the following way:
- I always begin by removing the XLB from its nest with my fingers. Often times the wrappers are so delicate that the soup will spill out, and that's a NO NO.
- I place the XLB onto the soup spoon and a bite a small hole at the top of the dumpling, where the folds are made.
- Into that opening I pour in a good amount of gingered vinegar, with some ginger lingering atop the XLB for a boost of flavor once in the mouth.
- I usually let the steam vent for a few seconds because XLB Burns are no fun!
- In the dumpling goes - THIS IS A ONE BITE DUMPLING - the only way to experience it is like taking a whole egg yolk from a fried egg and letting it open up in your mouth. The 'soup' from the XLB is so tasty, and mixed with the vinegar, meat and wrapper, its heaven!
So - back to Mei Long Village...
I will say this - my best XLB experience was at Joe's Shanghai Restaurant in New York City. The Turnip Cake and XLB are amazing at Joe's.
After Joe's, my second favorite is Yank Sing in San Francisco. Now, to be honest, those are really the only two places I have had XLB at, more then once or twice.
When I finally made it over to Mei Long, I was a bit disappointed about all the hype that was out there.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon at about 4 pm. When the place offers that it's open all day, we went there rather then Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, who closes between lunch and dinner. There were a few other tables, so we weren't alone, but it felt like we weren't supposed to be there.
The waiter came by and took our order - Roasted Half Duck; Frog, XLB (both pork and Pork & Crab), a Chicken dish, and a few others here and there...
The XLB were okay - for me it was a nice treat but they weren't great. Not near the taste of either Yank Sing or Joe's. I will have to try Din Tai Fung in Arcadia next.
The duck was good - not much meat but the sauce rocked. The Frog was almost inedible due to all the bones that were throughout the dish, in tiny little pieces that just hurt my molars.
Overall, the drive wasn't worth it, from the SFV to the SGV - about 45 minutes drive - probably won't be doing that one again...