How to Eat Xiao Long Bao and Other Tips for Enjoying Soup Dumplings in Honolulu
It’s loved by many but daunting for dumpling novices. Here are three ways to eat xiao long bao.
This post was originally published on Sept. 26, 2018 for National Dumpling Day. It was updated on March 15, 2021.
I have a long history with xiao long bao. I grew up in Hong Kong, where the glorious, slightly translucent parcels of steaming hot soupy goodness are popular—and where it’s an unwritten rule to have an unhealthy obsession with going for yum cha (the Cantonese tradition of enjoying dim sum and tea for brunch) and overordering, due to each diner having a favorite dim sum dish. During the cooler months, going to restaurants that specialize in xiao long bao is a priority.
If the idea of eating a delicate pouch of boiling hot soup might be a little frightening, I completely understand. So let me share a little knowledge from my neck of the woods across the Pacific: three methods for eating the much-loved steamed Shanghainese soup dumplings.
Origins and Ingredients
The name xiao long bao means “little basket bun” due to the round bamboo basket the parcels are steamed in. Originally created in Shanghai, the dumpling is crafted by placing a ground pork-covered cube of gelatinous soup stock inside rolled-out dough, which is then tightly pinched closed at the top. Once steamed, the gelatin cube becomes the hot clear soup that makes this particular dumpling very special.
Tip: Be extra careful when scooping your dumpling out of the bamboo steamer. Lightly pinch low on the sides with your chopsticks and, if necessary, ask your dim sum buddy to hold the paper lining the bottom of the basket. Avoid fast movements or else you will tear the dumpling, releasing the point of why we’re all here: the soup.
Method One: The Souper Bowl
- Hold your Chinese soup spoon in your non-dominant hand and add a dollop or two of vinegar to it.
- Carefully place the xiao long bao, with the flat surface facing up, onto your vinegar-filled spoon.
- Gently bite a small opening on the edge.
- Release the steam for a second.
- Suck out the soup.
- Finish by slurping up the vinegar and the rest of the dumpling in one mouthful.
Method Two: Hats Off to You
- Carefully place the dumpling on your spoon with the flat side down this time.
- Nibble the top off.
- Pour the desired amount of vinegar into the hole you created using a small sauce spoon.
- Bottoms up! Slurp it all up in one bite.
Method Three: The Scorcher
- Dip (or double dip) the dumpling directly into the vinegar.
- Place the xiao long bao on your trusty spoon.
- In one confident movement, throw your head back, tilt the spoon up and let the entire dumpling fall into your mouth.
- After you can start to feel your tongue again, tell everyone that you prefer the other two methods of releasing the steam first.
Tip: Want more flavor? Add a thin slice of ginger to your spoon before placing the dumpling on top.
Restaurants Serving Xiao Long Bao:
- Fook Lam
- Yung Yee Kee
- Peking Duck Kitchen
- Tai Pan
- Ginger & Garlic
- Dew Drop Inn
- Jade Dynasty