On Siao Long Bao

The average Filipino dimsum junkie will be aware of two things off a dimsum cart: siu mai (called siomai locally) and siopao (the local take on char siu bao). The more adventurous will add fried or steamed sharksfin dumplings to the list, along with kutchay [chive] dumplings, har gau (hakaw – prawn dumplings), cheong fun rolls stuffed with either roast pork or shrimp, machang (rice and an assortment of goodies steamed in lotus leaves), and spareribs with black bean sauce.

And then, there are die-hards like yours truly who will order everything on the menu from chicken feet to radish cake, to taro puffs and pan-fried dumplings, to the increasingly rare ham soy kok and what we have here: siao [xiao] long bao.

Siao long bao are originally from Shanghai, specifically from the suburban area of Nanxiang. According to Wikipedia:

Xiaolongbao are traditionally filled with pork, but variations include other meats, seafood and vegetarian fillings, as well as other possibilities. The characteristic soup inside is created by wrapping solid meat gelatin inside the skin alongside the meat filling. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin into soup. In modern times, refrigeration has made the process of making Xiaolongbao during hot weather easier, as one can use chilled gelatin which might otherwise be liquid at room temperature.

These siao long bao are from Mongkok which is, so far, the only restaurant I’ve seen them in here in the Philippines. (Paging all my friends who are Binondo / Greenhills habitues and denizens: if you can point me in a direction where I can find a regular supply of these babies, I’ll be grateful forever ~ and I’ll throw in a lifetime supply of dark chocolate cupcakes!)

The proper way to eat one of these dumplings is to pick one out of the basket, deposit it onto your soup spoon, puncture it to let the broth out, and just, well, eat.

I have to admit they aren’t exactly the best: there’s a lot of filling, but it’s more of a mush rather than a separate meatball-and-broth tandem the way really good xiao long bao ought to be. Still, they taste pretty darned good, particularly when dipped in the dish of black vinegar that comes alongside the steamer basket.