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What Is Xiao Long Bao – Why They’re Little Basket Buns Of Course!

Written by Jason Adamson on . Posted in food

what is xiao long bao, xiao long bao recipes, xiaolongbao

If you’ve never had Xiaolongbao before: strike one! Be gone with you, evil swine! Stemming from the outskirts of Shanghai, Xiaolongbao (literally meaning ‘little basket buns’) pack so much flavor and punch and whatever they squeeze in there that you are always left craving for more. Much like re-runs of Walker, Texas Ranger.

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So what are these little buggers like?

chinese buns, chinese dumplingsThink steamed dumplings chock full of juice and mystery meat, usually the ever popular ‘oink oink’ pork or seafood. But for me the catch is in the juice which lies waiting inside these little Shanghainese pork bombs.

Many an unwise man has fallen prey to the juice of the innocent looking Xiaolongbao; scalding hot and the equivalent of having molten lava poured on your tongue and down your throat by Chuck Norris (real ‘bloody hot’).

Word of warning, proceed with extreme caution and watch your shirt as any encounter with Xiaolongbao usually ends with the good Doctor having to travel to the dry cleaners. The juice always has a way of flying out of the half bitten Xiaolongbao all over my Sunday best.

Karma, I think not, for I pray (not prey) at the Church of Xiaolongbao! You’ve been warned.

How do you pronounce Xiao Long Bao?

So now that you are all in for trying one of the most delicious culinary inventions worldwide, you are probably wondering how to order it in a restaurant. While on the street-food carts you could probably just point at them and you can get your own steamy portion, it is always a good idea to learn how to pronounce the tricky name of these broth-filled buns.

There are many versions on the market of these buns, and they are often referred to as siaulon moedeu or xiao long-style mantous. Mantous is the original Chinese word for both filled and unfilled buns.

While you have probably been struggling in the past while ordering Chinese food in a restaurant, these buns cannot be confused with the American Style dumplings or the Chinese-style jiaozi. So how do you get exactly what you want? Let’s have a look at the Xiao Long Bao pronunciation!

In Mandarin, the right pronunciation is SHAU – LONG – BAO.

This is the most common way to pronounce the name of this mouthwatering buns.

However, depending on which province you are visiting, it is important to be familiar with the Cantonese pronunciation, which is SIU – LONG – BAO.

Now you are ready to order your delicious broth-filled buns. Enjoy!

Is Xiao Long Bao Taiwanese?

Now that you are waiting for these incredible buns to arrive at your table, it is a good time to impress your dinner party with a few curiosities about the Xiao Long Bao Buns.

First off, do you know where they come from?

We will have a look at that in a minute but, if you were wondering whether these little delicacies have been created in Taiwan, well the answer is no.

However, Taiwanese have made this dish theirs over time and their version of these steam buns are definitely a must-try if you are in the country.

If you are not entirely sure about that, let the crowds queuing in front of Din Tai Fung on the basement floor of Taipei 101 convince you. Here you can get Michelin-star rates buns, which is a nice change compared to the street-corner food vendors that sell these buns in China.

If you have no trip planned to Taiwan this year, don’t fret just yet. Din Tai Fung is a chain that sells these buns across the world and, aside from the 6 sites in Taipei, you can find these restaurants in a bunch of locations including Seattle and Los Angeles.

Where did Xiao Long Bao originate

Now, you have probably heard that Xiao Long Bao are never frozen but created fresh before serving.

What more do you know?

Xiao Long Bao originates from Changzhou, in the Chinese province of Jiangsu, by Wan Hua Tea House. These buns were created in the years of Daoguang Emperor during the middle of 1800. Originally, these buns were soup-filled dumplings from Kaifeng, in the Chinese province of Henan.

Since then, each cook or family has developed its own way of making these dumplings and today you can find an endless number of different versions on the market. Today, they are an incredibly famous dish throughout Southeast Asia.

While today there are no secrets on the deliciousness of these buns, there are still interesting curiosities to know about regarding their story. In fact, in China, there are legends that are thought to be linked to the creation of Xiao Long Bao.

One of the most memorable ones explains how Huang Mingxian, the owner of a restaurant in Nanxiang (a Shangai district) called Ri Hua Xuan first invented these buns. In fact, he is thought to be the first one to add aspic to the pork mince. Upon steaming, the aspic would turn into liquid and give birth to the broth-filled buns we love today.

When thinking about the right name, Huang Mingxian came up with Nanxiang da rou mantou, which means “large meat-filled buns from Nanxiang”. This would contrast with the actual, very small size of the buns and therefore making the experience in his restaurant extremely memorable for customers. The name was then changed to be more appropriate for the dish, once this became incredibly popular.

Today, the origins of Xiao Long Bao are still not certain, but there are a lot of fun legends that will definitely keep your guests entertained throughout dinner!

What is it made of?

Once your Xiao Long Bao are served to you, you will notice that they will disappear from the table incredibly easily! In fact, they are delicious and to be eaten in no time ignoring the scorching hot broth that comes from it!

However, if you are looking at making these dumplings yourself, don’t be fooled by the small size! They are actually among the most time-consuming dishes to prepare from scratch! You will have to get the broth ready, turn it into jelly, fill the pastry with it then cook it. And, as you have already guessed, nothing can be substituted with ready ingredients from the stores!

So, the best thing to do is definitely order some from the restaurant.

At this point, you are probably wondering what Xiao Long Bao are made of. Well, depending on the different versions, the ingredients can be incredibly different. However, let’s have a look at what to expect from these buns!

First off, they can be made with leavened or unleavened dough.
The second ones are the original buns that originate from Nanxiang and they are imitated throughout the world. Alternatively, the buns made with rising flour can be found everywhere and they are often called mantou.

Regarding the filling of the buns, the traditional recipe sees the dumplings to be filled with minced pork. In the past, a common variation to this recipe was to mix the pork mince with minced crab meat and roe. Today, you can find an endless number of types of dumplings which include other kinds of meat, seafood, crab meat, shrimp, and even vegetarian fillings!

If you are wondering how these dumplings are held together, everything you need to know is that solid meat aspic is wrapped inside the bun together with the meat filling. With the steam, the aspic becomes liquid, making these buns a unique dish to try!

How do you them?

These broth filled dumplings can be extremely cute and small and therefore incredibly easy to eat. Well, don’t be fooled by the small size, they are in fact among the most difficult dishes to taste out there!

In restaurants, you will easily notice a few customers trying to eat them without having a clue on how to manage these buns. This often results in the buns bursting in their mounts creating a completely different experience than the one they had in mind.

So, how do we eat Xiao Long bao without making a fool of ourselves, be laughed at by the knowledgeable Chinese, and enjoy the buns at its fullest? Follow these steps and you will be a pro in no time!

  1. Take your time!

When the buns arrive at your table don’t let their delicious look fool you, they are probably scorching hot. And what do you think happens if the boiling broth explodes in your mouth?

Exactly!

So, patience is key in this case. While this is what you should think as soon as you get the buns on your table, you need to also keep in mind that the longer they stay on the table the gummier they become. It can seem like a difficult art to learn, but you will need to find the perfect time to eat them! The best thing to do is lift them from the steaming basket and let them cool them on your spoon for a few seconds.

  1. Add the spices

Instead of trying to dip your dumpling in the shared saucepot, use your long spoon as a dish! Bring a teaspoon of sauce and ginger into your long spoon, then use the chopsticks to transfer the dumpling from the basket to your long spoon.

  1. Pick up your dumpling

This might seem easy at first but remember that the dumplings are filled with boiling hot liquid and if you tear the skin by mistake, there won’t be much of the delicious filling left to taste!

So, when reaching out with your chopsticks, head for the little crown of the dumpling. These, if made perfectly by the cook, allow you to pick up your dumpling easily without the risk of breaking it. Never pick up your dumpling from the center!

  1. Merge sauces and Dumplings!

Pick up your dumpling with your chopsticks and gently land it on your long spoon that should now be filled with sauces and ginger.

  1. Eat your dumpling

Once it is out of the steamer, your dumper will take about 3 to 4 minutes to be cold enough to be eaten. If you are super hungry and not in the mood to wait, you can nibble off the crow of the dumpling, which is made from dough. In this way, your dumpling will release the heat quicker while keeping its shape.

Conclusion

Have you ever tried these delicious dumplings? How did you eat them? What is your favorite filling? Is there a restaurant you would like to recommend? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Jason Adamson

Jason Adamson

Jason lives in Osaka Japan and has an infatuation with raw fish, ninjas and sake. Originally from Australia he has a Masters in Communications and a Le Cordon Bleu Masters of Gastronomic Tourism. He also owns a very old Nintendo.
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Comments (2)

  • Avatar

    Steve Ron

    |

    My mouth is watering…

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Jason Adamson

      |

      You should eat !

      Reply

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