I love 小笼包/xiao long bao/Shanghai soup dumplings. Those succulent morsels definitely count as one of my favorite foods in the entire world. When I was really young, my parents used to drive me over an hour to a hole in the wall restaurant where we would eat them. I still have no idea where we were…San Francisco? San Jose? I used to brag that I could eat an entire steamer by myself (that’s impressive when you’re 10).
There’s a true art to the perfect xiao long bao. The skin needs to be paper thin and almost translucent because there is so much soup inside (warning: the soup burns like the heat of a thousand suns). You should be able to use your chopsticks to pick up your dumpling by the top of its “nub” without it breaking. Finally, the ground pork inside must be flavorful and tender (plus there needs to be a good meat to dumpling skin ratio).
It’s difficult to find even good xiao long bao. Since I was in Shanghai, I decided to try and find the perfect Shanghai soup dumpling. I already knew that the dumplings in the Yu Yuan Gardens (城隍庙) weren’t good anymore. It used to be famous for its xiao long bao, but now it’s become so incredibly touristy and the quality has gone downhill. The dumpling skin is way too thick. You have been warned… don’t go to the Yu Yuan Gardens in Shanghai for 小笼包.