Xiao Long Baos are pretty amazing. There’s a variety of flavour in one mouthful, plus soup on the inside. This bite-size delicacy shall therein be referred to as XLBs (Everything sounds cooler as an abbrieviation). There are so many choices out there but a plain old ordinary XLB just doesn’t cut it anymore. Here’s a round-up of my favourite “exotic” ones:
I must admit, the multi-coloured xiao long baos from Paradise Dynasty definitely got my attention, but they weren’t exactly reminiscent of the flavours they stood for.
The XLBs come in eight different flavors: Crab Roe (orange), Ginseng (green), Szechuan (pink), Cheese (yellow), Foie Gras (brown), Original (white), Garlic (grey), and Black Truffle (black, duh). [Price: S$13.80 for the sample basket of eight]
My first instinct was to dive for the pink XLB – the colour made it all the more enticing. Unfortunately there was neither a “sze” or “chuan” in this XLB, only a peppery aftertaste lingered. The only exciting thing was the pink skin.
The orange crab roe tasted mediocre, the black truffle was an interesting choice, though it lacked a real truffle taste. I’m sure the smell of pork overwhelms just about any flavour. The green ginseng dumplings might not look as appealing, but the hearty herbal broth makes up for it.
Definitely worth a try. It’s something different, and a debate over which one’s your favourite always makes for lively dinner conversation.
2 Orchard Turn
#04-12A ION Orchard
Tel: 6509 9118
(No reservations allowed and the line during the weekends is insane, but apparently if you go around 2pm or 8.30pm on a weekday, you’ll get a seat pretty quickly.)
Din Tai Fung (Paragon)
If you are looking for a good Truffle XLB, head to the Din Tai Fung flagship store at Paragon. Not to say their regular XLBs aren’t any good, the Truffle ones just take them to a whole different level.
I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical about the Truffle XLB and was fairly glad to be proven wrong. It almost blew my mind away. The smoky flavour was invigorating and upon first taste my eyebrows shot up. By the third one, I felt kinda sick. You know, the gelat feeling. I still give it two thumbs up!
Price: S$3.20 per piece, S$14.80 for five, or S$28 for ten (may be twice the price of a normal XLB but worth every cent!
While I was at it, I decided I might as well order the original XLB, and the shrimp and pork one. Let me tell you this – even after 20 minutes of photo-taking and the XLBs had gone cold, these were simply delish! The broth on the inside was extremely tasty, and everything combined was Perfecto!
The shrimp one didn’t taste too much different from the original, except that it looks a lot more inviting with its colours.
If you want a real truffle XLB, skip Paradise Dynasty and head to Din Tai Fung at Paragon. It’s pricier but you get what you pay for. Waiting in line is totally worth it.
Din Tai Fung
290 Orchard Road
#B1-03 Paragon Shopping Centre
Tel: 6836 8336
Nanxiang is said to be known for their giant XLBs and by giant, I do mean five times the size of a regular XLB. Low and behold the King Sized Nanxiang Crab Roe Steamed Soup Bun! The name of it is as much of a mouthful of the XLB itself!
At first glance, this proved to be quite the unique experience. Consuming a XLB with the use of a bubble-tea like straw? Bring it on!
What a flipping mess! My attempts at poking at the skin with my straw ended in pure chaos. I exaggerate. But I did have soup spill over down the front of my pants. And I have photos to prove it. The broth was average and the skin was relatively uncooked. Further probing with a chopstick-straw-chopstick-straw type action only made me lose all my soup to the saucer. This seemed to me, to be more of one-time-only type novelty. Never. Again.
Price: S$6.80 per giant XLB
I order the Spicy Crabmeat and Pork XLB, as well as the regular Pork XLB for fair comparison. One word – MEH. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, it simply wasn’t well, good. I dislike the gamey smell of meat, you know, when there’s that really strong pork-like smell? Nanxiang’s regular XLB was guilty of that so I can safely say I’ll probably never order that again.
I’ll head to Nanxiang only for two reasons – if I’m in the area and have a massive XLB craving, or if my friends drag me by the hair and tell me I have no choice. On the up side, I doubt there’s ever much of a queue there so it might just be your best bet with minimal waiting time.
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
200 Victoria Street
#02-53 Bugis Junction
Tel: 6835 7577
68 Orchard Road
#02-01 Plaza Singapura
Tel: 6337 7446
180 Kitchener Road
#04-15/16 City Square Mall
Tel: 6509 9134