Dim Sum: Shanghai Dumpling (Xiao Long Bao)

Name: Xiao Long Bao
Primary Ingredient(s): Pork, Shrimp
Type of Dish: Dumpling
Method of Preparation: Steamed

Yank Sing – San Francisco, CA – 5/30/2010

I haven’t done one of these in a while, and I am long overdue. The recent journey to San Francisco gave me the opportunity to partake in some Dim Sum that falls outside of the realm of the popular here in the Seattle area. This allowed me to have a dish called a Shanghai Dumpling, something that I have yet to come across here in the Emerald City.

Trying to explain a Shanghai Dumpling is akin to trying to describe a comfortable night’s rest. While a fair amount of the Dim Sum I’ve had has been sturdy, hearty fare, the Shanghai Dumpling is something else entirely. Soft and delicate, it sits in a spoon like a pillow. If made well, it gives the appearance as if it will fall apart if someone gave it a rude glance.

It also comes with a bit of a ritual about it, which makes it additionally attractive to me. As it was explained to me, a bit of vinegar must be placed within a soup spoon; a hot dumpling should be placed upon the vinegar; and a bit of shredded ginger should be placed upon the dumpling. It is then to be eaten immediately.

The result is a course that breaks the onslaught of deep fried dumplings and sturdy steamed hum baos. It’s like a bridge before a chorus, a tender ballad before some Memphis blues, delicate foreplay before intercourse. Do you sense a running theme here?

As I’ve been discovering over the past year or so, there are dozens, if not hundreds of different Dim Sum dishes that are out there. Shanghai Dumplings are one of only a few that have obtained cult status. There’s a good reason for that.

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