Purists will say that Fu Chun is where you will find the most authentic xiao long bao. Our advice? Eat around and make your own mind up!
Dumplings come in many shapes and sizes, but Xiao long bao are probably the most famous. They earn their name from their traditional preparation in xiao long, which are small bamboo steaming baskets, and are generally thought to have been invented in the late 19th century during the Qing Dynasty, in the town of Nan Xiang, now part of Shanghai.
A dumpling can describe anything from gnocchi to matzo balls and pirogi, but really its a blanket term that the West has applied to a wide variety of dough-based snacks from Asia without taking into account the cooking method, ingredients or wrapping style. In fact, when you think you are eating xiao long bao outside of Shanghai you are quite often eating something slightly different like Nanjing tang bao. But no matter: order xiao long bao in Shanghai and you won’t be disappointed.
With their thin dough skin, xiao long bao are delicate creations. The very best are quite exquisite to look at too, like little yellow skinned figs through the dough of which you can see the hot pork filling and the soup released by the steaming. The very best xiao long bao are meant to have exactly 14 pleats at the top.
There are some iconic restaurants for xiao long bao in Shanghai, their spiritual home. Nan Xiang Xialong Mantou is more than 100 years old and can be found near the City God Temple, where you can try some extraordinary crab-filled dumplings. Avoid the gimmicky giant xiao long bao, though.
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