Seeking Xiao Long Bao
One of my favorite foods is Xiao Long Bao or steamed dumplings. It's a Shanghainese food and consists of a thin wrapping around pork and broth that is then steamed in bamboo baskets. A few variations, of crab meat or vegetables exist, but my favorite tends to be the simple pork-based version.
Xiao Long Bao fans like myself consider a few things to be important when searching for a great xiao long bao. 1) the skin should be delicate and thin. This isn't a thicker dumpling for frying 2) there should be plentiful soup or broth. 3) the quality of the pork, not too fatty, not too dry, is important.
In China, especially Shanghai, there are a multitude of top-notch restaurants serving this regional specialty with fans adamant about which they find the greatest. Across the world, Din Tai Fung, started in Taiwan but whose founder was from China, is widely considered to be the best. With outposts in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United States, Din Tai Fung is a xiao long bao fan or novice's best way to sample this fantastic dish.
While I mention the United States as a location for Din Tai Fung, it's a travesty the locations are currently limited to Los Angeles and Seattle. I've been to both locations, but given the Bay Area's large ethnic population, continue to be surprised we don't have one to call our own. And unlike NYC, which has their famous Joe's Shanghai as a substitute, I'm hard pressed to strongly recommend any local versions as Din Tai Fung replacements.
Thus, I continue to seek Xiao Long Bao in the area. Whenever a new spot opens, I'll be there. Until then, let's hope Din Tai Fung comes soon.
The following are a few of the better choices in the Bay Area:
1) Yank Sing, San Francisco
2) Hu Chiang Dumpling House, Cupertino
3) Shanghai Dumplings, Saratoga