Koi Palace Dublin's Xiao Long Bao -- handmade?

Koi Palace often gets mentioned as having the best local version of xiao long bao (XLB, Shanghai soup dumplings). I’ve been wanting to try their version for a long time, but have had variable experiences at their related restaurants MY China and Dragon Beaux.

I was browsing through y*lp photos of the XLB at Koi Garden, the Koi Palace location in Dublin, and was struck by each XLB’s symmetry and the uniform shape within and across orders. At first I thought the silly foil cup might play a role, but other places using such training wheels have as irregular XLB as ones placed on leaves. Also, the pleating and sealing technique doesn’t look the same as the XLB at their other locations.

XLB are notoriously difficult to make uniformly. I’m wondering whether the 9 folds, symmetry, and pointy tip are indicative of a machine-made, though not necessarily frozen, creation. Not that there would be anything wrong with that if the quality if up to snuff… Thoughts?

Dublin (2014-2015) photos:

2014: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-dublin?select=KuTZY_KVmopNcyhm4yWZYA
2015: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-dublin?select=9LMSFJHJnv7GfQz-TE0a4g
2015: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-dublin?select=lsVEC6751badmJTz_Dk_-A
2015: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-dublin?select=PIyCK4fc0Kwd8_FQARCOpw
2015: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-dublin?select=2Ot3GfTQj8oqR-uixGKVQw
2015: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-dublin?select=PIyCK4fc0Kwd8_FQARCOpw&reviewid=wy4-OaOW0S-XIuZTdXdTew

XLB machines

Wei Chuan brand XLB (lots of Bay Area places sell these):
Real photos: http://mark.gg/2014/03/04/tale-of-two-xiaolongbao/
Marketing piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S3ODmxbQvo

Koi Palace XLB (not Dublin), 2008-2015, huge variability in XLB shape both within and across orders:

2008: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=t8qij_nJN22q6B1aGjg7bQ&userid=_rHwSq8T4T-FbfqgM20ciA
2008: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=us16L3AtEmcj7IOJtoKiHg
2009: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=8aHtd_l0A9S6FQM4MlJGUQ&userid=-6L-o_dWXyU6NYG250PCJQ
2009: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?reviewid=KIn_7-anVBrOZEfx-O9ATg&select=lLH5_ryrT5Y4Ci4RGLmMJg
2010: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?reviewid=nS0qco2ytpgc5I0LheEXUg&select=Qq4pM3cKMjDzlGSpRCkmHA
2011: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=vY493FsXVPIxWVYDyICfTw&reviewid=9B8rRkXQL6kOvW3xqD_XPw
2012 : http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=GlNjEPzrkdecme-iDdpHHg&reviewid=2L05ybxKTxngOaoGbggMbQ
2013: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=t_DLDBPO0RMz5RdFpGnaXA&userid=4X4C16S-3OQCNe3gnqkXlw
2013: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=R0URf053Yg0jqxppSMMSKQ&userid=3nDUQBjKyVor5wV0reJChg
2013: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=nBLRg9fOrk0U62vbCLh_HQ
2015: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/koi-palace-daly-city?select=j89Qgs1blGegk0xxGgsNMw&userid=3LMZ79mM8jGLMyCa6-D4nw

I love Koi, and it is one of my favorite Cantonese restaurant for its great dim sum and for its nice dinner meals. I was also told of its awesome Xiao Long Bao. However, for me, its Xiao Long Bao actually is one of the weaker items. Its Xiao Long Bao is ok, but its other dishes are much better.

I go to the Daly City one.

Same- I didn’t find their XLB to be particularly memorable either. I enjoyed their other dimsums and generally skipped the XLBs on the few occasions I decided, usually unwisely, to brave the crowds.

We might be mistaken – Koi is a Cantonese palace capitalizing on interest in a Shanghainese dish; and aren’t Din Tai Fung’s distinguished by 18 pleats?

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Agree. That being said, I want to be clear, I don’t mean their XLB suck. It is just that if I have to list their top 10 Dim Sum dishes. It won’t make it in my top 10.

All Hong Kong dim sum places have XLB. I think over the years this dish has been assimilated into the cantonese dim sum culture.

Yes, they aim to please. We remember that bBefore the xiao long bao fashion took hold, guo tie started coming out of Cantonese kitchens.

i have not had good experiences with their xlb (at Daly city, haven’t tried Dublin’s). Skins too thick, waterlogged. perhaps the worst i’ve ever had (personal taste of course). Their crab xlb are just as bad (ymmv)

Actually, skins too thick does not brother me. I am one of those who think slightly thicker skin is fine. The taste, however, is lacking. Again, I do think they taste ok, just not great. Whereas their other dim sum are head and shoulders better. :slight_smile:

Lucky Peach has a video with Martin Yan demonstrating how Koi Palace makes their XLB. They also posted a recipe which mentions 10-15 pleats. Those look very different than what’s being sold at the Dublin location. Does that indicate a different chef or the rise of machines?

barleywino’s comment about thick skin and waterlogged might indicate machine-made, but could also be the result of sitting in the steamer too long. Buy a copy of the soup dumpling index for some data on that.

Remember that Din Tai Fung is Taiwanese… Their XLB have 18 pleats. There’s nothing preventing a non-Shanghainese place from making good XLB but there has to be a compelling reason to believe they’re good before I’ll order them.

My rule of thumb used to be to only order XLB in Shanghainese places— that’s gotten me into trouble because XLB are a specialty item, and not necessarily part of a Shanghainese kitchen’s repertoire. It’s like expecting to get a bagels and lox at Arinell’s because they have NY style pizza. The majority of Shanghainese places in the Bay Area make lousy XLB. I can think of only one Shanghainese place that doesn’t sell XLB (e.g., Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale), and more power to them for not foisting sub-par or frozen XLB on customers.

The biggest fault of a thick skin is that the top knot gets too thick, sometimes inedible and undercooked like in a Georgian Kinkhali.

To be sure, You are an XLB connoiseur.

Over a decade ago, we first learned about XLB at the modern source on Songgao (?) Road around the corner from the wonderful stalls. A year later or so, serrendipity took us to Joe’s Shanghai on Pell in NYC where we explained to best friends (whose idea it was) what we knew about XLB . . . fast forward a couple years to a Singapore mall with its glassed-in kitchen and indescribable “pudding” after all the savouries including handmade 18-pleat XLB. . .

We have our own take on 18 – 8, of course makes sense; and 1+8 = 9 . . what more do you want . . .

All that said, it’s why we love the Cantonese, if what is true about the reputation: we have to eat to live, but living to eat is better.

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I’m not sure where Koi got their reputation for good XLB, but the one time I had them there they were such wretched examples I never tried them again.

Since we’re playing show and tell, here’s my XLB gallery (from Bay Area and Shanghai):

I was on a 20-year XLB quest until my last stay in Shanghai four years ago. I stayed a 5-minute walk from a Jia Jia Tang Bao branch and had XLB for breakfast every other day for a month. I concluded it was pointless to eat them anywhere else.


Epic album! Note that some of those XLB look like what’s in the Martin Yan video and at the older KP locations, but nothing resembles what’s at the Dublin location. I’m kind of puzzled how one would create the hershey-kiss top on an XLB. Pinching off excess dough, or using a scissor, produces a blunter tip (I say from my sad attempts at making XLB at home).

5 posts were split to a new topic: Sheng jian bao in the Bay Area

What’s the reason Jia Jia has the sauce plate in the bamboo tray? I get that people use that for vinegar, but why inside the tray? Isn’t it hot to try to grab that plate to put vinegar in it?

Do they have the window into the dim sum kitchen in Dublin? I vaguely remember they may have the window in Daly City (not sure). If you are there, maybe you can just see if they have a machine.

I have no idea why they do it (other than making life easier for the servers, who use two hands to carry the steamers, since they are often stacked). It’s easy enough, even for a klutz like me, to quickly flip over the dish without burning ones fingers.

XLB, i ate once, wasn’t impressed.
heard from a former driver transporting food from their south bay commisery to all Koi Outlets.
i.e. not every entree made inhouse at every location.
-dim sum/dumplings made offsite as well as some popular dishes.

Can you tell us the purpose of the inverted cup in some of the steaming baskets? To allow more even steaming? Something else?

I think they’ve jumped on the band wagon myself. And I’ve found them generally disappointing, when served from a cart, so no long get them. I wait til I’m at a Shanghainese place.