Xiao Long Bao/ Tang Bao discussion [SFB]

You may or may not be actually eating the standard XiaoLongBao. I think that is a trend. Either you can say that XLB is changing or that it has been taken over.

The fillings (for one) are quite different. One has added liquid. One has added pork skin (provide gelatin). The ways the dough (skin) is made are also different. In fact, the dough wasn’t even like this 60+ years ago. Back then, 1/3rd fermented dough and 2/3rd non-fermented dough (or some ratio like this). Now, the dough is entirely non-fermented.

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You and your namesake hfshen nailed it. What Din Tai Fung, Jia Jia Tang Bao, and a lot of new imitators serve are Nanjing Tang Bao, not Xiao Long Bao. I had my xiao long epiphany in 1992 (April 7, 1992, to be exact) and was a XLB zealot for the next 20 years, but was confused about what different factions considered good xiao long bao until I encountered Shen’s explanation.

True XLB have thicker skins, less soup, more meat and tend to hold their shape better when lifting. They also have a slightly sharper flavor component which I haven’t been able to isolate, but may hve something to do with sesame oil.

Din Tai Fung has spurred the confusion by calling their Nanjing Tang Bao XLB; their most worthy competitor, Jia Jia Tang Bao, is more honest in its naming of the dumplings. Most forthcoming with its nomenclature is the small but well-established chain named Nanjing Tang Bao.

The benchmark for true Xiao Long Bao can be found at the now tourist-swamped Nanxiang Xiaolong Mantou Dian. [Note: Shanghainese people never call them xiao long bao; it’s always xiao long mantou.]

True XLB at Nanxiang Xiaolong Mantou Dian in 1995 (my BIL in background):


Not sure if they are Nanjing Tang Bao for sure, but they are Tang Bao (soup bun).

I did tried that, it was the molecular XLB from Bo Innovation in Hong Kong…actually no meat in the sphere too… just the taste. It’s good, but I don’t feel satisfied.

The questions about thinner skin is it better. On a certain level, thinner skin is better technique, texture = better taste in mouth. I think after all it depends if the skin is done correctly. The point is usually the skin is broken and juice is gone before landing on the spoon.

Yeah- Let me move it when the discussion dies down so folks don’t have the issue of not able to find the thread to reply to.

:smiley: Well, I won’t say the thicker the skin the better they are, but I don’t belong to “the thinner the skin the better” camp neither. There is an optimal thickness.

Now, on the XiaoLongBao vs Tang Bao. First, they are very similar and share the same origin. However, there are some differences. I thought this 1:50 min video will be helpful. For one you can see the fillings are actually different.

At 0:50 time, water was added to create the soup for KaiFeng Tang Bao
At 1:15 time, pork skin (or other form of gelatin) was added and will melt to liquid after steaming for XiaLongBao.

This is why the liquid content won’t be the same for these two styles.

I don’t think Kaifeng Tang Bao have anything to do with either Nanjing or Nanxiang style XLB.

Can you elaborate about the disconnection between KaiFeng Tang Bao and others?

The discussion was about Nanjiing tang bao versus traditional Shanghai xiao long bao (which originated in Nanxiang). Kaifeng tang bao is a different, larger bao from 1000 kilometers away.

The discussion is about xiao long bao in general vs tang bao in general. Conversations expand and contract. This very thread was splintered out of a different thread. Regarding KaiFeng tang bao being much larger. That was true a long time ago. They are not that large anymore.

Did you happen to watch the video I put the link to? The KaiFeng tang bao do not look that large. The video also explains that XiaoLongBao was based on the tradition passed from KaiFeng. The video didn’t say, but there is a historical reason for this.

I don’t know if you can read Chinese, but here is another statement which explain the importance of KaiFeng origin:



Yes, KaiFeng is far away, but that does not take away its influence. XiaoLongBao-like Tang Bao-like all started in North Song Dynasty in China, and Northern Song capital was KaiFeng. When Song capital was conquered, many of its culture moved southward say, today Shanghai and other places. I won’t say XLB has nothing to do with KaiFeng tang bao.

The gentleman in the video referred to the smaller ‘tang bao’ as kaifeng tang bao. Perhaps the terms are interchangeable nowadays. Some more info about Kaifeng Tang Bao:

Today’s kaifeng tang bao are small. The large ones are not often seen anymore. If a person goes to KaiFeng and simply ask for tang bao, he/she will be most likely introduced to the small one.

Anyway, my earlier point is that these tang bao and xiao long bao do not distinguish themselves just from size and skin thickness. There are many other important factors too, like the filling.

As someone who hasn’t tried any bao/mantou in Shanghai, or elsewhere in China, I am intrigued by XLB, and “Nanjing-style Tang Bao”. After all, if Souperman was able to eat both thick and thin-skinned styles out of Shanghai before “realizing” the style difference is between types mentioned by Westerners by only the same dude, Shen Hongfei (沈宏非). I think it is helpful to designate between very thin skin/emphasis on soup dumplings from thicker skin, emphasis on meatball dumpling, but I’m not as much a classifier as many appear to be. Though I am interested as to whether the classification came from physical properties, which weren’t correlated with type until Shen brought them up in recent history, or whether preferences for thin skins were less regional than implied, and thin-skinned preferences were retronymed to match a subtype found in, but not exclusive to, or necessarily of Nanjiang.
In ant case, I’ve enjoyed those at Koi Palace (Daly City), Shanghai (Oakland), and haven’t liked any in the Dumpling Kingdom empire, explicitly those in Union City and the Sunset were far too doughy.

It’s pretty much a given that the place that made the product and the term “xiao long bao” known to people from outside Shanghai is the Nanxiang Mantou Dian in the historical Yu Garden area (Lao Cheng Huang Miao), where it overlooks the famous “blue willow” tea house and its nine-turns bridge. It was established in the year 1900. I’ve eaten there over a 20 year span from 1992 (when Din Tai Fung didn’t exist outside of Taiwan) through 2011 inclusive, and haven’t noticed any difference in the wrapper or filling of the XLB there over time.

The XLB dubbed “Nanjing Tang Bao” by Shen Hongfei are clearly a variation, and deserve a distinguishing name, whether the variation is historical and geographical or just stylistic. I first encountered the style at the original Jia Jia Tang Bao on Henan Nan Lu, well off the beaten path in 2006, and it’s notable that they never use the term “xiao long bao,” only “tang bao” for their products (see their current menu here).

Din Tai Fung’s founder was from Shanxi and left China in 1948, but didn’t start selling steamed buns until more than 30 years after he left China. Where he learned to make them or why they got labeled as “xiao long bao” is unknown, but stylistically they are nearly identical to Jia Jia’s “tang bao,” not to Nanxiang Mantou Dian’s “xiao long bao.”

One potential “sleeper” you should try is Little Shanghai in San Mateo. Before regional chinese got as much love as now, this one one of the fewer shanghai places. XLB are pretty good, or at least a place that should go on one’s list to try — likely wouldn’t make people’s most brilliant list.

I also like the crab XLB at Su Hong Palo Alto. The style is very thin skin, but somewhat low on soup. I also eat the ones at Steam in Palo Alto ( same as TaiPan in PA ) but they’re only ok - they’re just close to home :-). iDumpling in RWC is about the same, serviceable.

Those actually look thicker than what I’m accustomed to.

What CKShen posted is pretty much correct. Xiao Long Tang Bao is the more ‘accurate’ term for the Din Tai Fung style ‘bao’ that we commonly see now in Shanghai restaurants.

XLB as it is known in other parts of China refer to the more doughy version, and sized somewhere between a XLTB and a true northern pork bao.

Here’s the explanation I posted “awhile” ago on CH (then saved to my blog): http://eat.tanspace.com/2003/11/07/soup-dumplings/

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True Shanghai-style xiao long bao as made famous at the Nanxiang Xiao Long Mantou Dian in Shanghai’s old city beginning in the early years of the 20th Century are no bigger at the base than Din Tai Fung’s “XLB” and do in fact have “soup” generated from pork aspic, just less of it. This has been the case at least since 1992 when I first started visiting Shanghai and has always been so, according to my inlaws. The confusion comes from some establishments (in Shanghai, as well as Din Tai Fung, applying the nomenclature incorrectly to Nanjing Tang Bao.

Outside Shanghai, even as close to Shanghai as Wuxi, they do get bigger (and still can be very soupy, as in Wuxi’s case). There is a walkaway dim sum place in Chinatown here that makes soup-less dumplings/baozi that are halfway between XLB and gou bu li in size and calls them “xiao long bao” but it’s a Cantonese place and the application of the name makes no more sense (from a northern China perspective) than how the term "shui jiao"is applied in Cantonese restaurants.

Maybe we can send Christopher St. Cavish out with his calipers to settle any arguments about xiao long bao vs. Najing tang bao dumpling sizes.

I have had those dumplings in Wuxi, I find them delicious. I don’t know what they’re called, as I was on business, and they got Papa Johns for all the other westerners for lunch and they sent around the corner for Wuxi Dumplings for me every day. My GF didn’t like them ( different trip ), said they were too sweet. Would love to find those dumplings closer to home.

And, wow, the XLB index of shanghai.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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Market stall in Lima
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