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Shanghai's Delicious Import: Soup Dumplings

Danielle Tarasiuk |
November 4, 2013 | 8:19 p.m. PST

Senior Reporter

(Soup Dumplings/ Creative Commons)
(Soup Dumplings/ Creative Commons)
Until recently, Angelenos had to brave traffic into the San Gabriel Valley to satisfy their craving for xiaolongbao (shao-long-bao), a soup dumpling from Shanghai. The delectable item—a doughy wrapper holds a hot, fatty broth in which floats a ball of meat—were virtually unknown outside of L.A.’s large Chinese community.

Then ROC Kitchen opened a year ago in West L.A.’s Little Osaka neighborhood, serving more than ten different kinds of soup dumplings and making it the only restaurant west of the 10 freeway to serve xiaolongbao.

In the months since people have packed the modern space nightly to get a sampling. Now the popular Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung is adding an outlet at The Americana at Brand in Glendale. A 30-year-old Arcadia location already attracts patrons from all over Los Angeles, who wait an average of an hour and half on weekends for a taste of these savory dumplings. But Din Tai Fung owner Joanne Yang wanted to shorten the commute for its fans. “We have a lot of loyal customers from the Westside,” says Yang. “We are expanding our service for them, so they don’t have to make the long drive.” 

Eating the savory soup dumplings is almost as complicated as making them. First, gently plop the dumpling on a flat spoon, then take a small bite out of its side. After the steam blows out from inside, a loud, obnoxious slurp is not just acceptable, but welcome. Often, a tangy vinegar sauce is also served with the dish.

“Xialongbao is a special item, it needs a lot of skill to make it,” says Yang. “You have to take a lot of time to train the chief how to make them.”

Watch how to eat soup dumplings: 

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