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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Spring in Taiwan 2017 - All the Xiao Long Bao 小笼包 We Ate

One of the must eat food in Taiwan is Xiao Long Bao, which translates as small cage buns. The cage here is the steaming baskets, :-)
The most famous one, is the Michelin star studded Din Tai Fung, but it's not voted as the best in Taiwan. Read and watch a video about the rankings here.

Whenever we hear Xiao Long Bao, we think of soupy dumplings with a thin dough skin, but no........ there are two types of Xiao Long Bao in Taiwan. Some places sell Xiao Long Bao that is made with yeasted dough, and they look like mini steamed pork buns. The one with soupy fillings and thin dough skin is sometimes referred to as  汤包 (Tang Bao, soup buns).

My friend and I tried  Xiao Long Bao at 4 eateries.
1. Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 @ Sogo Fuxing Store
2. FuDing Soup Dumplings 福鼎湯包店
3. ZhengChang Fresh Meat Soup Dumplings (Luodong branch) 正常鮮肉小湯包(羅東店)
4. ZhouJia Steamed Dumplings 周家蒸餃

So I guess, I can write a stand alone post about all of them, hahaha!

1. Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 @ Sogo Fuxing Store

The most famous Xiao Long Bao in Taiwan, but rated as no2 by the Taiwanese. It has many branches all over Taipei, and most of them are located in strategic locations with Metro access. I read, the waiting lines are always long, if one comes during lunch or dinner hours. So, we came here at 4.30pm, and got seated right away. When we left at 5.30pm, we saw the queue extending for about 15 persons.

We ordered these.

The wrapping seems not as good, unlike what DTF usually prides themselves on. Frankly, the one I had in Malaysia's E-Curve branch looks much nicer.

This one is the nicest looking one, but yet, it's not that nice. The price her is premium range, so, there's a bit of expectations :-)

The original XLB taste pretty good. Compared to the branch in Malaysia, the filling is more juicy and tender.

Luffa XLB is eeekkk...... forgettable! The woody smell of Luffa is so prominent, seems under cooked, and it's totally not appetizing at all.

Pork Chop Fried Rice, good! Generous sized pork chop with delicious golden fried rice.

There are many branches in Taipei, just take your pick. I came here because I was shopping in this area  :-)

2. FuDing Soup Dumplings 福鼎湯包店

I found this shop by looking around google map, trying to find somewhere for breakfast around the brown Metro line. It's an unranked shop, unknown to many tourists. But look at the ratings, it's not bad. In fact, we liked it a lot.
This shop is pretty far off from Taipei city center, but, it's very near WanFang Hospital Metro Station. If you are heading to Taipei Zoo, or to MaoKong, it's just 2 stations away.

This shop is open from 7am-9.30pm. So, you can come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We were supposed to come here for breakfast, but due to some weather issues, we rescheduled our itinerary, and came here for dinner instead.

Prices are displayed at the doorway
Arriving at around 7pm, the restaurant was full! Maybe they came here right after work. But soon after that, there were less customers in the shop.

We ordered their Yellow Chives Soup Buns 韭黄鲜肉汤包TWD80, and they are not shaped like the usual Xiao Long Bao, instead they are shaped like ingots. Very soupy, light flavoured and delicious!

The second one is this prawn dumpling 虾仁蒸饺 TWD110. A mixture of prawn and pork fillings, and there's yellow chives in there too.

I saw this generously coated sesame azuki pastry 豆沙锅饼TWD60 on the internet, and it was this that lured me to this shop. LOL. The main thing that I really wanted to eat.

Crispy, fragrant and indulgently sweet. So good!

And I love their small dishes, looks so appetizing. Everything in the glass cabinet goes for TWD40 and are for self service. We took broccoli and fern shoots only. I didn't try the rest. Both vegetable were lightly flavoured and coated with a bit of sesame oil.

When we arrived, nothing much was left, but when we were leaving, the glass cabinet was filled up again.

Top left: Beansprouts, top right: anchovies with tofu
Bottom left: Pickled white bitter gourd and braised radish (I think), Bottom right: eggplant

order chit

After we paid the bill, we saw cold drinks in their fridge, and we each bought a drink at TWD15, Wintermelon tea and Soy Milk both tasted good, not too sweet.

I wish I could try more on their menu, but two ladies can't eat that much.
Prices are really fair, quality, aren't that far from Ding Tai Fung, seriously, this is a good shop. I will definitely come back here if I ever go to Taipei again.

3. ZhengChang Fresh Meat Soup Dumplings (Luodong branch) 正常鮮肉小湯包(羅東店)

No 3 in all of Taiwan!!

There is one obvious difference for their XLB. It has that typical Yilan thing, Spring Onions or Scallions... and lots of it!!

Spring onions are a huge thing in Yilan. And these taste more like Welsh onions to me. Most of the eateries that uses a lot of spring onions will use this machine to help slice it very finely.

So, they will clean the spring onions, air dry them in colanders and slice when needed.

Each bun is hand wrapped, but they are not hand rolled. See that machine next to the man. The machine rolls it for them. Different dumplings formed by different hands, hence they do not have a uniformed look, unlike Din Tai Fung.

We were hungry and ordered one plate each.

Juicy juicy!! Taste wise, it's more peppery too. Price wise... super pocket friendly!
TWD70 for 10 buns.The cheapest for dumplings of the same kind.

In Yilan County, there are 2 major names for Xiao Long Bao, It's ZhengChang正常 and ZhengHao正好,and they have branches all over the county, in Toucheng, in Suao, in Jiaoxi, they are all related, if they go by these two names in front. But..... the 3rd word onward will be different. They call their dumplings either way 汤包 or 小笼包, or even marry the words together. The shop in Wujie is even more confusing, the signboard says ZhengHao, but once you enter, the words on the wall is ZhengChang, hahahaha! Anyway, both names are different, but yet they are the same thing!

正好鮮肉湯包 - in Wujie town, Yilan
正好鮮肉小籠包 - in Yilan City
正好鮮肉小籠湯包 - in Taipei City
正常小籠包 - near Yilan Station
正常鮮肉湯包 - in Toucheng, Yilan
正常鮮肉小湯包 - in Luodong City

Give them a big thumbs up for creativity in naming their branches. They differ in their off days, so it's easy to look for another shop to suit your timetable , just google for another shop.

4. ZhouJia Buns and Dumplings 周家蒸餃 in Hualien

ZhouJia's XLB is the yeasted dough type. Unlike the other 3 types mentioned above.
Satisfying!!! That's our no1 comment about this shop. Taste wise and price wise, 4 thumbs up from us.

Although GongZheng Baozi seems to be more popular, but it's only popular with tourists. Ask the locals and they will vouch for ZhouJia, of which is just next to it. Actually it was ZhouJia who started selling XLB at GongZheng road.

ZhouJia is 24 hours, so, if one is ever hungry in the middle of the night, they are there.
And we wanted an early breakfast before we head to Taroko.... it was the perfect breakfast for the day.

Prices of their food is on the wall. They sell freshly steamed dumplings and frozen dumplings.

The star of the shop, fluffy XLB 小笼包 mini steamed buns filled with juicy pork filling. And these minis aren't that mini. They are at least 2.5inches wide! TWD50 for 10 pcs, at just TWD5 each, it's like 70sen each only!!

If it's not because the hotel will be packing our breakfast for us to take away, I will be buying these buns to eat in Taroko National Park. They taste so good!

We also ordered a basket of dumplings. TWD30 for these 10 pieces. Seriously..... TWD3 per piece, as in 42sen each..... This type of pricing does not exist in Malaysia for freshly steamed dumplings.

If I stayed another day in Hualien, I'll be having these again for breakfast and supper, hahahaha!

Besides these 4 that I had, 
there are countless Xiao Long Bao shops in Taiwan, 
Do share with me, 
if you know of other good places 


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