I don’t remember ever eating Xiao Long Bao (XLB) when I was a kid. I think it is something that has taken Singapore by storm in the last decade. The beauty of the XLB is the spoonful of soup that you get in each dumpling.
I have always wondered how they managed to get the soup in the dumpling. Was it from the meat or do they somehow add it in. Well it happens that there are many ways of getting the soup in the dumpling. The shortcut way is to add more oil into the meat filling. This would make the dumpling very rich. The proper way is to prepare the soup before hand, chill it such that it has a jelly like consistency and mix it into the meat filling. The soup in the dumpling is thus very light and tasty after having extracted the flavors from the meat filling.
Since we were sitting in a restaurant where the hosts were Shanghainese, I asked them what the proper way to eat XLB was. There are a couple of ways I could think of. I used to dip the whole thing in the vinegar, put a few strands of ginger on top and put the whole thing in my mouth. This way, the dumpling bursts like a balloon in your mouth releasing all that wonderful soup and meaty flavours. (Have to make sure its not too hot) The Lao Ban Niang suggested that one should put the dumpling in the soup spoon, bite a little hole and suck out the soup first, then dip the dumpling in the vinegar and eat the rest. This way you get to savour the beautiful soup first. My son likes to break the whole dumpling open in the bowl, eat the skin first, the meat second and drink the soup from the bowl last. (Talk about menu deconstruction!) So pray tell, how do YOU savour your XLB? (Tell us by taking part in the latest poll!)
The XLB here is very good. There is a good amount of soup in each dumpling and the skin is resilient so that it does not break easily. The Lao Ban had been in the flour business all his life and is very knowledgeable about all sorts of different flours. So the skin of the baos here are excellent. I felt though that it would have been perfect if the skin was a fraction thinner and the filling had more ooomph. Nonetheless it is a XLB that I would rate as one of the best in Singapore. 4.25/5
The Shen Jian Pao (SJP) on the other hand is an item that I would drive all the way from Siglap to eat again tomorrow! This is seriously a delightful and exciting discovery. I would even go so far to say that it is most special Pao one can ever savour.
The Pao is fried in a covered saucepan. So the oil cooks the bottom half of the Pao skin so that it is crisp on the outside. The steam trapped in the saucepan steams the top part of the Pao to a nice fluffy consistency.
When you bite into the Pao, the juices just flow out and, if you are not careful, down onto your chin! So in one bite, you get a tender meat filling, an explosion of juices which is absorbed by the soft skin and lastly a crispy caramelised skin to tease your palate. It is such a joy to eat! I just crave to rave. Crave to rave, I say! Best SJP in Singapore, JB and maybe even Shanghai! 4.75/5
Special Ter Kah (not on the menu) $20
The restaurant serves a host of other Shanghainese favourites like drunken chicken, deep fried ribbon fish, la mian and so on. We were recommended this Shanghainese style Ter Kah which is excellent. Shanghainese Lor (Braising Sauce) is thick, gooey and sweet. The meat is soft and well caramelized. It is different from the Teochew and Hokkien style that we are used to but shiok nonetheless. 4.5/5
The lady in the middle was introduced to us as the Masterchef who taught the Masterchefs in Shanghai, before she came to Singapore. The Lao Ban said that he was extremely fortunate to get her to work in the restaurant. Both he and his wife lived in Singapore for almost 15 years before starting this restaurant out of a love to share their Shanghainese food with Singaporeans. They were passionate about their food and provided great service as well.
The Shen Jian Pao is the best I have ever eaten. Not only I say, my other 3 makankakis all concur that it deserves a 4.75 rating. There is only one potential problem. If you go on a weekend, you have to be prepared to wait a long time for your pao. It takes them quite a while to prepare each one!
They have just opened at Blk 151 Ang Mo Kio ave 5
#01-3046. Please note that they are still shorthanded and the place is small, so it is advisable that you call first before going and you have to be patient as the food will take some time to arrive.