Xiao Long Baos (or xlbs, as I affectionately call them) are addictive. Period.
For those who do not know what a “xiao long bao” is, this wondrous morsel is a dumpling filled with pork and a rich porky broth. As far as I know, xlbs are the epitome of a complete sensory experience. When the flood gates (i.e. the delicate skin of the Xlb) open and the flavourful soup bursts out, it is literally the tale of The Ugly Duckling — in food version no less. The inconspicuous off-white xlb transforms into a beautiful, and flavoursome delight.
Well, beauty has a price. Xlbs are a ton of work — each fold on its fragile skin requires skill and dexterity. So, when we heard of a stall in Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre selling xlbs of a higher standard than a certain Taiwanese food chain, we wasted no time and visited immediately.
Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao is run by a Chinese family. The wife takes the orders and adds condiments, the son cooks the noodles, and the husband is in charge of making the xiao long baos. When we arrived at 11.30am on a weekday, a queue had already formed. A lady in front of me casually mentioned how good their business was, to which the humble stall owner remarked that it could be due to the CNY period. Thus, I’ll suggest patronising the stall earlier to avoid the lunch crowd, even though one should still be prepared to queue. Sauces and condiments such as vinegar, ginger and chilli are also available at the stall front.
Of course, we had to order their signature Xiao Long Bao ($ 6 for 10 pieces). What a steal! Upon taking a bite, I was sent to xlb heaven. The standard of this xlb was sublime, with a sturdy skin substantial enough to hold in its contents, yet not too thick at the same time. The xlb soup is a tad sweeter than that of the xlbs at Din Tai Fung, and the pork encased within is tender and well-seasoned. Don’t forget to dip the xlbs into the sauces provided. The sharp tanginess of vinegar cuts through the porky soup, and the chilli went well with the xlb. The chilli packs a punch and is slightly sour (I would say it tastes like chicken rice chilli, without the pungence of garlic). In my opinion, the xlbs here are on par with Din Tai Fung’s, or maybe even better.
We also ordered the La Mian with Fried Bean Sauce aka Zha Jiang Mian($ 3.50), and Beef noodles ($ 4). While I thought that the noodles in both dishes had a nice bite, I found the beef noodles soup a tad too oily. The beef slices also had varying degrees of tenderness – the parts with more fats were more tender, while the leaner parts were tougher. Nonetheless, the beef noodles soup had a fragrant onion and scallion aroma. The La Mian with Fried bean Sauce tastes like the typical Zha Jiang Mian, nothing especially outstanding.
In conclusion, xlb lovers must make a trip to Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao specially for their xlbs. It is THAT good, and totally worth a try. Seriously, $ 6 for 10 Xlbs is such a steal! Try to head down at off-peak hours to avoid the queues that stretch (just like xlb dough HAHA).
Address: #02-135, 335 Smith St, Singapore 050335 (Chinatown Complex Market and Food centre)
Mobile: 9743 5287
Opening Hours: 11.30am to 3pm, and 5pm to 8.30pm daily, closed on Mon and Tues
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.