I must admit, I have become a bit of a dumpling snob in recent years. In particular the Xiao Long Bao.
First introduced to me in Seoul, I fell in love with this beautiful soup dumpling after a visit to Los Angeles, and my brother took me to a place called Din Tai Fung. I was warned there would be a long wait and while it moved relatively quickly, we finally got a table after about 30 minutes.
Let me tell you, it was WELL worth the wait! We sat down and placed our orders for a some rice, dumplings, and the famous Xiao Long Bao.
Here is the Wikipedia definition of Xiao Long Bao, for those of you new to the world of dumplings
My first mistake was being too eager…I literally burned my mouth and nearly spat the whole thing out! To me that is the height of rudeness so i tried my best to keep it in and swished a bit of cold water to neutralise what felt like boiling liquid in my mouth.
Once the initial burn (and embarrassment) had worn off, I had another go.
The taste was…sublime. Soft light wrapping encasing a perfectly seasoned pork sup inside. From that moment I was hooked.
Ever since, I have always been on the lookout for these types of dumplings.
The best one I have ever had was at the Singaporean branch of Din Tai Fung
This Singaporean branch of the original Taiwanese restaurant is immensely popular and even though we went after the lunch rush, we still had to wait about 20 minutes.
When we returned to London I almost forgot about my dumpling love. That is until I read a Timeout article that mentioned a “Michelin Star” dumpling in London- a cool collab between Dumplings Legend and Michelin starred restaurant Pied à Terre.
The Michelin star dumpling in question was none other than the Xiao Long Bao.
“Amazing! Have you heard this Bae?” I shoved my phone into his face so he could see why I had that crazy look in my eye again.
And so we went. We called to make a reservation and was told they don’t take them so headed down there just after the lunch rush (about 2:30pm).
Dumplings Legend is based in China Town – right on the Gerrard street.
It is not hard to miss – big lettering outside, and as you walk in you see the glass room enclosing all the dumpling makers we saw a similar site in Din Tai Fung in Singapore.
We had about a 10 minute wait and then were sat and told to place our orders using the supplied sheet.
The ambiance is ok – quiet and not too clinky – which is rare for a restaurant in Chinatown.
Bae asked about THOSE dumplings and we were told they are not in the regular menu – so you do have to request them specially.
We ordered a few more things like Char Siu Buns, Prawn and Chive dumplings, Lotus leaf Rice wrap and some other items
Above: Quail Egg and Pork Dumpling
This is Cheung Fung with deep fried dough but basically are fried doughnut strips encased in dumpling skin that come with a sweet gravy – delicious
Prawn and Chive dumplings
I also had simply the best sesame prawn toast ever!
The main event came after a short wait. You get 3 Dumplings for £9 which is very steep. However, it was Michelin starred right?
I gingerly picked one up and put it on my spoon, then placed a couple of slivers of ginger and a splash of the supplied vinegar (essential when eating Xiao Long Bao)
I have to say that it was such an anticlimax. I got an overwhelming taste…of..bacon? The smoked eel had an definite smokiness that overpowered the whole dumpling and the delicate flavour of the foie gras was totally lost.
The casing was a bit dry and I would have preferred a thinner skin. I understand that there is a process of wrapping it numerous times, but I have seen it done with better finesse.
Overall I would not recommend spending that much money for it. Perhaps if you have never had a soup dumpling, you would enjoy it, but for those who know what the taste of Xiao Long Bao is SUPPOSED to be, there are plenty of better tasting dumplings on their menu worth trying.
Also £3 a dumpling! Gimme a break!
If you do want to see what the fuss is about, here is a link to the Timeout article.
If you just want some good dumplings in London, here are a few of my top picks
Hakkasan (££££) for those who want to splurge, this is Chinese cooking at it’s best. Uplifted and elevated flavours combine with traditional ingredients to make for a wonderful and gourmet dumpling experience
Yauatcha (£££) light airy space, modern interior, fired dumplings were lovely and light, the Xiao Long Bao was better than average (though skins were a bit thick)
Pearl Liang (££) Bae’s family favourite is based within the Paddington Basin development in Sheldon Square. The restaurant is dark but smart decor, serves great dim sum and is reasonable prices
New World Chinese Restaurant (££) one of the only, if not THE only restaurant that still serves their dim sum by pushing a cart around and letting diners pick up what they want to eat. My personal favourite and a London Chinatown institution. Experience the trolley before it’s gone