With its tender minced meat encased in a flavourful broth and smooth flour skin, it’s no wonder that xiao long bao is fast becoming a fixture in our Chinese palate. There’s little not to love about this bite-sized offering of meat and broth, which is why restaurants and eateries across the country are catching on to this delicious trend faster than you can say, “zai lai yi long!” (translation: bring me another!)
Confessing your ignorance about this dish is about as sacrilegious as, say, telling others that you don’t like to eat chicken rice; it’s just not possible. Thankfully, there are many places you can go to to “right the wrongs” and taste the legend of xiao long bao yourself. 😉
Having grown from its humble beginnings as a zhi char stall to the renowned restaurant empire that we know today, Paradise Dynasty is no stranger to the diverse flavours of Chinese cuisine. Its signature dish – you guessed it – the multi-coloured Dynasty Xiao Long Bao, comes in a whopping 8 flavours which includes the Original flavour that started it all. 😉
Savouring this dish is like a culinary art itself; from the time your waiter or waitress lifts the cover with a flourish, to when you pick the first bao from the steaming depths of the basket with your chopsticks, the secret to a good xiao long bao (or at least a decent one) lies in both its skin and filling.
Bite delicately into the pinched top without bursting too much of it, and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of flavour and soup in your mouth. Which also means that the skin must be durable enough to hold its filling, but delicate enough to release that flavour upon one bite.
Unfortunately, Paradise Dynasty’s xiao long bao skin fell just short; I think I spent more effort around biting into it instead of slurping that deliciously savoury broth. A waste if the skin ends up coming off altogether and you’ve to swallow it whole, which is what I ended up doing for most of ‘em baos.
Correct me if I’m wrong on about how to go about biting it, but that’s just my thought. (On the bright side it means I’ll have to sample another long – for purely research purposes, of course. 😛 )
Ok, I should probably stop harping on the skin and move on to the stuff that matters: the stuff that’s inside the skin.
Yes, those vibrant, rainbow hues that make Paradise Dynasty’s xiao long bao look like the tops of ice gem biscuits are no mere marketing ploy, but natural ingredients that give the baos their distinctive colour, as well as add to the flavours which include, in the order in which they should be eaten:
- Original (white)
- Ginseng (green)
- Foie gras (brown)
- Black Truffle (black)
- Cheese (yellow)
- Crab Roe (orange)
- Garlic (grey)
- Szechuan (pink)
The novelty flavours are very subtle as compared to the explosion of flavour I was expecting initially, with the Ginseng, Truffle and Szechuan flavours giving off a slight, distinct fragrance when I tried them. The Garlic and Cheese baos are a tad too strong for my liking and overwhelmed the flavour of the meat.
As for the Crab Roe and Foie Gras, well – let’s just say that they are decent but not exactly distinguishable from the Original, which defeats the purpose of branding them as different coloured concoctions.
Though my favourite of the lot is the Szechuan flavour, I still stand by the Original bao with its broth-infused flavour . After all, nothing beats a classic! 😉
Paradise Dynasty’s multi-coloured xiaolongbao is a quirky novelty that you can indulge in at least once, but if you want the most bang for your buck, just go for the Original once you’ve had your taste of the so-called flavour spectrum.
Still, it’s quite fun to go through all those flavours and try to guess which is which without referring to the menu. Makes a good conversation starter and yes, it is reasonably filling on its own. 😀
Of course, those aren’t the only dishes I’ve sampled at Paradise Dynasty, but that’s a post I’ll save for another day. Till then, stay tuned! 😉