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Eating Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings)

Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) pictures (6 of 7)

Last Friday night, my colleagues and I went to Ding Tai Fung in Arcadia, the famed outpost of the multi-million dumpling house originated from Taipei. After watching my American colleague repeatedly burning his tongue by the piping hot Xiao Long Bao and had the “soup” inside the dumpling squirting all over his shirt and face, I asked him the following question:

“Do you know how to eat Xiao Long Bao?” (learn how to eat Xiao Long Bao properly after the jump)

Xiao Long Bao/小笼包/Shanghai Soup Dumplings)As obnoxious and condescending as my question sounds, eating Xiao Long Bao is indeed an art and a technique; it’s not just about putting the food in your mouth, chew, and swallow–which guarantees two mishaps my colleague encountered! There really are certain ways to eating Xiao Long Bao, if you wanted to truly savor the essence and juiciness of this delicacy.

So, I thought I would put together a step-by-step guide to eating Xiao Long Bao for those of you who haven’t yet tried out Xiao Long Bao. I am not going to write or describe the pleasing flavor of Xiao Long Bao as this is the kind of food that you just have to experience yourself. Words–especially my shallow English vocabulary–will do no justice.

Xiao Long Bao/小笼包/Shanghai Soup DumplingsStep-by-Step Guide to Eating Xiao Long Bao (click the image above to view all steps) or Shanghai Soup Dumplings:

  1. Pour some vinegar to the shredded ginger. (Xiao Long Bao’s are always served with shredded ginger and Chinese black vinegar.)
  2. Gently pick up a Xiao Long Bao with the chopsticks and make sure that you don’t break the skin. You can do so by holding the Xiao Long Bao in the middle.
  3. Gently dip the Xiao Long Bao in the ginger vinegar sauce.
  4. Lift it up and place it on the spoon.
  5. Nibble the side of the Xiao Long Bao and suck the soup/broth inside the Xiao Long Bao. (This is the best way of savoring the meaty, juicy, and flavorful broth/soup inside the dumpling.)
  6. Add some ginger and vinegar (as you like) to the dumpling and eat the rest.

Voila! No more broken dumplings and wasted soup, and definitely no more burnt tongues and stained shirts. *wink*


  1. I didn’t make these Xiao Long Bao, they are the frozen Xiao Long Bao I ordered from Ding Tai Fung. Just steam them for 10 minutes and they are almost as good as eating in.
  2. If you are in Penang, go to Shanghai Ding.

Ding Tai Fung
1108 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
Phone: (626) 574-7068

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37 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Vicki

    Pavlov must have trained me with xiao long bao instead of a bell, I immediately salivated when I saw that first pic!

  2. tigerfish

    Ding Tai Fung! They are everywhere yet I have not tried it yet! :O I must! I know I’m in Taiwan now but I don’t think I’m making a trip to Taipei anytime soon. OK. They are also in Sg. Maybe I can start a XLB trail when I go back. There is a Nan Xiang XLB too.

    Yeh, this is the way to enjoy XLB.

    Hee hee, some say the perfect XLB in physical appearance is to “look like bell in the bamboo steamer but a lantern when lifted with chopsticks”…yummy-loso!

  3. Manggy

    I’ve never had xiao long bao, though I hear it is a real treat! Guess I will have to try and make my own… Gulp :P

  4. ChichaJo

    It sounds amazingly delicious! I know of one place that serves it here and I will put your tips to practice soon!

  5. Claude-Olivier

    je crois que je vais commencer a te laisser des commentaires en francais, car sinon je dis toujours la meme chose ;-) it’s awsone. your picture…the recipe..all. you’re the best! cheers

  6. Annie & Nate

    OMG, Bee, your pics and descriptions made my mouth water so much. Must…have…some…XLB…now…

  7. Justin

    Being Chinese the way you described how to eat it was second nature to me and by all means not condescending, I guess we are just smart! :)

  8. BuddingCook

    yea i love these dumplings. i’ve been here a couple of times. :D i think i’ve burnt my tongue before! :D hehe

  9. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Great post! I am always the person who bites into the dumpling and the dumpling falls apart and all over the table, so these instructions are just what I need. And, as always, beautiful photos.

  10. persis

    Some people like to use the ginger strips to brush the vinegar onto the xiao long bao. The brush method is also helpful if your dumpling breaks – you don’t ruin the whole batch of vinegar!

  11. AppetiteforChina

    DTF sells frozen dumplings? Is this just in the US? I’m so missing out.

    You can also nibble an end, and then blow into the xiaolongbao for about 30 seconds. Then it becomes cool enough to eat whole.

  12. Anonymous

    Nice… I love Xiao Long Bao! I had them first in Singapore and then in Shanghai last year… they so good with that warm soup inside…

  13. mycookinghut

    Very good write up! I will remember the way you wrote to eat Xiao Long Bao the next time I go for Dim Sum!

  14. Jessica

    How amusing – this is the first time that I stumbled upon your blog, and as soon as I saw Ding Tai Fung… I thought, “That’s it, this blog is getting bookmarked.” I was in Arcadia last summer (I’m from Nebraska, so I’m a loooong 1,500 miles away), and I had the pleasure of eating there. Sigh! If only…

  15. worldwindows

    Picking up the bao and placing on the spoon without breaking the skin and spilling the liquid is half the battle won. Yes, I agree with persis. Brushing the vinegar on the bao with the ginger may be better than dipping it into the sauce plate.

  16. Nilmandra

    Oh man, I could kill for some Xiao Long Bao now! *drool* Actually the husband and I prefer the ones from Crystakl Jade (in Singapore) rather than Din Tai Fung. But they are both lovely. Doesn’t Din Tai Fung print instructions for eating Xiao Long Bao on their chopsticks sleeve/packaging? I’ve seen them in the Singapore outlets.

  17. daphne

    I’m so addictied to those. I like the ones in Lao Bejing best in SG but Ding Tai Fung ones r great too.

  18. lingzie

    ah xiao long bao… i love them! i can just order one portion of them all for myself! lol
    i didn’t know ding tai fung sold frozen ones…maybe not here in msia. i haven’t tried DTF in KL, a friend went and had a disastrous experience with the la mien. the soup came out lukewarm and the la mien was stuck into one lump. hopefully that was just a one off experience when the kitchen was having a bad day!

  19. Indo Dreamin'

    I live in China now and the Xiao Long Bao here are friggin awesome. But rather than suck out the soup first, I put the dumpling in the spoon and then piece the skin with the tip of my chopstick so the soup flows out, then I have it all together when the soup cools down a bit….

  20. matt wright

    hands down, my favorite pictures of yours. You have managed to caputre the delicate nature perfectly.

  21. gaga

    Mmm, I love Din Tai Fung and Xiao Long Bao. I always like to nibble a small hole, pour the soup into my spoon and then slurp it up. But no matter how you eat it, it’s delicious!

  22. vkeong

    This is how i eat it. Poke a small hole on the bun, suck all the soup. Then dip it in the ginger soya sauce.. and eat it whole. HAHA!

    Want to try Ding Tai Fung.. Dragon-I’s xiu long bao seem to be OK only.

  23. White On Rice Couple

    I had these for the first time when Wandering Chopsticks took me to a great place in San Gabriel. I had no idea how juicy and wonderful these could be! They are just melt in your mouth delicious. I just kinda bit into it half way and all this wonderful broth spilled out. What a waste! I then just popped the rest of the other ones in my mouth, no waste after that!
    Thanks for the guide, I’ll make sure to follow your instructions when I eat them again.

  24. Yummy

    Use a small soy sauce dish instead of a spoon.

    Drink the juicy soup first from XLP

    Place the XLP on to the soy sauce dish and add in vinegar/ginger before continues eating your XLP

  25. Juliana

    I really enjoyed this guide on eating xiao long bao because I adore them with every fibre of my half-Shanghainese being.

    My family and I always have a fun debate about which the best way to eat xiao long bao is. I personally eat them the way this article described, but I don’t suck the broth out of the side – I pour it out onto my spoon so that it cools quickly. Then I dip the rest into vinegar or soy sauce and pop it in.

    However, my dad and boyfriend like to bite the top off, then pour vinegar right into the xiao long bao. They claim that the vinegar cools the broth enough to gobble the whole thing up.

    Whichever way you eat them, enjoy as many xiao long baos as you possible can!!

  26. I would laugh at a blog post devoted to ‘how to eat a dumpling’ if only i had not been burned eating xiao long bao so many many times!! :P

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