Three xiao long bao
Even though their name refers to the baskets in which they, and lesser dumplings, steam, these babies are set apart by the soup they hold. And the question on everyone’s scalded lips is how the hell do they get the soup inside? Well, it’s not soup until it’s steamed.
It goes in with the minced pork as jellied aspic and melts into its well-sealed dumpling skin. Safety and decorum dictate how you eat them. Ideally, you’d pick one up in your chopsticks without piercing the skin, place it on your spoon, nibble a hole in the top, apply chosen condiments and either suck the soup out or pour it into the spoon and drink it. Or bung one in your mouth whole and suffer the consequences. You’re welcome.
Mr Stone Bowl
Day and night the queues speak volumes about how hot this place is with Chinese customers. The name conjures a Korean bibimbap joint but it’s a mix of modern and trad Chinese food, some served on some pretty out there ware. Come for the xiao long bao ($9.80 for nine) with their delicate, translucent skins and full flavoured soup, then stay for the spicy shredded chicken with jellyfish. Language problems are solved with a tick-a-box menu.
185B Burwood Road, Burwood, 02 8970 9605
One of the strip’s original Shanghai restaurants is sporting a new quirky reno with posters referencing Parisien boulangeries and bouchons in Lyon. No matter, the menu’s still on message and hasn’t changed in decades. The xiao long bao ($7.80 for eight) here are cute little things with their skins twisted into a distinct nipple on top. That’s the obvious entry point for the gingery soup and finely textured pork. And don’t leave without trying the shallot pancake.
275 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, 02 9798 8437
The glass-fronted kitchen looks like Dr Evil’s laboratory with masked, hatted drones labouring over noxious chemicals. But a closer look reveals gloved hands are merely scooping and weighing ingredients to be wrapped in dumplings so precise each fold and gram is counted. Their xiao long bao ($10.80 for six) are the signature dish in this Taiwanese chain with good reason. The broth is good and gingery, the skins are fine and sticky and there’s julienned ginger and black vinegar on hand for extra zing.
World Square, 644 George St, Sydney, 02 9264 6010