Today, I’m thrilled to enjoy a three-day weekend, which is a much needed mental break from work and school. Although I’ll be spending most of it doing research papers. School stuff is pretty important. It just hit me actually—I’m almost one quarter done with my program! Crazy how time flies. I picked my classes for next semester, too. Exciting things are happening.
Even more exciting, I have been working on a food blog research project over the past few months and I finally concluded my findings. In my past restaurant review about China Chilcano, I wrote a little blurb about Xiao Long Bao, or Shanghai soup dumplings, and my time here in DC I’ve been scouring and searching for where to get the best dumplings.
Why have I been searching for these dumplings? Well—I’m obsessed with them. Like truly obsessed with them. These dumplings would definitely be part of my last meal. By far the best type of dumplings to exist. I first tried these dumplings back in 2009 in Teaneck, New Jersey. Every Wednesday, my dad would take me and my brother out to dinner and our first Wednesday dinner we went to Beijing Duck House. Unfortunately, Beijing Duck House is no longer in business (very sad). But, Beijing Duck House was a great restaurant, truly authentic Chinese food.
Every other week we ordered the same thing (more or less): hacked chicken, Xiao Long Bao, and half a Peking duck. The hacked chicken was a cold appetizer dish – thinly shredded chicken doused in a spicy hot sauce with a slight peanut flavor. I have been looking for the recipe online so I can recreate it, but so far no such luck.
Now the star of this blog post, Xiao Long Bao, are beyond incredible. These dumplings are life changing. Just the concept is mind-boggling. Most everyone is familiar with wonton soup, with dumplings submerged in broth, but what if I told you that you can have dumplings with broth INSIDE?! Sounds strange, right? But, they are actually a thing of culinary genius. You can actually slurp your dumpling. Weird, right? Filled with broth and ground pork (and sometimes crabmeat), you dip these meaty morsels in black vinegar with ginger and you have a savory acidic blast in your mouth. It only takes one taste to fall in love—I assure you.
This weekend I will be attempting to make them (again actually), and will hopefully report back with my success. Mastering these dumplings will be a bit tricky, since it requires patience and skilled hands for dumpling pleating, but I will get there.
So the thing about these dumplings is that they are extremely easy to find in NYC and NJ. So when I moved to DC, I searched for months to find them. I am pleased to say that their elusiveness is no longer. I have spent the past year almost looking for these Shanghai delights, and have taken copious notes and am ready to share what I think may be the most important list on this blog (so far): Where to Find Shanghai Soup Dumplings in the District.
1. Bob’s Shanghai 66 – Rockville, MD
Bob’s is by far my favorite place in the district to eat Xiao Long Bao.The broth is always steaming hot and there’s plenty of it packed into the dumplings.There are six dumplings to an order, which cost around $7.I easily order two or more helpings of these because I cannot help myself.The only downside to Bob’s Shanghai is that it is so far.It is metro accessible, but from where I live, it’s almost a one-hour metro ride.If you do venture to Bob’s Shanghai, it is a cash only spot, but they have an ATM out front.
2. Reren DC – Chinatown
When it comes to metro accessibility, Reren is my top spot to nosh on these dumplings.Reren’s menu is fairly limited for what you can order, but I’m glad you can order these soup dumplings.A steamer basket of six dumplings costs $7.These dumplings can be delicious, but sometimes there will be a dumpling in the basket that is more on the dry side, lacking the broth I desperately crave.Still though, the fact that it is only a few metro stops from my apartment is a huge plus.
3. Ping Pong Dim Sum, Chinatown
Speaking of Chinatown, I discovered that Ping Pong Dim Sum, an eclectic high-end Asian restaurant serves these dumplings as well.However, these dumplings are overpriced for what you can get.Three dumplings cost $7, which is absurd considering you can find more for less.Despite the price, these dumplings were bountiful with broth and the filling was meaty and spicy.
4. Peter Chang’s – Arlington, VA
Here I am talking about metro accessibility when I have Peter Chang’s on my list.Peter Chang’s is in the heart of Arlington where there is no metro within sight, but find someone with a car and give this place a go!Peter Chang’s offers a slightly different variation on the Shanghai soup dumplings.Instead of six little ones, they offer one big bun.It takes a bit longer to make, but when you see these dumplings planted on your table, you’ll want to jump right on them.These require a bit of surgery to eat and the filling and broth needed a bit more season, but still an enjoyable mega dumpling.
5. Shanghai Lounge, Georgetown
This cozy Chinese spot in Georgetown is a little bit of a hike to get to (then again so is most everything in Georgetown), but worth a try.Although, the dough is a little chewier and there is little broth to be found, the dumplings still have that XLB flavor to them thanks to well-seasoned filling. Sorry, I don't have a photo :(
6. China Chilcano, Penn Quarter
I’m torn here with these dumplings.They were scrumptious and gorgeous, but I can’t really call these soup dumplings.I did enjoy the combination of the pork and crab filling, but these delicate dumplings are maybe 99 percent filling and lacking the broth inside.Six dumplings cost $12, so also on the spendy side for dumplings that lack broth, but it’s entirely possible that my batch might’ve unfortunately had all the delicious broth evaporate.I still enjoyed these dumplings despite the absence of soup.
7. Chinatown Express, Chinatown
The last place on my list is one of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown.It is actually one of the few authentic Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, which is a smidge upsetting since you know—it’s Chinatown.You can tell this place is legit by the roasted ducks hanging in the weekend.That’s at least what I would see all the time in NYC’s Chinatown.These dumplings aren’t the soupiest, but I still order them every single time.Douse them in black vinegar and a little hot chili oil and you have a great bite.
Onward to soup dumplings!
Added bonus - here's a photo of when I first attempted to make soup dumplings at home. Aren't they cute?