Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fuchun - My favorite Xiaolongbao

It shows my fantastic lack of consideration that after one hundred fifty posts or so, this is the first proper posting about xiaolongbao, a Shanghai specialty and a favorite snack of mine. It's a small dough wrapper, filled with a mild pork and soup filling, and then steamed - it's usually served on the steamer, and the "xiaolong" of the name means "small steamer." It comes with a sauce, which is generally diluted Chinese black vinegar - a flavored variety that is a thousand times tastier than distilled white vinegar.

But I'll leave a general update for later. Take it for granted that xialongbao is probably the one positive contribution Shanghai has made to world cuisine. This post is about my favorite place to buy them: Fuchun Xialong. It's a restaurant I first learned about through the Chinese-language review site Dianping. It's located near Jiangsu Station, or about a ten minute walk West from Jing'an Temple/station. The address is 658 Yuyuan Lu, and the nearest cross-street is Zhengning Road.

The insides are really nothing special, there's a big sign behind the counter and you either order at the front desk and get a receipt, or tell one of the waitresses the order. It basically feels like an average every-day sort of restaurant, or maybe half a step up from that:

There's no English, but it shouldn't be hard to convey a desire for xiaolongbao! It's four kuai (about fifty cents) for six of them. There's a fairly lengthy menu with noodles and so forth, however every time I've been, every table is ordering xiaolongbao, and then maybe something else as well. Here's a look at the menu:

But most important is the xiaolongbao! The reason why I like Fuchun's variety is the skin, which is excellent - delicate but not easily breaking, which would let the soup out. The insides are also very good, perhaps a bit on the sweet side. The only thing I don't like is, while I like the vinegar strong, at Fuchun it's a little weak - it isn't really a problem, it just means I smother it in the dipping sauce a little more than I usually would. Sometimes I take the xiaolongbao to go and add Chinese vinegar at home, which is even better. Here are a couple of the xiaolongbao, lying in their steamer:

I order more than my fair share of xiaolongbao, and Fuchun's are my favorite, but I'm not confident enough to say it's Shanghai's *best* xiaolongbao. I haven't yet been to Ding Tai Fung, an upscale Taiwanese chain I've heard mentioned as Shanghai's best. I also see that Fuchun is a mere ninth in Dianping's top-rated Xiaolongbao restaurants. Writing this update has inspired me, I'll try the places that are supposed to be tops, and perhaps report back later.


kdobson said...

I took my mom there today. The xiaolongbao were great. 3 people, with the 'bao and a few beers, 人约 18元.

Jeff Rutsch said...

Awesome, glad you liked it. Although I think I've wavered in opinion, to Delongguan's being the best xiaolongbao - just try to make it to a nicer location than the one I reviewed, near Suzhou River. I still think Fuchun's are really good.