How to eat xiaolongbao: a foolproof guide to eating soup dumplings correctly

These steamed pork dumplings are loved by many, but is there a correct way to eat them? A Hong Kong newbie explores her options with the help of a long stayer

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 11:47am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 1:16pm

They are the delicate parcels of pork and broth that trip up many a newcomer to Hong Kong. Xiaolongbao – or soup dumplings, as they are known in the West – are a dainty delicacy that originated in the Shanghai region.

Within the wheat flour wrapper lies a small ball of perfectly portioned fatty minced pork. When steamed, the contents release a fragrant juice that remains concealed within the thin dumpling skin, ready to explode in the mouth when bitten.

The succulent parcels are tricky to make, but skills are also required to eat them. Many newbies come away from their first xiaolongbao experience with scalded mouths and stained shirts, having consumed little of the soup.

Having just arrived in Hong Kong, I thought it was only appropriate to test out some of the city’s finest after reading about the seven best restaurants for the little treats. After being seated at the first restaurant, I was handed a “How to eat xiaolongbao” card. To my horror, I realised the way I had previously enjoyed my dumplings looked nothing like the illustrations on the card. Had I been eating xiaolongbao wrong all my life?

In search of help, I asked senior food writer Bernice Chan about the correct technique for eating the fiddly food. It seems they are commonly served them with a small bowl of vinegar and slivers of ginger, but methods of eating the sometimes messy morsels differ greatly from person to person.

We went to Crystal Jade Jiang Nan to test out some of our favourite ways of eating xiaolongbao.

Alkira’s “open the hatch” method

1. Place the xiaolongbao on a spoon

2. Carefully bite the top off the dumpling – creating a small hole for steam to escape

3. Using a small spoon, pour vinegar into the dumpling through the newly created hole

4. Slurp up some (or all) of your new vinegary broth from the top of the xiaolongbao

5. Finally eat the dumpling and remaining soup, and enjoy!

Bernice’s “double dip” method

1. Pick up the xiaolongbao and dip the base of the dumpling into the vinegar

2. Flip it over, dipping it again in the vinegar on its side

2. Place the xiaolongbao upside down in a spoon, so the flat surface is facing up

3. Take a small bite from the edge of the xiaolongbao and suck out the soup

4. Finally eat the remaining xiaolongbao in one bite. Delicious!

“The dunk” method

1. Delicately pick up the soup dumpling and dunk the base into the vinegar

2. Place the xiaolongbao on a spoon. To mix things up, place a few slivers of ginger on the dumpling before you eat it.

3. Eat in one go, letting the juices explode in your mouth … But be careful; it might be HOT!

Want to find out the correct method for eating other tricky dishes? Send suggestions to alkira.reinfrank@scmp.com