Friday, December 10, 2010

the search for the best XLB

XLB stand for xiao long bao, of course.

From Wikipedia: "Xialongbao is a type of steamed bun from eastern China, including Shanghai and Wuxi. It is traditionally steamed in small bamboo baskets, hence the name (xiaolong is literally 'small steaming basket'). Xiaolongbao are often referred to as soup dumplings in English, but not all Xiaolongbao are necessarily 'soup dumplings'."

This is what XLB usually looks like:

Regular, normal, WHITE XLB.

Two weeks prior to our trip to Singapore this past November, I had already put together an "eating itinerary". XLB at Din Tai Fung was definitely on that list. But then, at the last minute, someone suggested the COLORED xialongbao at Ion Orchard.

Paradise Dynasty's multi-colored XLB. So pretty!

How could I resist? Black truffle! Crab roe! Foie gras! This restaurant is up to no good, I tell you.

Lots of natural light and over-the-top decor. Very shiok.

So I ordered a basket of the assorted flavors all for myself, and my three lunch companions ordered a basket of plain whites to share among themselves. Because I wasn't sharing mine.

Why arrangement not the same as picture, hmm?

Anyhoo, I followed the guide, which said that I should start with the regular one, then the garlic, then the ginseng, etc etc, and end with the pink Szechuan flavored one. I think it's great that there's an instruction card at every table. Not everyone knows how to eat XLB without hurting themselves.

Be careful when you seep; it's hot. (Bisaya.)

The different colors made eating them a lot of fun. The pieces were not too big, the skin was delicate enough, and the broth inside the normal white one-- the benchmark-- was quite tasty.

Acid green dumpling, ginseng flavor. Couldn't taste the ginseng.

One of my favorites was the spicy Szechuan.

I was sad and disappointed that the foie gras, black truffle and crab roe ones did not taste as good as they looked. In fact, they didn't taste anything like their so-called special ingredients at all. They weren't bad XLBs-- they just weren't unique. They might as well have been ordinary white.

I did enjoy the garlic and the Szechuan. And surprisingly, I liked the cheese, which I thought would appeal to little kids. Next time, I will get a basket with just these three flavors. And as for the original flavor? Din Tai Fung is still better.

My friends had some la mien, but I knew that I would be full from just the eight pieces of XLB in the set. That didn't stop me from "testing" the noodles, though. They had that stretched texture which makes a good la mien-- nice job.

Beef brisket, bursting with flavor. Be still, my heart.

Clean healthy soup with a side of delicious fatty pork ribs.

Can't remember what this is. Wonton?

However, hands down, the absolute best thing that I ate at Paradise Dynasty was the silky tofu with century egg. It was refreshing and yummeh perfection. The tofu was soft and refined, but not falling apart at the slightest touch. The chopped century eggs provided a salty note that didn't overpower the subtle tofu flavor. (Yez, tofu has a flavor. If you think that it's bland and tasteless, then you've been eating bad tofu, my friend.) The spring onions uplifted the whole dish and gave each bite a truly fragrant crunchiness. And the soy-based sauce made me teary-eyed with pleasure.

If there were an award for tofu, I would nominate Paradise Dynasty.

Worth all the uric acid-induced pain afterwards.

Verdict: As an XLB restaurant, Paradise Dynasty is a novelty. The search for the best continues. But that tofu is one of the most memorable dishes I've had this whole year.

After lunch, we went outside the mall and pretended to be colored dumplings.

Three very chio women.


  1. like this :-) next time bring N....oh yeah, the tofu was wonderful, so light and the texture is so smooth, di pa nadurog... why dont we have tofu like that in mnl? .... i like this line "After lunch, we went outside the mall and pretended to be colored dumplings"....hahaha

  2. Super agree about that kind of tofu not being available in Manila. Let's go to Japan and try some there!