Steamed xiaolongbao served in a traditional steaming basket
|Alternative name(s)||Soup dumpling, Xiaolong mantou, XLB|
|Type||Dim sum, Xiaochi|
|Place of origin||Shanghai|
|Region or state||Chinese-speaking areas|
|Main ingredient(s)||leavened or unleavened dough, minced pork (or other meats), aspic|
|Literal meaning||little-basket bun|
Xiaolongbao (simplified Chinese: 小笼包; traditional Chinese: 小籠包; pinyin: xiǎolóngbāo) is a type of steamed bun or baozi from the Jiangnan region of China, especially 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 or simply dumplings in English.
Xiaolongbao are known as siohlon-meudoe /siɔ33lǫ̃44-mø22dɤ⁺44/ in Shanghainese (simplified Chinese: 小笼馒头; traditional Chinese: 小籠饅頭; pinyin: xiǎolóng mántóu). Mantou describes both filled and unfilled buns in northern China, but only describes unfilled buns in southern China.
The characters that make up "xiaolongbao" translate literally to "small", "steaming basket" and "steamed buns (baozi)", and the whole term may be literally translated as "little-basket buns". The appearance of xiaolongbao and jiaozi (dumpling) has meant that the xiaolongbao is sometimes classified as a dumpling outside of China. It is, however, distinct from both steamed and boiled jiaozi in texture and method of production, and is never regarded as a jiaozi (which is more usually translated as dumpling) inside China. As is traditional for buns of various sizes in the Jiangnan region, xiaolongbao are pinched at the top prior to steaming, so the skin has a circular cascade of ripples around the crown, whereas jiaozi are usually made from a round piece of dough folded in half, and pinched along the semicircle. Instead, xiaolongbao is usually regarded as belonging to a whole family of various steamed buns of various sizes sometimes collectively known as tang bao, literally "soup bun": see "related varieties" below.
Chinese buns in general may be divided into two types, depending on the degree of leavening of the flour skin. Steamed buns made with raised flour are seen throughout China and are what is usually referred to as baozi. Steamed xiaolongbao made with partially raised flour are more commonly seen in the south. This means that their skin is tender, smoother, and somewhat translucent, rather than being white and fluffy.
Xiaolongbao are traditionally filled with pork, one popular and common variant is pork with minced crab meat and roe. More modern innovations include other meats, seafood and vegetarian fillings, as well as other possibilities. The characteristic soup-filled kind are created by wrapping solid meat aspic inside the skin alongside the meat filling. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin-gelled aspic into soup. In modern times, refrigeration has made the process of making xiaolongbao during hot weather easier, since making gelled aspic is much more difficult at room temperature.
Traditionally the xiaolongbao is a kind of dim sum or snack item, as well as a kind of xiaochi or "small eat". The buns are served hot in the bamboo baskets in which they were steamed, usually on a bed of dried leaves or on a woven mat, although some restaurants today use napa cabbage instead. The buns are usually dipped in Chinkiang vinegar with ginger slivers. They are traditionally served with a clear soup on the side.
The buns are traditionally part of Jiangnan-style morning tea. In Cantonese regions and the West it is also commonly served as a Cantonese yum cha item. While not traditionally eaten as part of a main meal, some restaurants have in recent years begun serving xiaolongbao as a main dish.
Frozen xiaolongbao are now mass-produced and a popular frozen food sold worldwide.
The xiaolongbao is one of a range of related styles of steamed buns in Chinese cuisine, with the distinguishing features of a steamed bun with a soup filling. Tang bao (literally "soup bun") or guantangbao (literally "soup-filled bun") is usually the general term for this type of steamed buns. As most of these buns tend to be large and made with leavened dough (unlike the xiaolongbao), tang bao can also refer to only those buns made with leavened dough. Tang bao can sometimes be made very small, so that they resemble xiaolongbao but with a differently textured skin such as the xiaolong tangbao (literally "small basket soup bun"), a specialty of Wuhan.
Shanghai-style xiaolongbao originated in Nanxiang, a suburb of Shanghai in the Jiading District. The inventor of xiaolongbao sold them in his first store in Nanxiang next to the town's notable park, Guyi Garden. From there the xiaolongbao expanded into downtown Shanghai and outward.
Two specialist xiaolongbao restaurants have a particularly long history. One is Nanxiang Mantou Dian (Nanxiang Bun Shop), which derives from the original store in Nanxiang but is now located in the City God Temple precinct. It is famed for its crab-meat-filled buns. The other is Gulong Restaurant, at the original site next to Guyi Garden in Nanxiang.
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- Not to be confused with the tang bao or soup bun (simplified Chinese: 汤包; traditional Chinese: 湯包; pinyin: tāngbao), a steamed bun made with leavened dough, filled with mostly soup, a specialty of Yangzhou
- From the Annals of Jiading(a district in Shanghai): "Buns can be made with leavened or unleavened dough. Those made with unleavened dough use clear water for mixing, the skin is thin and the fillings large. It is frequently made in Nanxiang, but is imitated elsewhere, calling it Xiang-style. (《嘉定县续志》: 馒头有紧酵松酵两种，紧酵以清水和面为之，皮薄馅多，南翔制者最著，他处多仿之，号为翔式)
- "Shanghai Dining – Shanghai Snacks: Nanxiang Steamed Stuffed Bun". People's Daily Online. china.org.cn. July 18, 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.