Last Updated: August 22, 2017
I love xiao long baos; who doesn’t? Breaking the skin of the dumpling to be met with warm soup and the tender filling inside is an almost religious experience, and usually, results in me devouring half a dozen dumplings before I realise it.
The cost of indulging in my XLB obsession is probably the most prohibitive aspect; 10 xiao long baos set you back at $9.80 at Din Tai Fung. However, Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao at Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre has solved that problem for me, without too big a tradeoff in quality.
Opened by a Chinese couple who has been operating a stall for 20 years (nine of those in their current Chinatown location), Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao usually sells out 3000 pieces by 8.30pm on days they are open.
The Steamed Mini Buns ($6 for 10 pieces) comes in two separate steamer baskets, with five pieces each. So if you order 20 pieces like us, you’ll get a tower of four piping hot baskets at your table, eliciting envious stares from people who walk by.
The thin skin of the dumpling tears opens easily, with a good amount of soup hidden inside. I prefer to bite the top off and slurp a little broth out before popping the bun right into my mouth for maximum enjoyment. While the dumplings fall a little short of Din Tai Fung’s standards, it is ridiculously good for the $0.60 per piece price tag.
But of course, that’s not all that the stall has to offer. The Szechuan Spicy Wantons ($4.50 for 10 pieces) is also surprisingly good. The dumpling skin is slippery and thin, with a generous amount of filling in each piece.
Despite the amount of chilli oil, the wantons aren’t overwhelmingly spicy, with a tangy hint of vinegar balancing out the dish.
If you’re a fan of noodles, there’s plenty to choose from. I tried the La Mian With Fried Bean Sauce ($3.50) and even though I enjoyed the strong taste of the bean sauce and the chunks of meat hidden within, I felt that the noodles were a little mushy. This is a matter of preference though, so people who enjoy softer noodles might like the noodles from this stall.
Chinatown might be a little out of the way to make a trip down especially for xiao long baos, but you can bet that anytime I’m in the vicinity, this will be my go to stall for a quick, delicious and cheap meal.
Expected damage: $5 – $10 per pax