Posts Tagged ‘Ramen King’

All hail, xiaolongbao!

May 11, 2013

Since we’ve moved into the city, we’ve had a bit of trouble finding ‘Box Hill’ style dumplings. By that I mean a cheap and nasty place, full of Chinese, and absolutely delicious dumplings.

The cheap and nasty refers to the decor. I learned a long time ago, that a dumpy place isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Chinese in particular, are very practical when it comes to eating out. They do so on a regular basis and so their standard eateries don’t have to be dressed up and impressive. Western diners (aka Australian’s) tend to dine out on a less frequent basis, largely because of the cost. Our restaurants range from the very expensive and therefore quite posh, to your standard fast-food places, but rarely will you find a western restaurant that’s like the lower quality eateries that populate so much of Asia.

Because on the whole, western people aren’t familiar with nightly dining out, or eating in a cheap and nasty looking place, they tend to avoid them, in which case you’ll often find them full of Asians. The Asian’s of course are completely familiar with this concept – they’re not eating there for the environment, they’re eating there for the food – the cheap food.

In a typical cheap and nasty looking place – such as those found in Box Hill, Victoria, you’ll often find them full of Chinese. This also usually means that the food is closer to what you’ll find overseas – and for any travelers out there – us people whose eyes light up at the thought of the cheap delicious treats often found on the roadside, these places are awesome.

There is one place in Box Hill which used to be a fairly Chinese dominated haunt (though was never dumpy…well unless you go into the bathrooms…) but is now usually full of us whities. It used to go by the name of DC Dumpling, but re-invented itself as Dumpling Specialist. One of the side-effects of becoming too local Australian, is that the quality of the food goes down, often matched by the price rising. There’s a very big difference between a superb and a terrible dumpling. With a dumpling heavy menu, Dumpling Specialist still thankfully offers some of the most delicious dumplings I have had anywhere.

In particular (and the point of this post -heh) their xiaolongbao’s. I have found over the years, that some restaurants might offer the world on their menu, but they only really excel at certain items. You’re better off ordering pan fried dumplings at Ramen King and RaRamen in Box Hill as an example – their steamed variants being in cases that are too thick, and when steamed, arriving at the table watery.

Dumpling Specialist nails the steamed dumplings – and their flagship in my opinion? Xiaolongbao. I *love* xiaolongbao. They are so utterly delicious – the kind that make you a bit feral and defensive over how many are remaining in the basket  – or the kind that simply give you pause when you eat them, as their exquisite flavour explodes in your mouth.  Quite frankly, they are the bomb.

Xiaolong actually translates to ‘small steaming basket’ referring to how these dumplings are served, while bao refers to the bun in which they arrive. They’re also known as soup dumplings, not because they are served in soup, but because sealed inside the bun is a tasty broth – along with your typical hunk of meat.

It takes great patience not to immediately start eating them when they first arrive, steaming and enticing. But your best bet is to wait several minutes, as what’s contained inside those sealed bao’s can only be described as nuclear. The Chinese bite their buns on the side, then drink the broth before eating them. Personally, I still find this ends in burned lips. I tend to leave mine in the basket until they’ve cooled down a bit (usually chowing down on whatever else is on the table), then plop the entire xiaolongbao into my mouth so I can enjoy the flavour in one immense hit.

The morale of this story is simple: xiaolongbao rock, and you need them in your belly, now!

xiaolongbao @ Dumpling Specialist, Box Hill, Vic

xiaolongbao @ Dumpling Specialist, Box Hill, Vic

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