Ah… 小笼包… This ‘little basket dumpling’, seemingly small and harmless on the outside, but will burn the tongues of the unknown by the hot piping soup squirting all over in the mouth. Such pleasure and joy.
Eating Xiao Long Bao is a test of your chopstick skills, a testimonial on how a ordinary looking ‘bun’ can send one up to the heavens sucking on the broth and meat wrapped delicately within. Adults have cried over split soup literally, when their rough finger-works break the skin.
One of the most popular chains of restaurants in town, the Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao is constantly packed at all its branches, one can say due to the assurance of some standard quality whenever you dine there. It’s famous for its Lanzhou style noodles, northern style Chinese cuisine, and of course their steamed dumplings.
Expect prompt albeit curt service, and tasty but standard fare that you can trust, like steamed and pan-fried dumplings, soups and staples.
Start your meal with a selection of xiao cais (appetizers) and cold dish such as Steamed Chicken in Sichuan Style ($7.00), Mixed Century Egg and Beancurd ($6.00), or Nanjing Smoked Duck ($7.00). For something a little spicy, try the Hong You Chao Shou, steamed meat and vegetables wantons dipped in a concoction of spicy chilli oil, black vinegar and soya sauce.
The signature Xiao Long Bao or Shanghai Steam Pork Dumpling ($3.60) that came in fours, looked a little sad and dull. Still, these meat dumplings were succulent and filled with piping hot, tasty broth. We were however a little dismayed to receive a couple of them with the dumpling skin broken i.e. the soup inside had come out already. The dumplings taste best served with ginger slivers in vinegar, which removes the meaty aftertaste.
The Pan Fried Pork Dumpling in Hot Plate ($4.20) is an original and novel take on the traditional steamed version, served in a hot plate on top of a thin bed of fried egg. The only detectable difference is a much firmer skin, which had a better texture. The egg at the bottom is sadly oily and bland.
The Double Boiled Chicken Soup ($6.50), on the other hand, was rich and robust, full of flavors of chicken essence in the stock and of the Jin Hua Huo Tui (cured ham – a Chinese delicacy).
Another favorite is the Dan Dan Mian ($6.00). The Sichuan originated La Mian (Hand-Pulled Noodles) were springy, topped with a minced meat and mushrooms in a thick savory sauce. The sauce was flavorsome enough, though a tad too thick.
Meant more for small families and couples, the décor at this Sunetec Branch is cosy and warm lighting with serving staff tucked in a complementary dark maroon. Like all Crystal Jade outlets, it was a little too noisy, and service, although courteous and brisk, a little too brusque. Be prepared to wait up to 30 minutes just to get a table during peak hours.
Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao, 3 Temasek Boulevard #B1-027 Suntec City Mall Tel:+65 63376235
Opening Hours: 11am – 9.45pm Daily
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