Friday, April 20, 2007

"Xiao Long Bao" Journey to J&J

Being a Din Tai Fung fan for a couple of years now, I didn't realize that there were quite a few other restaurants that also served excellent xia long baos or for short, XLBs, until I read Chowhound posts on J&J followed by another post ranking the restaurants with the best XLBs. With my curiosity aroused, I decided set up a restaurant series where I'd take my dining group to both J&J and the other restaurants listed in ipsedixit's message.

But first, a little explanation about XLBs, which I took from So what exactly is "Xiao Long Bao?" To start, xiao long bao (literally "little basket bun"; also known as soup dumpling) is a type of baozi (filled bun or bread-like item) from the Southern provinces of China, including Shanghai and Wuxi.

XLBs are traditionally steamed in bamboo baskets, hence the name. It can be filled with hot soup and meat and/or vegetarian fillings, as well as other possibilities. The fillings are wrapped in something like a jiaozi wrapper that turns almost translucent after being steamed. Shanghai steamed buns can be recognized by their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gathered up into fine folds at the top, prior to steaming.

To eat XLBs, first take the dumpling and deposit it into a Chinese soup spoon and if desired add the vinegar and soy sauce. Some places may also have shredded ginger. Take a small bite of the skin and suck out as much of the flavorful broth as possible. Then eat the rest of the dumpling from the spoon.

Our first "XLB" journey took us to J&J. By the way, what we may refer to as XLBs shows up as "Steamed Pao" on their menu. We didn't know that until we asked the waitress. Our group ordered a total of 9 dishes. Two them were the Steamed Pao with Crabmeat and the Steamed Pao with maybe a Pork/Crab mixture? I honestly don't remember, but what I did remember was that both were tasty

In general, here's my take on the J&J's XLBs. The thing that I didn't like was the thicker, chewier wrapper. It just seemed more difficult to bite into it the without the broth already starting to come out. Maybe, just a little bit thinner? I thought that the fillings were great - very meaty, very juicy, not as refined as you would find at Din Tai Fung, but more rustic, something a Mom would make in her kitchen. That somehow gave it more appeal. Overall, I liked the XLBs at J&J and it's nice to have more than one alternative for certain foods that you like.

As mentioned, the XLBs weren't the only items we ordered. There were 7 more dishes that were a part of this meal. Standouts for me included their Green Onion Pancake which was light, flaky and with lots of great onion flavor as well as the Eggplant in Brown Sauce, which had a sauce to die for.

The pan-fried dumplings were also amazing with a meat filling that was just as juicy and flavorful as the XLBs. Finally, the Fried Crab Shanghai Style was finger-looking good and the sauce had a nice hit of heat without being overwhelming.

The XLBs at J&J are definitely quite delicious and apparently, some of the other items on the menu are tasty as well. I'm just glad that J&J isn't too far from me because I certainly want to make a return trip sometime soon to check out some of their other dishes.

To see pics, go to:

301 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91804
(626) 308-9238

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