小笼包, Xiaolongbao, or เซียวหลงเปา no matter what way you choose to write it, soup dumplings spell out a good meal. If you’ve never had Chinese soup dumplings before, imagine if your bowl of noodles was made out of noodles, bite sized, and wrapped up for individual ingestion. That’s the gist of this centuries old dish.
Whenever you have a meal that is also an activity the meal turns from simply eating to an actual event. Something that no longer becomes an everyday affair, but an experience that can and should be experienced with others; think mookata or Korean BBQ. It’s still the same meal if eating alone, but the ascetics and enjoyment take a hit. I mean, you wouldn’t want to be the only one at a concert.
To do soup dumplings right one order will just not do. You want to see the tower of bamboo steamers slowly crumple beneath your eyes while being decimated by your burning mouths. The logistics of this dish demand it. if you are the only one eating then you miss out on the insulating effect that the current layer has on the next one, as each level prevents heat loss from the next one waiting.There is also the comradery aspect. Each diner acting as an equal member of a team who’s goal is complete and utter annihilation.
Unlike most food soup dumplings have a set of steps you need to follow lest you leave with a burned mouth or stained shirt. The first thing that needs to be done is to create a dipping sauce that suits your taste. There are four equally important parts to this sauce: ginger, chili oil, soy sauce, and Chinese black vinegar. You build it in your own personal dipping tray and can add the ratios to your liking. I find that a 2:1 ratio of soy to vinegar is a nice place to start and then adding as much ginger and chili oil as your propensity for these pungent ingredients dictates.
After creating your sauce comes the hard part. Using the metal chopstick you GENTLY peel the dumpling off the sheet of cabbage segregating it from the bamboo and place it in your soup spoon. Then you pierce a little hole in it and slurp out the majority of the hot broth. once the scolding hot liquid is drained you dip the little guy in your sauce and pop the whole thing in your mouth. Alternatively if you don’t have feeling in your tongue, or if they have cooled down to a tolerable temperature, you can simply dunk and dip the entitreity of it; fillings, broth, and all. This really is a unique experience as there is a satisfying pop followed by a deluged of delicious broth.
HUALIN does the best soup dumplings in town. Full stop. And while 150 Baht may seem like a steep price point for 8 dumplings, this is a case of quality over quantity. Also every order is brought table side, steaming hot, by a small elderly Chinese man who’s skill is worth every satang.
They do more than just soup dumplings here, but if you come that is what you should get. That is not a knock on the other menu items, as everything I’ve eaten here high quality and utterly delicious. But if you come and don’t get these little packages of love, you’ll be envious of the next table who didn’t make the same mistake.
Price: 150 baht for a set of dumplings. The rest of the menu ranges in price, but you can expect to spend 200-300 baht per person here for a full meal with drinks.
Open: 11:00-22:00 Everyday
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai