Shanghainese soup dumplings
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Pick up steam … Shanghainese soup dumplings. Photographs: UnTour Shanghai

渐渐加热.... 上海小笼包。图片选自:UnTour Shanghai

Any Shanghai denizen who has lived in the city for longer than a few months worships at the altar of xiaolongbao. These steamed buns of goodness – tiny pork dumplings with a slurp of soup wrapped up in a wonton wrapper – provide delicious fodder for debates among Shanghai's foodies.

任何在上海在居住过几个月或以上的的外来者都会将小笼包崇拜地推上神坛。这些蒸熟的食物宛如女神的臀部–--细细的肉末伴着汤水被包子皮完美的包装–证明这美味的食物几乎能打败上海几乎所有其它美食。

We all have our favourite joints and the truth about which one reigns supreme varies, depending on whether you prioritise the thickness of the skin or the quality of the soup inside. With XLBs (as those in the know call them), the dumpling isn't bobbing in a bowl of hot soup; rather, the soup is contained neatly inside the delicate dumpling skin. This is attained through a nifty trick of including cooled pork jelly (OK, fat) in with the minced pork, which is then wrapped in a thin flour dumpling skin. Good XLB joints have enough turnover that dumplings are steamed fresh throughout the day.

我们都有自己最喜欢的小摊,而他们的包子却有着无穷的变化,这完全取决于你对皮的薄厚的喜爱与包子里汤汁的多少为量纲。关于小笼包(我们所知的中国人的叫法),他并不是在一碗热汤中翻滚,相反地,汤水被灵巧的保持在了包子皮内。他是通过一种灵巧的的艺术将生猪肉内的汁水(好吧,是脂肪)存放于肉末中,然后再用面粉做的包子皮将其包上。好的小笼包摊会因为有良好地销量使得你什么时候去买都能买到刚出炉的。

That said, if anyone tells you the best soup dumplings in the city can be found at Taiwanese chain restaurant Din Tai Fung, give them a polite smile and then turn on your heels and run. Sure, these XLBs may win the day in Melbourne or even San Francisco, but why come to Shanghai, the home of the xiaolongbao, to order your steamer baskets from a chain? No one suggests going to Rome and eating at Pizza Hut, however well the corporation may have localised their flavors to the Italian market.

如果有人告诉你上海最好吃的小笼包在台湾连锁饭店鼎泰丰,给他一个礼貌的微笑,脱下你的高跟鞋跑路吧。当然,他家的小笼包可能赢得了墨尔本甚至是旧金山的大奖,但为什么要来上海这个小笼包的故乡,要一个从流水线上下来的蒸笼吗?在罗马没人会建议去吃必胜客,尽管必胜客家的公司可能会本地话他家的产品来适应意大利的市场。


In our humble opinion, there is no single winner of the great xiaolongbao debate – and that's no because we like sitting on the fence. There are two regional varieties of soup dumpling: Nanjing-style, which are actually called tangbao, literally "soup bun," and traditional Shanghainese xiaolongbao. The latter boasts heartier wrappers that hold in a hearty pork meatball in a sweet soup, while Nanjing's offerings have skin so thin it's almost translucent, a more savoury broth, and a smaller serving of pork. In each of these categories, we have a clear winner.

以我们的愚见,在伟大的小笼包辩论会上没有一个赢家 – 这并不是因为我们毫无立场。有两个地方品种的汤包子:南京风格的,它实际上是被称为汤包,字面意思是“汤包子”,和传统的上海小笼包。后者在皮内包有丰盛的猪肉丸子甜汤,然而南京的样式包子皮肤非常得薄,几乎是透明的,更美味的肉汤和小份的猪肉。在这两个类别中,我们有了一个明确的赢家。

Fu Chun dumpling joint
Fu Chun dumpling joint

富春小笼包连锁


For an even bigger hole in a much smaller wall, enter Nanjing's best import to Shanghai, the simply named Nanjing Soup Dumpling stall, which is consistently filled with hungry diners and even offers up a few small tables outside when weather permits. The well-worn steamer baskets are a testament to the popularity of the place. Linger during rush hour and you may be politely asked to give up your seat to waiting customers. The dumplings' delicate skin is so impossibly thin here that simply extracting them from the steamer often results in a few accidental skin piercings. With a spoon at the ready, you can hope to salvage some of the escaping broth, of which there will be a torrent. Staying true to form, the unctuous broth outweighs the meatball, almost sloshing around inside the lucent wrapper. This shop also serves up an impressive má là tang soup, with a fiery broth that has a base of over 20 traditional ingredients, stewed slowly in a giant wok.

要是你想找家大点的餐馆,那就来南京汤包店坐坐吧。这个闻名上海的南京特色餐馆挤满了饥肠辘辘的食客,如果天气不错,甚至店外也会支起一些小桌子。陈旧的蒸笼证明这儿有多受欢迎。在用餐的高峰期,许多人在店内徘徊,有时会礼貌的询问你能不能把座位让给等候的食客。汤包的皮是如此纤薄,就算只是从蒸笼里取出,也常常不经意扯破。你手持一把早已备好的勺子,想挽救一些迅速流出的汤汁。一如既往地,比起肉馅,包子里油油的汤汁更为精华,几乎在透明得发光的包子皮里晃来荡去了。这家餐馆同时供应令人难忘的麻辣烫汤,色泽鲜红,汤底由20多种传统配料熬制,在一口巨大的汤锅中文火慢炖。

Whichever regional favourite of XLB you choose, the eating method is the same. Order a lóng (steamer basket), which usually contains eight dumplings.While it's steaming ask for an order of ginger (shengjiang). Fill up a dipping dish of vinegar and plunk the slivers of ginger into the sauce to flavour it. When the basket of soup dumplings arrives, wait! If you bite right into one of these suckers, the soup will squirt out and can leave an unsightly burn on your face. Use your chopsticks to dip the XLB into the ginger-vinegar sauce, then place the dumpling in your soup spoon. This is in case the skin splits – you don't want to lose any of the precious soup.

无论你最喜欢哪个区域的小笼包,它的吃法都是一样的。叫上一笼(充满蒸汽的竹篮),里面一般有八个包子。你最好再叫上一些生姜,往蘸酱碟倒满醋后,扑通一下把切成片的生姜放进调料里可以增加它的美味感。当一笼热气腾腾的包子端上桌后,停!如果你直接就去咬包子,汤汁将会喷出并且在你脸上留下丑陋的烫伤疤痕。正确的方法是用你的筷子把包子夹到蘸酱碟里蘸一蘸,然后把包子放在汤匙上吃。这样做是以防皮肤受伤,而且你也不想损失宝贵的汤汁,对吧~

Gently take a bite out of the top (or the side) and let the steam escape. Then carefully suck out the succulent juice of the xiaolongbao. A second dip into the sauce, after you've drained the melted pork fat, wouldn't hurt. Cue the swan song and pop the xiaolongbao in your mouth whole. Savour. Repeat.

轻轻地把包子顶端(或者旁边)咬开一个口子让蒸汽消散,然后小心地吸出包子里流出的丰富汤汁,融化了的猪皮汤汁大概排的差不多后,给包子蘸第二次酱

This is merely a loving ode to the standard Shanghai pork xiaolongbao. We could go into the high-class XLB filled with pork and crab roe, but we'll save that one for another day.

我要歌颂这些标准的上海猪肉小笼包。我们可以进入一流的餐厅吃那些充满了猪肉和蟹黄的小笼包,但我们要节省,把钱留到明天用。