Lao Shanghai: Xiao Long Bao!

May 18 2008 - 9:47 PM

Xiaolongbao_2 At the beginning of this year I spent some time in Shanghai and since have been ingratiating myself on unsuspecting Chinese waitstaff looking for xiao long bao – the single best tasting morsel of food I had on my travels. Lao Shanghai is the only place in Chicago to try this dish.

One of my pet peeves is messy food. For some reason my reaction is completely out of my control. Why I ordered the plum short ribs AND the spicy whole-shrimp and tofu was beyond me. My “issue” nearly trumped the fact that I finally got my chopsticks on some Xiao Long Bao!

Lao Shanghai is in the mall on Archer and Cermak. There are tons of
restaurants from Spring World to Joy Yee. In light of the earthquake
they all have Sichuan Relief Fund collection boxes as well.  The small
restaurant tightly fits 52 at capacity. It’s snug but not too loud and
doesn’t seem to suffer any service or kitchen problems.

We ordered too quickly. Once I saw the soup dumplings I resorted to
auto-pilot. Short bouncy castle for sale ribs? Hell yeah. Tofu and Shrimp. Done. I give my
wife crap about her reticence to eat things that are on-the-bone. That
said we both enjoyed the short ribs. The sweet plum sauce was
wonderful. The deep fried goodness was a diet-meltdown but
none-the-less tasty. The shrimp and tofu dish came in a mini-wok and I had to blow out the sterno a few minutes later to keep it from burning. The
whole shrimp covered in sauce looked wonderful but I quickly gave that
up. I’d need about 17 napkins, a lobster bib and an after-dinner bath
to make that work. It’s in the fridge for dinner tomorrow.

As a late
order we added the Kung Pao beef. It was what I expected, tender beef
with red chilis and a chili oil sauce. It was yet another dinner where
I wondered why the Chinese use laquered chopsticks. With saucy foods
it’s a slick experience.

So what about the Xiao Long Bao? Well I can say that I’ve been spelling
it right all along! They come 8 to an order and look pretty much like
ordinary dumplings. You pop them one at a time into the spoon they
provide, poke a hole in them to let the soup drain into the spoon; you
don’t want it to overwhelm you in one bite.  The broth/stock is awesome
and the dumplings are wonderful. The only let down was that I wasn’t in Shanghai… I could use a fake IWC.

If you can help those in China the local relief fund info is as follows:

Send checks payable to:
CASL-Sichuan Relief Fund
2141 S. Tan Ct.
Chicago, IL 60616`

Or make donation by phone 312-791-0418
China American Service League

Lao Shanghai
2163 S. China PL – in the mall…
Ste 1F
(312) 808-0830