Xiao Long Bao for Beginners

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Xiao Long Bao* or “little steamed basket dumplings” are more commonly called soup dumplings on this side of the Pacific. Their popularity has exploded ever since China MaMa opened its doors on South Jones, and took another great leap forward with Beijing Noodle #9‘s debut a couple of years ago. Amazingly, though, some folks have never been tutored in the proper way to enjoy them.

Like our friend Miles.

Miles is a semi-adventuresome eater, who struggles mightily to overcome the twin gastronomic handicaps of being a new lawyer and a native Las Vegan. But struggle he does, sometimes successfully, with a healthy curiosity and appreciation for the finer things in life. ELV holds out hope he may one day be saved from the limitations of his upbringing and education. (Despite what you might think, lawyers are some of the biggest dunderheads in the world when it comes to what they put in their mouths.** Maybe because they spend so much time expelling gasses from them.)

Regardless, Miles was a willing and apt pupil to demonstrate the deliciousness of soup dumplings the other night at China MaMa. He also dove right into a new dish: Shanghai shrimp two ways, and like us, couldn’t get enough of the silky/spicy contrast between the perfectly cooked crustaceans.

The method used to create such a smooth and firm texture is called velveting — a technique of coating the shrimp in a cornstarch/egg white mixture that ensures a smooth, never overcooked texture. China MaMa’s shrimp two ways shows off the results of this method to great (and incredibly velvety) effect. The sharper, slightly spicy, tomato-sauced shrimp provide a nice contrast to the purer, unadulterated stir-fry (but for the cornstarch coating) that lets the decapods speak for themselves.

Just like (we hope) Miles’ new found expertise with xiaolongbao will prompt him to speak up the next time he has to school some of his colleagues*** in the finer arts of Chinese gastronomy. Because if he takes his culinary cues from most members of the bar,**** there will be no hope for the lad.

ELV’s meal for three came to $65 and he left a $15 tip.


3420 South Jones Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89146



* Pronounced: sheYOW-long-bow (as in “bow” to your culinary master, not as in “bow and arrow”). Say it rather quickly, almost as one word, a few times, and you’ll get the hang of it.

** Example #1: Go to any courthouse, in any city in America, and behold the shitty restaurants surrounding it.

*** Example #2: Ask any downtown attorney for their favorite lunch spot and the answer is always “Triple George.”

**** Example #3: Grape Street Cafe. Lawyers love the Grape Street Cafe.

5 thoughts on “Xiao Long Bao for Beginners

  1. Started going here about 6 mos ago since seeing it recommended on ELV.
    Been about 6-7 times, have not had a bad dish yet.

    My favorite is the Orange Beef.

    The Hot and sour soup is my wife’s favorite version.

    The waiter suggested putting a few drops of the dark vinegar on the soup dumplings (took until our 3rd visit).


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