Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Best Xiao Long Bao 小籠包 around Yongkang St., Taipei other than Ding Tai Fung.

I really don't get it. I really don't! I don't get why so many people line up to eat at Ding Tai Fung 鼎泰豐. I guess it is good when you try soup dumplings for the first time, but it comes at a price. At 20NT ($0.66 USD) a piece, you can be trying other places around their flagship branch at Yongkang St. My friends, and I went to five different soup dumpling shops and ranked them based on overall taste.


1st Place

盛園絲瓜小籠湯包 Sheng Yuan Si Gua XLB
Address: 106台北市大安區杭州南路二段25巷1號1樓

2nd / 3rd Place
好公道金雞園 Hao Gong Dao Dian
Address: 106台北市大安區永康街28-1號

鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung
(Google Fu skills, you can find one near you)

4th Place
 高記 Kao Chi
(Google Fu skills, you can find one near you)

5th Place 
杭州小籠湯包 Hangzhou Xiaolong Tang Bao
Address: Are you sure you want to go here?

Last place: 杭州小籠湯包 Hangzhou Xiaolong Tang Bao
When we got to this place, there was a serious crowd (see the picture below). TripAdvisor says that this restaurant is #30 out of all the restaurants listed in Taipei.

So... let's do some Taiwanese food math

 line + great internet rating of 4.5 = THIS MUST BE THE BEST THING EVER!

Unfortunately, the xlb here fall short of spectacular. Actually, it was probably one of the worst xlb I have ever tasted. It was just so full of green onion and ginger flavor that it overwhelmed the soup and meat taste. In addition, they were smaller than the other places we tried. This is the second time that I have been here, and I thought the first time was a fluke. With this being the second time, it was definitely not a fluke. Hangzhou XLB, you disappoint me. I really don't get why you have such a high rating. Maybe people mistake it for the number one spot on our list, which is just next door and hidden.

4th Place: 高記 Kao Chi 

Cool takeout bag

There was an awkward two stuck together

Kao Chi has been competing with its neighbor Ding Tai Fung for quite awhile. With them being next to each other, it is hard for Kao Chi to not have any business because they just take the overflow from Ding Tai Fung. Compared to the other places we tried, these were quite greasy, like a mouthful of oil (too much), and the meat texture was like mush (ew...). Aside from that, it still tasted fine for a xlb. The wrapper was very thin and well made. In comparison to other places, this is only 4th place. I would say go to try it if you don't feel like walking more than 100 meters from the MRT station.

2nd/3rd Place: 好公道金雞園 Hao Gong Dao Dian 

I would never have known this place existed as a full service restaurant. The first floor looks like a take out dumpling shop. Little did I know that there was an upstairs that had many tables in traditional Taiwanese fashion (comes with yelling aunties that only speak Taiwanese and Mandarin).

These xlb perhaps have the best value for their taste out of all these restaurants. Each xlb only cost 11.25 NT, which is almost half the price of Ding Tai Fung. If you are craving xlb and just want them en mass, come here. The xlb wrappers were slightly thick, but the filling and soup had just the right proportion and flavor.

2nd/3rd Place: 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung 

The famous xlb place that all tourists must go to is only 2nd/3rd place. What a surprise! Not really ... I remember Ding Tai Fung used to be good before they started expanding to many regions of the world. This time around, the soup dumplings lacked flavor even though everything else was spot on with the meat texture, soup, and wrapper. This is also the most expensive out of all these soup dumplings. I would only recommend this place if you were to take a high maintenance person who wants the service with a side of food.

1st Place: 盛園絲瓜小籠湯包 Sheng Yuan Si Gua XLB

This place's xlb is perhaps the best that I have ever had. The wrapper was pretty thin, the soup to meat ratio was just right, and the flavor made a memorable impact. There was a nice balance to this soup dumpling that left me with a great feeling that I would definitely keep coming back to this place. Ignore the reviews on Google. There are many bad reviews, which leaves it at a 3.6 out of 5 on Google. I assure you that you will have a pleasant experience there if you go during peak hours. (The one time I went when they were about to close, and the dumplings seemed like they wrapped up the scrap). From the other, many times that I have gone, the soup dumplings were excellent.T

So, when you decide to get soup dumplings near Yongkang St. Remember, you have other choices aside from Ding Tai Fung.

Here's a breakdown of the score sheet: