Jia Jia Tang Bao (Shanghai): A Soup Dumpling Feast

If you’re only going to eat one thing in Shanghai, let it be this: Xiao long bao.

Soup dumplings — or XLB, as some of my friends call them — are to the city what pizza is to New York. When you’re there, they’re simply a must.

When book travels took me to Shanghai earlier this year, I was determined to hunt down the best in the city. Over and over, I kept hearing about Jia Jia Tang Bao, a little place that locals and expats seemed to adore equally.

So, on my very last morning in Shanghai, we bundled up and braved a gray drizzle to head over to Huang He Lu …

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Lin Heung Tea House: Hong Kong Dim Sum, The Old School


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Because we are in Hong Kong, dim sum is a must.

My dear friend Jeanette and I — two women who have been driven by our stomachs in the 20 years that we have been the best of friends — we wake up in the cool grayness of Hong Kong bleary-eyed and starving.

Even in the fog of sleepiness, our mission is clear — we stumble out into the dusty bustle of mid-morning Hong Kong and make our way toward Central. On a corner of narrow Wellington Street lies our destination: Lin Heung Tea House, a dim sum place that has been around since 1928 and is packed most mornings with regulars who head there for a morning dumpling fix, strong pu erh (or po lei as it is known in these parts) and some quality time with the day's newspaper …

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Kok Kee WanTon Noodle: Battling a Memory


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"It is impossible," my Singaporean chef friend Willin said to me one day, "to please everyone when you make wanton mee."

This Cantonese-style noodle dish, which is ubiquitous in Singapore, is usually served dry, with the broth in a small bowl on a side. The thin yellow noodles come swimming in a salty sauce that's usually some combination of soy sauce, a sweet and dark thick soy sauce, sesame oil and, perhaps, oyster sauce. Slivers of Chinese roast pork, vegetables and wantons (which is how wontons are spelled in Singapore) are scattered on top and a smear of chili sauce is scooped onto the side for added fire.

There is one fundamental problem with wanton mee, according to Willin. It's fairly easy for hawkers to make and there are so many variations on the dish out there — each hawker center in Singapore usually has at least one, if not two or three, stalls selling just wanton mee. The noodles could be more al dente at one place; the gravy could be thicker and saltier at another. The wantons could be soft, boiled versions or crispy and deep-fried.

"Everyone ends up loving the exact kind of wanton mee they grew up with," Willin says. "So unless you're making that exact kind, they're not going to love it."

It's an interesting perspective, but I still wasn't sold — until I trekked to a spacious hawker center in Singapore's Lavender neighborhood to sample the dish at Kok Kee Wanton Noodle, a little stall that had come highly recommended by some of the most discerning palates in Singapore…

 

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Top 10: The Memorable Eats Of 2009


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You know it’s been a good year when you are able to say this: 2009 was when I began to eat for a living.

I’d always been a devotee of affairs of the stomach. I may have written about fashion and other lifestyle areas for a living but baking, braising, trying new recipes, eating out — those were what consumed me when weekends rolled around. 

Luck has its ways of finding you, however. Now, on the precipice of 2010, I’m beginning to close out a lunar calendar year of cooking and eating with my family in Singapore as research for my book, “A Tiger In The Kitchen.” 

My journey so far has taken me many places – France, where I had the loveliest gingery champagne cocktail with friends old and dear; China, where my father and I went in search of my great-grandfather’s footprints in the village of his birth. And, of course, Singapore, where my aunties and maternal grandmother have been plying me with meals, recipes and much, much love along the way.

With all that I’ve packed into 2009, it’s hard to decide what the highlights have been. But, inspired by some stellar Top 10 gastronomic lists out there (definitely check out Sam Sifton’s list of Top 11 dishes in New York in the New York Times), I decided to give it a go.

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 memorable eats of 2009. 

Enjoy, buon appetito and listen, let’s do this again in 2010 …

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