This is an invited session
If you go Shanghai with a tour group, chances are that you will be brought to 城隍庙's Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (南翔馒头店) for their xiaolongbaos, because that is one of the oldest and most reputatable place to have your fix of authenthic XLBs!
But when the Singapore franchise opened in Bugis Junction years ago, I did not manage to eat there due to a kitchen malfunction on my day of visit and somehow never thought of going back again, partially due to a widespread of respectable XLBs found elsewhere in Singapore.
So when LeRoy invited me for a session at their latest outlet in Plaza Singapura, it once again aroused my interest of how close they are to the grand ol dame!
Going along the line of a casual eatery, the decor is clean and simple with the bamboo basket as a recurring theme. The menu is also interesting in a sense that it rarely overlapped with what places like Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure are serving, but instead presenting dishes that are more simple and homecooked-like found in typical Shanghainese households.
In the PS branch, there's even this platform-like space that resembled the inside of a bamboo basket, so LeRoy and I were joking how they should probably make steam emitting from the floor until we realised its kind of sadistic, no?
Icy Water Cress Honey ($2.50)
While I had plenty of watercress (西洋菜) soup in my life, I don't quite remember it being in a beverage form! I was delighted that the honey did not overwhelm the watercress taste, being quite an interesting drink to cool you down!
Yuan Yang Duck Tongue ($8.00), Jelly Fish with Spicy Vinegar ($6.80)
I guess the crunchy texture of duck tongues is still quite exotic among Singaporeans, but I really think people should give it a try when we have been so comfortable with chicken feet! With duo flavours of braised and alcohol-fermented (酒糟), I prefer the latter for its stronger taste.
I was told that the jelly fish here used the only the head portion, accounting for the extra crunch. The sourish, spicy sauce also whetted my appetite nicely!
King Sized Nanxiang Crab Roe Steamed Soup Bun ($6.80)
Essentially a superior stock encasted in a giant bao skin, the original version actually demanded the usage of creamy hairy crab, which is subjected to seasonal supplies and a cost price that will shoot through the roof. Honestly, the substitute of Sri Lankn crab roe couldn't quite replicate the original, but it is nonetheless the next best alternative.
And oh, please please please bear this in mind. The skin is NOT meant for consumption. I have heard on several occasions that the skin is way too tough and chewy to bite. Of course, it was never meant to be eaten so just leave it alone!
Xiao Long Baos: Crab Roe & Pork Filling, ($11.80/6 pieces) Fresh Pork Filling ($6.00/6 pieces), Shrimp & Pork Filling ($7.80/6 pieces), Spicy Crabmeat & Pork Filling ($11.80/6 pieces)
How can I not try what's on my number 1 hitlist? I am pleased to find that the XLBs here are pretty good all-rounders, scoring well in the thickness, texture and meat juice tests.
Besides the trusty original, the other one that stood out was the spicy variant, catching me by surprise and was somewhat addictive with its prominent spiced herbs flavour. No fanciful colours or too-exotic fillings, this was one new innovation that I really liked!
"Hua Niang" Steamed Cod Fish ($13.00), Steamed Egg with Clams ($6.00)
For more sharing dishes, the fresh cod fish slices were just melting, simply prepared with a light, floral-like sauce. The steamed egg was another homecooked favourite, much like a smooth Japanese chawanmushi.
Vermicelli with Crab Roe ($12.80)
Ending the meal high on carbs, I again lamented the fact that hairy crabs weren't used, which made the dish much less magical. With a texture similar to Taiwanese mee sua, the golden mix still filled me up real well!
Prices here are really reasonable given their standards, good for those initially venturing into Shanghainese cuisine. I guess that the casual settings will be great for get-togethers too. For myself, I'm glad that I finally tried the place and will definitely be returning for my fix of good ol XLBs!
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
#02-01 Plaza Singapura (Also available at Bugis Junction and City Square Mall)
Tel: 6337 7446
Click here for their online menu!
Special thanks to LeRoy of FoodNews for the invite!
Taken with Nikon D70
3 hours ago