Lin Chinese Cuisine has been one of my favourite spots in Vancouver for Xiao Long Bao (XLB). Xiao Long Bao is a type of steamed bun or “bao” typically from regions of eastern China, such as Shanghai. They are typically steamed in small bamboo steamer baskets known as “xiao long”, hence the name Xiao Long Bao. When translated in English, these tiny steamed buns often go under the identities of steamed mini pork buns, soup dumplings, pork dumplings, or even Shanghainese dumplings. The English translation as a dumpling is a bit of a misnomer as XLB are truly not known as a type of dumpling (or “jiaozi”) in China.
The Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai juicy pork dumpling) at Lin’s, $4.99 for a steamer basket of 6, are always freshly made. At the corner of the restaurant, behind the glass, you can watch the ladies roll out the dough and fill each one with minced pork and chunks of gelatinous soup. When the dumpling is steamed, the gelatinous chunks melts into soup. Over the last couple of years, I have tried XLB at a number of the popular places in the Greater Vancouver area including Wang’s at Crystal Mall (which is now closed), Long’s Noodle House, Chen’s Shanghai Restaurant in Richmond (which has now moved to take over the spot in Crystal Mall where Wang’s formerly was), Top Shanghai, Shanghai River, Suhang, and even Shanghai Village (which is now closed). But I have to say the XLB at Lin’s is the one that has the thinnest skin of all the places I tried so far. In terms of which place has the best XLB, it’s all a matter of opinion and personal preference. Some people base their rating on the flavour of the soup while others on the texture of the pork filling. Personally, I prefer the ones with the thinnest skin as possible without any breakage when you pick it up, of course and at the same time, have a thin and flavourful broth. So far, to me, Lin’s XLB fits the bill the best for what I’m looking for in XLB. I’ve been to Lin’s a couple of times for XLB and so far, they have consistently delivered on each occasion.
The same couldn’t be said about a lot of their other dishes, however. I’ve tried a variety of dishes up until this visit and have been disappointed with them all except for the XLB. Hence, up until this visit, I’ve been just going to Lin’s exclusively for their XLB. My friend and I would go and each have a whole basket of XLB to ourselves.
On this recent visit, my foodie friend who lives in Vancouver, Grayelf, introduced me to one of her other favourite dishes, the Shanghai Vegetable Hotpot Rice with Ham ($6.99). This dish is listed under the rice & fried noodles category on the menu. This dish consisted of shredded bok choy and Chinese ham (also known as preserved pork, salted meat, or lap yuk) mixed together with rice and cooked in a very hot clay pot. The Chinese ham/salted meat is literally like a Chinese version of prosciutto. I loved the contrasting textures and flavours of this dish – the crispness of the vegetables against the salty and distinct flavours of the Chinese ham. I so glad to finally have found another dish that I really enjoy at Lin’s besides the XLB.
What has impressed me about Lin’s is their consistency in the execution of their XLB. I’ve been there several times already and each and every time the XLB has been stellar. The skin or wrapper has been just as thin each time and the soup as flavourful. Now that I’ve found another dish I really enjoy, the Shanghai Vegetable Hotpot Rice with Ham, I can’t wait to go back to again. I’ve got it figured out! This time we can make a meal out of it – my friend and I can share the hotpot rice and we can still each have our own steamer basket of XLB.
Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House
1537 West Broadway