I’ve always associated 小笼包 (xiaolongbao, or more affectionately known by its short-form, XLB) with Taiwan’s Din Tai Fung 鼎泰丰. But did you know that 京华 (Jing Hua) has been folding, and selling xiaolongbaos for 25 years in Singapore? Our very own, local, home-grown brand!
京华 was founded in 1989 by Mr and Mrs Han who both Singaporeans. The business is now helmed by Guo Guang, their eldest son.
The ladies definitely made folding look too easy. Any ugly, mis-shapened ones you see on the first tray were ours (the better ones; trust me, many got rejected). For one, the filling was extremely wet, and consequently, hard to handle. I seriously don’t know how they managed to nudge the filling into the dough disk as they fold. I have boney, long fingers, but that didn’t help one bit. Once the tips of my fingers got wet from the filling, it became impossible to “close” the XLB because the dough wouldn’t hold!
It’s not very evident in the photo but the skin was translucent enough for us to see the soup inside. You will also notice that the 小笼汤包 here are much bigger than Din Tai Fung’s. Comparisons are quite inevitable. While DTF still has thinner skins, there was a lot more broth in each XLB here, and the broth was much tastier. The meat ball inside was also tender and flavourful.
These XLBs are very affordably priced at $7++ for 7 pieces.
Guo Guang shared that he learned the tricks of the trade since he was young. Believe it or not, he actually mastered folding XLBs first, before he perfected folding 饺子. He said that the latter looks deceptively easier, but there is a lot of skill involved in packing the meat into the dough disk, and pinching it the right way.
You will notice that the filling here is more colourful than the filling for XLBs. The ingredients include, inter alia, crab, prawn, and pork- hence, the name 三鲜饺子.
My favourite item for the day was the steamed dumplings (三鲜饺子). I’ve never had dumplings with a juicy filling, but these were exactly that! The combination of the three proteins lent a more complex flavour to the dish- something more than a regular meatball.
The pan-fried version (三鲜锅贴) was almost equally good, with a perfect golden crust encasing the same kind of filling as the steamed one. This was crunchy, and very tasty, but I still liked the steamed version better (even if it’s less photogenic) because the juices were all retained in the skin.
Both cost $8++ for 10 pieces.
Something that might be a hit amongst kids is the 三鲜盒子 ($10++) which they call Chinese “pizza”. The filling is the same as the 饺子. This was very crunchy and non-greasy.
If you can’t eat meat, there are also vegetarian dumplings (素饺子, $7++ for 7) available. The filling was crunchy, with the clear sweetness of veggies. One of the better vegetarian dumplings I’ve had.
When I walked into the restaurant, I saw that most tables ordered a few bowls of 炸酱面 ($5++). The noodles were light, and springy, and the sauce was not too heavy in terms of flavour. The sauce of the Korean version is much sweeter, and thicker.
I was coaxed into adding a bit of the chilli, and I must say it did whet my appetite for more. It’s not very spicy so try adding a bit before you wave it away.
I wasn’t expecting much from desserts since the restaurant specialises in dumplings but I was pleasantly surprised~
After eating so much, I still managed to finish my entire bowl of tangyuan (桂花汤圆, $3++). The sweet soup was perfumed with osmanthus flowers (I’d take this over ginger any day!), something that I haven’t seen before. Trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of tang yuan, be it at restaurants or hawker centres, and I’ve never had osmanthus flower soup with tangyuan. Loved the florals here. Every hand-made tang yuan has a different filling so I don’t think you’d want to share 😉
You must not miss out on their rendition of crispy red bean pancake too! This 豆沙锅饼 ($10++) is one of the best I’ve had. The exterior was crispy but inside, it tasted almost like 年糕 (nian gao) encasing a smooth red bean filling. So delicious.
The food here is unpretentious, of good quality (ingredients are sourced from Chinatown’s wet markets), and affordable especially since you get to eat in air-conditioned comfort. Definitely a must-try if you are in the vicinity!
京华 (Jing Hua)
Neil Road (the original outlet)
21 Neil Road, Singapore 088814
Tel: +65 6221 3060
Lunch from 11.30am to 3.00pm
Dinner from 5.30pm to 9.30pm
(Closed on Wednesdays)
159 Rochor Road, Singapore 188434
Tel: +65 6337 7601
Lunch from 11.30am to 3.30pm
Dinner from 5.30pm to 10.00pm
All day weekends and public holidays
Do note that the mode of payment here is CASH ONLY.
It’s about $10-$15 per pax
Thanks Jael, and LeRoy, from FoodNews, for hosting (it’s always a joy to talk to you guys) and Shanyu for the invite!