In the dumpling game, XLB (that would be xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings, for those who don't know) are the high rollers' table. Get it right and you're rewarded with juicy, porky heaven; fumble with your chopsticks and you've got a scalded mouth and a wet chin at best (a ruined dumpling and guffawing friends at worst).
Xiao long bao (literally "small basket buns," named for the bamboo baskets they’re steamed in) have delicate skins that encase a pork-based filling and a gelatinized meat broth. During steaming the broth liquefies, poaching the pork in a rich, savory soup. As the dumplings cool, the broth solidifies and the skin hardens, which is why XLB need to be eaten quickly, but not too quickly.
For the best XLB-tackling tips, we talked to cookbook authors Grace Young, whose The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen is a classic, and Fuchsia Dunlop, whose new book Land of Fish and Rice just came out. We also called on New York restaurateurs Xian Zhang, co-owner of Michelin-starred Cafe China, and Drunken Dumpling's Yuan Lee, who is responsible for unleashing the XL XLB -- the super-sized soup dumplings that are selling out in 15 minutes.