I'll take the SDs over the XLBs at Shanghai House.
Soup dumplings (or dunklings as my son calls them) are the kind of things that foodies obsess over. However, I think it’s clear that Chowhounds, who call xiao long bao “XLB” for short, are extra obsessed. As Melanie Wong, a regular institution on the website—a walking Wikipedia of food factoids, "Family Feud"-at-the-ready with her with her undeniably (insanely?) impressive knowledge—says, “The pursuit of xiao long bao is a never-ending quest on [the San Francisco Bay Area] board.”
I am no Melanie Wong, I will put it out there right now. Put me in a foodie death match with her and I would face immediate humiliation. I’ve also never been on a quest to find the perfect XLB. But, like most people, I find great pleasure in biting into a dumpling to have it release a dose of warm broth. A good soup dumpling has got to be the most comforting food on earth.
So I completely recognize that the XLBs out at Shanghai House (3641 Balboa St., 415-831-9288) are pretty damn good. (If you’re a white girl like me, make sure you ask for the Chinese menu or you’ll be staring at dishes like #9 Sweet and Sour Pork.) But I have to wonder: Does Melanie Wong know about the spicy dumplings? They’re a delicious Shanghai House off-the-menu specialty that my friends tipped me off to the other night.
Melanie probably does. The Chowhounds have probably written a manifesto about them and there’s probably a correct Chinese name for them that I don’t know about. But until someone lets me know otherwise, I'm going to call them SD for short.