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Shanghai Surprise


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.