This blog is about a Chinese restaurant in Thailand that serves delicious Shanghai dumplings — xiao long pao. I seem to be on a roll lately blogging about non-Thai food in Thailand. Recent blogs have been on a chocolate store in Bangkok (Great chocolate; in Thailand!) and a stretch of street in Ao Nang Bay with more non-Thai restaurants than Thai restaurants (Are We in Thailand?)
Note: This blog dates from May 2, 2011. When we visited this restaurant in December 2012 the name had been changed to Shanghai Xiao Long Pao and the dumplings were not very good. We checked it out again in December 2013 and the dumplings were quite good (not quite great,however) and the rest of the food was very good. I’ll post an update blog soon. (December 2013)
The restaurant’s logo
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)
There are a fair number of ethnic Chinese people in Thailand; information from a couple of different places on the Internet suggests 5 to 6 million people claiming to be Chinese ethnicity, so about 12 to 14 percent of the population. (See, for instance, Wikipedia’s “Thai Chinese”.) It is only natural that there would be excellent Chinese restaurants and we’ve eaten at quite a few of those.
Shanghai Xiao Long Pao Restaurant
Inside the restaurant
Kasma and I like to go out for dim sum every once in awhile, both in the U.S. and Thailand. For some time we’ve been in search of really good Xiao Long Pao– Shanghai dumplings. One friend sent us to a restaurant in San Francisco that was very disappointing. Another friend and frequent trip member recommended some at the Taipei airport and these were good dumplings, if not great. When she’s in Thailand Kasma likes to take her mom out to malls for sightseeing and meals and it was on one of these excursions recently that she came across the restaurant “Shangkai Xioa Long Pao” at MBK Center (Mahboonkrong), which bills itself as “the most visited mall in Bangkok.”
A place setting
Malls usually have lots of chain restaurants, with the ubiquitous western chains on the first floor and many Thai-owned chains as well scattered throughout. For less formal eating there are also the Food Centers – basically street food brought indoors. Generally Kasma and I don’t eat at a lot of chain restaurants – we prefer individually-owned, Thai-run restaurants, though when we have eaten at Thai chains, the quality of the food has often been fairly decent, if not superb. The Shanghai Xiao Long Pao at MBK is one of 12 branches. Given our desire to find a great Shanghai dumpling, we had to try this place out.
Interestingly, the English words on the front of the menu are “Shanghai Chicken Rice.”
I ate there twice with Kasma and her mom. Each time we had a very good meal.
Shanghai Dumplings (Xiao Long Pao)
The Shanghai dumplings were verygood indeed. The best we’ve come across. The dough on the outside was thin so it did not overwhelm the filling and, most important, resilient enough so that it did not break; this means that when you bite into the dumpling, you get a spurt of delicious “soup”. The filling is made from fatty pork and is savory and delicious. Add all this to the dipping sauce with chopped ginger and it is very satisfying. You can order these in baskets of 3 or 6: I recommend getting 6!
Pan Fried Ham and Onion Cake
Both times we ordered the Pan Fried Ham and Onion Cake. It is crisply fried (probably in lard, the best fat for frying things like this) with a delicious filling. Highly recommended as well.
Of the other dim sum we tried, the Shanghai Style Steamed Pork Bun was excellent. The dough on the outside was the right amount with a good texture and taste. The filling was savory and good – not the sweet filling that I usually associate with Chinese Steamed Pork Buns. Highly recommended.
Braised Pork with Napa Cabbage
Each visit we ordered another 3 or 4 dishes from the menu. I particularly enjoyed both the Braised Pork with Bamboo and the Braised Pork with Napa Cabbage with Gravy Sauce + Steamed Buns (see picture). We ordered them because of the picture (the menu has pictures of all the dishes), where we could see succulent-looking pork belly in a sauce. Both dishes were perfectly cooked – fatty and delicious. Recently pork belly has become sort of trendy dish at some of the restaurants in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area in the United States: the Chinese have appreciated pork belly for a long time
Shanghai Chicken Rice Set
Also recommended is the Shanghai Chicken Rice, the dish listed on the front of the menu. This is pretty much the same as the Thai Kao Mon Gkai. At this restaurant it comes a set that would make a great one-dish meal if you’re eating alone. (Well, along with a small basket of Xiao Long Pao.) It comes with a plate of succulent, juicey steamed chicken, a broth with melon, some spicy cabbage (very reminiscent of kim chee), a spicy dipping sauce, a pickled vegetable and a bowl of chicken-fat rice. I would recommend getting this dish just for the rice. Chicken-fat rice, in Thai kao mon gkai.This rice is first sautéd in chicken fat and then cooked much like a risotto in chicken broth. It is a rich, delicious treat. We ordered this dish and then ate it family-style with everything else.
Steamed Fish with Vegetables
We ordered a fish dish each time. The Deep Fried Fish with Oyster Sauce was quite good. The Steamed Fish with Vegetables (pictured) was ok, though I don’t think I’d get it again – there are just too many other delicious dishes that I like better along with several pictured in the menu that I’d like to try. Of the two dishes, the fried fish dish had a lot more flavor.
The Chicken in Chinese Shaoxing Wine was quite good. I would definitely order that again, though I’d give the Shanghai Chicken Rice an edge (as a chicken dish) because of the delicious, rich rice.
Dried red pepper sauce
One accoutrement that bears mentioning is the dried red pepper paste (sauce). This was fiery hot and added a delightful component to many of the dishes: I found myself using it quite a bit.
The one dish that I found disappointing was the Stir-fried Prawns with Hot and Spicy Sauce: there was just too much unexciting, overwhelming sauce, not spicy at all. Luckily, we had the dried red pepper, which I added in quantity.
Dumplings with black sesame paste
We finished our second meal up with a dessert that was on the dessert menu on the table. It’s only in Thai in a script I can’t decipher so if you want to try it, remember our picture and point. It was a dumpling with a sweet filling of black sesame beans with the dumpling dipped in chopped cashew nuts. The filling is the same is used in a more commonly available dessert – Sticky Rice Balls Stuffed with Black Sesame Paste in Warm Sweet Ginger Broth (Bua Loy Nahm King). The filling works very well in the dumpling, with the chopped cashew nuts adding a effective contrasting taste as well as a different texture to interest the palate.
All of this blog pertains to the Shanghai Xiao Long Pao restaurant at MBK center at 444 Phayathai Rd., Patumwan, Bangkok; the restaurant is found on the third floor in the Tokyu zone. It’s pretty easy to get to since it’s within walking distance of the National Stadium skytrain station.
Written by Michael Babcock, April 2011