It goes without saying that Richmond, B.C. has some of the best Chinese food outside of Asia. By this logic, it’s not a stretch to say the best Xiao Long Bao can also be found in Richmond. For those unfamiliar with the XLB or Shanghai Pork Soup Dumplings, they are usually small dumplings filled with pork and gelatin that results in a mixture of filling and soup after steaming. There are many different variations of dumplings available, with leavened and unleavened dough as well as various fillings, and they can all be found in Richmond.
Now, there have been countless articles and challenges in search of the best XLB in Metro Vancouver, but I personally thought the best would be found in Richmond. So, I took it upon myself to find the best XLB in Richmond, but I wasn’t planning on doing this over a few weeks or even days; I was determined to do this over a few hours!
I enlisted the help of Grace Cheung to help me gobble up the approximately 42 XLBs on our unofficial XLB crawl of Richmond. Armed with a list of restaurants and an empty stomach (a requirement for this undertaking), we set out to find the best XLB in Richmond.
Stop 1: Shanghai River
We started at 11:00am at Shanghai River (7831 Westminster Highway) with their made-to-order XLBs. Mind you, all of our destinations featured freshly hand-crafted XLBs that were steamed seconds after they were made. Since this was early in the day, these took a bit longer to arrive, but they were definitely worth the wait. The XLBs at Shanghai River sported a moderately thin and soft skin that encased a moist and tender filling. It was on the sweeter side with a hint of ginger. This was a good start!
Stop 2: Dinesty Dumpling House
We then moved onto Dinesty Dumpling House (160 – 8111 Ackroyd Rd.), which is not exactly a Shanghainese restaurant, yet is still known for their XLBs. These were completely different than those at Shanghai River as they featured a thin and chewy skin. There was significantly more soup which exhibited xiaoshing wine notes, ginger and sweetness. Unlike the Shanghai River’s XLBs, the meat here was less substantial and much grittier and loose.
Stop 3: Top Shanghai Cuisine
Staying within the same area, we took a quick stroll across the street to Top Shanghai Cuisine (120 – 5880 No. 3 Road) where it was bustling with activity. They are actually well-known for their Pan-Fried Buns (not pictured), so we got an order to accompany the XLBs. Top Shanghai’s XLBs also had a thin and chewy skin with a slightly thicker swirl on the top. Inside, there was a good amount of soup that was salty and porky. In turn the sweetness was more in the background. I found the meat relatively soft and moist with a few chewy bits.
Stop 4: Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen
Since it was the height of the lunch rush, we didn’t succeed in visiting the nearby Suhang, so we left it for later. Instead we made the short drive over to Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen (8095 Park Road). The XLBs here were visually more flat than the last three restaurants we tried. The reason behind this was twofold: first, the skin was thin and delicate. Second, these sported the most amount of soup so far. Sweet, with a hint of xiaoshing wine, the soup was balanced and easy on the fat. As for the meat, it was tender with only a touch of grittiness.
Stop 5: Suhang Restaurant
By now, we were questioning whether we could finish this self-imposed mission, but we soldiered on and swung back to Suhang Restaurant (100 – 8291 Ackroyd Rd.). Yes, too many dumplings… #firstworldproblems! When the steamer hit the table, we were presented with the largest XLBs so far. There was a considerable amount of soup, which was sweet and salty with a xiaoshing wine finish. As for the pork filling, it was even more substantial, looking closer to a big meatball. It was moist, though with some chewier parts. All of this was encased in a uniformly thin dumpling skin that was appealingly chewy.
Stop 6: Shanghai Morning (we’re getting really full…)
By now, it was 2:30pm and we needed to hit up Shanghai Morning (125 – 8291 Alexandra Rd.) before their afternoon break at 3:00pm. On any given day, if you spend $25.00 or more, the XLBs are actually on the house! However, Grace and I were in no mood to eat more than we needed to at this point, so we simply had one order of XLB. These XLBs were served in a metal steamer basket as opposed to the traditional bamboo ones, which meant the outside skin was more moist than the others. We found the skin to be semi-thin and chewy with a thicker top swirl. There was loads of soup that was well-balanced with hits of salty, sweet, ginger and wine. The meat was a bit gritty though; it had a meaty texture and a somewhat dry finish.
Stop 7: R&H Chinese Food, Lansdowne Food Court
We made it! Our last stop was the new R&H Chinese Food stall located in Lansdowne Centre (5300 No 3. Rd.). We saved R&H for last because it has been the latest talk-of-the-town and it’s also the newest place of the bunch. We waited briefly for the XLBs to be hand-made and steamed. To our surprise, these were completely different than any of the others we’d tried in the past few hours. Like some of the others, the top swirl was fairly thick and very chewy. However, the rest of the skin was thin and appealingly chewy. There was as much soup as the one at Chen’s, yet much saltier with a meaty finish. The meat was a touch gritty, but fairly tender and moist.
There you have it! Our Richmond XLB crawl took us four hours to complete. It would’ve taken us less time if we didn’t order some side dishes at the first three stops. Yes, we were completely stuffed and were in no mood for any more XLBs at the end of our tour. However, we were able to get a handle on which were our favourites back-to-back-to-back.
Personally, I felt that the XLB at Chen’s had the most boxes checked off in terms of dumpling skin, filling, soup and flavour. Naturally, this is all subjective and I’m sure everyone has their own opinion as to which one is the best in Richmond. In fact, there are few omissions in our tour, including Shanghai Wonderful, Shanghai House, Nu and Yuan. But since we’d recently visited those restaurants already, we narrowed it down to the above seven restaurants for this crawl. No matter which one you think is the best one or the one you choose to try, they all are good in their own way!