Melbourne's Best Snacks: HuTong's xiao long bao

Published on 20 October 2021

Photo: HuTong's xiao long bao (illustration: Joanna Hu)

This bite-sized engineering marvel is a must order at this dumpling spot.

The history of xiao long bao begins in late 19th-century Shanghai, but Melbourne’s love for the soup buns can be carbon-dated to the opening of HuTong Dumpling Bar in 2010.

They weren’t entirely unknown in the city, but it took the efforts of Shanghainese-born, Melbourne-based property developer Jeff Xu to send them into the trend stratosphere at his Market Lane restaurant, where diners are greeted by the sight of chefs in tall white hats deftly giving the dumplings their 18 pleats and trademark topknot.

The precision engineering includes aspic along with the pork filling; this is the ingenious addition which melts in the steamer and turns into soup. A certain method is required to eat them with any decorum. Load a spoon with a dumpling along with a sliver of ginger and a slosh of black vinegar; the two ingredients will spark the XLB’s central nervous system into life. Then nibble a hole in the bottom of the bun and slurp the broth out before eating the rest in one hit.

It probably goes without saying, but don’t wear white. When he came to Australia in 1998, “Chinese food meant sweet and sour pork,” says Xu. “Xiao long bao were known on menus only as pork dumplings. Now everyone can speak xiao long bao.”

HuTong Dumpling Bar, 14-16 Market La, Melbourne and 1/162 Commercial Rd, Prahran, hutong.com.au

By Larissa Dubecki

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