My first encounter with Xiao Long Bao spelled love at first bite. The idea of soup inside a dumpling blew my mind. And the taste? An explosion of flavor and texture. This was years ago, at Din Tai Fung. While there are no Din Tai Fung branches here, I still manage to soothe my Xiao Long Bao cravings—without settling for something less—at Shi Lin.
Shi Lin, named after the famed Taiwanese Night Market, reminds me so much of Din Tai Fung. The dish assortment, the open kitchen with masked dumpling dudes, and the fact that they both had Xiao Long Bao as their spotlighted dish make the comparison so obvious. Thankfully, Shi Lin lives up to the famed Taiwanese restaurant chain.
When dining at Shi Lin, the Xiao Long Bao is always the first thing I order off the menu. These delicate dumplings have the thinnest skin, most flavorful broth, and meatiest filling, making me a happy camper. Enjoyed plain or with black vinegar and ginger shreds, I easily manage to finish a tray by myself. While the flavor of the dumpling is simple and uncomplicated, the whole experience of biting into the skin, slurping the soup, and chomping on the rest of the dumpling makes it crave-worthy.
Another favorite of ours is the Fried Rice with Pork Chop and Egg. This is another DTF favorite that made it to Shi Lin’s menu. Shi Lin’s version, however, is more fried pork chop like. Not that it’s a bad thing. The heady combination of spices (Is that you, star anise?) makes for an addictive bite. Served atop a magnificent egg fried rice—done the Taiwanese way, which is to say, super fabulous rice grains—it makes for a very hearty, very filling, and very wonderful meal.
Not a pork fan? There’s also a Chicken Chop version, also served atop egg fried rice. Nicely crisp and seasoned similarly to the Pork Chop, it’s just as substantial as the Pork Chop Rice. Though we still love the Pork Chop Rice better.
Another favorite of ours is the Fried Shrimp and Pork Dumplings. This crisp, fried dumpling hides a juicy, meaty core of shrimp and pork, made more refreshing by ginger. Dipped in sweet and sour sauce, we like pairing it with fried rice instead of eating it solo.
When I feel like nibbling on something refreshing, I pick the Japanese cucumber. These fresh Japanese cucumbers are marinated in a briny solution, then spiced up with some chili. It hits the spot on the refreshing meter, but still pales to the one from Din Tai Fung, which hits you hard with its spicy-oily coat.
Vegetarians will like the mushroom and vegetable dumplings. The mushrooms make it substantial and meaty despite the absence of pork or beef while the leafy veggies give it a refreshing bite.
Among their soup dishes, I’ve tried the Hot and Sour soup as well as the Wonton Soup, but while they’re okay, they’re not something I’d usually order since it feels redundant with the Xiao Long Bao.
Another dish I tried recently is the Salt and Pepper Squid. The light and crunchy batter make the perfect foil for the tender squid. The light seasoning may leave some wanting a bit more flavor, but this is easily remedied by the vinegar dip. Except if you hate vinegar, of course, but in this case, the sweet and sour sauce from the fried shrimp wontons will come in handy.
Shi Lin has easily become one of our favorite go to restaurants when we’re looking for a quick, substantial meal. And once you try it, it’s easy to see why.