Monday, July 18, 2011

Shi Lin at The Podium ♥ ♥


Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section, July 17, 2011


Of Noodles and Soupy Dumplings

There is a revenge of xiao long baos in the city. Suddenly, bao-makers are popping up left and right, and I am really not surprised. I mean who doesn’t love these little adorable pouches of joy? In one mouthful you get small portions of a complete meal – soup, meat, carbs, and tiny bits of vegetables. A steamed basket of six to 10 pieces and you’re good to go. Clean and simple.

And delicious.

It’s a shame that all xiao long bao shops decided to open in the San Juan-Ortigas area, so it takes some effort (plus an hour of driving in Manila traffic) for a fat girl who lives down south to satiate her soup dumpling cravings. But one lucky Friday brought me to a faraway land that is The Podium.

Hello there, Shi Lin xiao long bao!


Shi Lin


My friend and I were led to a booth overlooking the demolition going on at the neighboring lot. Nice. We settled into our seats and checked out the menu. The choices are simple and unpretentious, the way I like it. Naturally, the Xiao Long Bao is the very first item in the menu. And just as naturally, it is the very first item I ticked on the order form.

In my thirty-something xiao long bao-eating years, I’ve learned that three factors determine an excellent soup dumpling: The skin, the soup, and the meat filling. The skin has to be soft and thin, the soup rich and flavorful, the meat filling fresh and generous.

And after experimenting with just too many different techniques, I’ve also learned that my favorite way to eat a xiao long bao is to hold my breath as I pick up the baby with my chopsticks ever so gently, dip it in black vinegar, lay it down carefully on my spoon, exhale deeply, top it with about five thin shreds of ginger, stop and admire it in all its plumpness and juiciness, then I nibble daintily on a small piece of skin, suck in greedily all the soup, and plop the whole thing happily into my mouth, close my eyes, smile, chew, swallow, smile, open my eyes, and then repeat.


Xiao Long Bao


I’d say my Shi Lin xiao long bao experience was quite satisfactory. The soup was adequately tasty, the meat filling generous, but the skin was thick and top-heavy, giving you a pasty knob of dough at the tip of the dumpling. Still, I finished my half of the steamer and ordered a few more dishes for us to share. Way to go, Jin.


Fried Chicken Chop


After the steamed soupy dumplings, I wanted something more exciting in terms of flavors and textures, and the fried chicken chop seemed like the perfect choice. It arrived covered in a beautiful golden crust sprinkled with spices. I took a bite and was delighted at how tender the meat was. Now if only the crust were crunchier and a tad less salty.


Spicy Sesame and Peanut Sauce


The Noodles with Spicy Sesame and Peanut Sauce, rather than the xiao long bao, turned out to be my favorite dish. True, I wish the noodles were more al dente as I love slurping on them chewy and stringy strands, but the sesame-peanut sauce with just the slightest hint of heat was so perfect in every way, I felt it was only fair to close one eye to the soggy noodles.

I tell you, that rich, nutty and creamy sauce, you can pour it on anything and anything will instantly taste awesome. Really, smother it on cardboard and watch me devour it. Yes, it is like magic.


Stir-fried Taiwan Spinach


We finished off our lunch with a plate of Taiwan Spinach. Stir-fried with just the right amount of minced garlic, it tasted fresh and delicious I almost forgot it was healthy.


Shi Lin is located at the 3rd Floor of The Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.

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