Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao Launches New Menu (PLUS GIVEAWAY)
What’s your best memory of Crystal Jade? For me, it’s visiting the Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao outlet in Holland Village with my secondary school friends during this time for the year to celebrate Christmas. We would order a steaming hotpot together with unlimited supply of Xiao Long Baos. Then we would be eating frantically as there was a certain time frame we have to complete the meal. To us, visiting Crystal Jade is always about celebrations. Ahhh… so much precious memories!
Over the years, the brand constantly improves itself and takes pride in providing quality cuisine with good value. Leading up to Crystal Jade’s 25th anniversary next year, Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao has unveiled a refreshed interior at Toa Payoh Hub, and an extensively-updated menu that showcases the local brand’s well-loved array of la mian and xiao long bao, as well as traditional meat and seafood specialties from around the Jiangnan region.
I visited the Toa Payoh Hub outlet which now sports a modern, chinoiserie chic design with black latticed panels and upholstered chairs in soft hues of grey and turquoise. All new Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao outlets will be refurbished in phases to mirror this refreshed interior.
In line with the revamp, Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao has recently added new and exciting dishes to its menu.
Delicate Folds & Long Pull
I’ll be honest here. I am trying Crystal Jade’s colourful Xiao Long Bao for the first time and was mightily impressed. They aren’t the absolute thinnest-skinned of the lot, but the skins are unfailingly delicate and lightly stretchy. Just look at the photos. While many other xiao long bao I have tried look old and crumbled, Crystal Jade’s version is round, puffy and colourful! What’s more, you’re guaranteed to be served dumplings that were only steamed just before serving. This freshness shows in their flavor and texture.
Right on trend is the debut of Crystal Jade’s Steamed Salted Egg Yolk Xiao Long Bao 咸蛋黄小笼包 (4 pcs, $7.80), where orange-tinted skins are delicately pinched around chunks of minced pork and salted egg yolk in savoury broth. The salted egg meaty filling has enough fat that enriches the flavor of the entire dumpling. The aromatics like vinegar and ginger are optional. In fact, the savoury broth is good on its own that you don’t even need aromatics. It leaves my lips sticky with gelatinous juices when finished.
With a deep breath, I lift a soup dumpling from its basket, hoping it won’t tear. Slowly, the dumpling lands in the spoon intact, plump but not sagging, buoyant as a ball gown. Take a bite, gently, from the top; watch the steam flee; sip the broth inside, just enough to taste; then down it whole.
My new found love is the Steamed Chilli Crab Xiao Long Bao 辣椒蟹小龙包 (4 pcs, $10.80). Fresh crabmeat, premium minced pork, and a spicy crab-based broth encased within the delicate folds, bound to leave an explosion of ingredients and flavors in your mouths with a bite. The generous portions of fresh crab meat was evident with every bite.
The two dumpling are also available as part of the Steamed Assorted Flavours Xiao Long Bao 四色小笼包 (4 pcs, $10.80), a sampler set that comprises other novel innovations; Steamed Ginseng Xiao Long Bao 人參小笼包 (4 pcs, $10.80), and Steamed Vegetable Xiao Long Bao 素菜小笼包 (4 pcs, $7.80).
Less colourful but no less delicious is the unassuming Poached Watercress Dumpling 西洋菜水饺 (6 pcs, $6.80), where each snugly-wrapped parcel packs an oomph with a generous filling of minced pork and watercress.
But xiao long baos are only half the restaurant’s name. The repertoire of pulled noodle dishes at Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao has been expanded to include new must-tries, such as the wildly-fragrant La Mian with Scallion Oil served with Dong Po Pork Belly 东坡肉葱油拌面 ($10.80-$11.80). It arrives in layers, pale and pristine noodles beneath thick slices of pork belly cloaked in a sticky-sweet dark sauce, waiting to be churned together. The first taste is shockingly light, but as I bite into the pork belly, things change. The dong po pork belly is indulgently fatty, but that’s what makes it so good.
Not to be forgotten are perennial favourites such as the Signature Szechuan Dan Dan La Mian 招牌四川担担拉面 ($8.80); replete with nutty richness, and the spicy, piquant La Mian with Chilled Poached Chicken in Szechuan Style 口水鸡拉面 ($10.80-$11.80). For undeniable comfort, go for the series of la mian in collagen-rich Signature Pork Broth ($8.80-$13.80) jazzed up with a variety of toppings such as shrimp dumplings and deep-fried pork ribs.
A Taste of Jiangnan
Diners can also expect a myriad of gastronomic specialties from all over Jiangnan, which encompasses cities like Wuxi, Shaoxing and Shanghai. The addictively crunchy, sweet-and-sour Deep-fried White Bait in Wuxi Style 无锡小鱼儿 ($7.80) is probably the best way to fritter away time. Dusted in flour and instantly deep-fried to a crisp succulence, not only it is crunchy, the sweet and sour wu xi sauce.
One show-stopper to look out for is the Deep-fried Duck 福安香酥鸭 (half, $26.80). It was bronzed with crunchy, brittle skin, tender flesh and a brawny, meaty flavor. I gobbled them up, stripping the bones. Then I realized only ten servings are available each day as it takes long hours to prepare. The duck is first marinated for two days then steamed for two hours and deep-fried to lock in all its succulent juices.
Another labour-intensive dish not to be missed is the Braised Minced Pork Ball with Mushroom & Bamboo Shoot 红烧小丸子 ($12.80), traditionally known as “lion’s head meatballs” (狮子头). At Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao, these hand-beaten pork balls are skillfully cooked to achieve an incredibly smooth and moist texture, and braised in a claypot for an enhanced smoky fragrance.
Pad the tummy with a nourishing Shanghai-style Rice Flour Cake with Shredded Pork & Preserved Vegetable Soup 雪菜肉丝年糕汤 ($10.80-$11.80). The chewy texture is served in a superior pork broth. That soup, of which I had expected so little, surprised me. Gentle at first, it grew deep and its flavors kept going. Now you don’t have to wait till Chinese New Year to have this.
For The Sweet Tooth
Round off the meal with the Glutinous Rice Ball in Fermented Rice Wine 酒酿丸子 ($3.80), where delightfully-chewy mini tang yuan are served in a fermented rice lees sweet broth. Other dessert recommendations are dewdrop-shaped Steamed Sweet Potato Bun with Custard 紫薯蟠桃 ($3.80) dusted in desiccated coconut or the evergreen classic Mango Pudding 芒果布丁 ($4.80).
Crystal Jade Giveaway!
Crystal Jade will be rewarding 8 readers from MissTamChiak.com with $25 Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao vouchers!
Closing date: 27 December 2015. Good luck!
Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao Outlets: Bugis junction #B1-04A, Tel: 6339 6902 | Great World City #02-43, Tel: 6738 5595 | Holland Avenue 241, Tel: 6463 0968 | Jurong Point JP2 #03-96, Tel: 6790 2212 | Ngee Ann City #04-27, Tel: 6238 1661 | Blk 470 Toa Payoh Lor 6 #01-70 (opposite HDB Hub), Tel: 6250 2301 | Vivocity #01-52, Tel: 6221 1830