Sunday, September 20, 2009

XLB/Shen Jian Bao Alert: Tasty Bao at Tastio (Dean Sin World)

I Love the popular xiao long bao (XLB), or soup dumplings, but my real love in the area of Shanghainese cooking is shen jian bao. Shen jian bao are pork buns, steamed in deep water and then fried in oil and topped with black sesame seeds. I headed to Tastio because I'd heard great things about their XLB, but their shen jian bao won my heart.

I heard about Tastio, aka Dean Sin World, through the excellent e-newsletter Tasting Table and was surprised I'd never heard of the place given my love of dumplings, though it seems to be pretty off the radar. It's a tiny (four tables) shop in a strip mall on Garfield, just north of Garvey in Monterey Park.

The shen jian bao at Tastio are excellent, perfectly seared on the bottom with bread that is chewy but not too doughy, bursting with juice when you bite into them and full of succulent ground pork. These were possibly the best shen jian bao I've had, though I loved the version at Shanghai Restaurant, back when it was good.

The XLB were also excellent, though maybe not as refined as those at Din Tai Fung. T We also had fried dumplings which also burst with juice, a sort of flat cabbage spring roll, which was good and scallion pancakes, which were a bit too greasy. Shrimp wontons were served in a lovely chicken broth, that no one at the table seemed to be able to get enough of.

Tastio is not very accustomed to non-English speakers and while the menu is in English, the staff's English is limited to none, but they were very nice and excited to share their great food with us, and with some effort on both our parts, we managed to mostly understand each other.

The menu at Tastio isn't as diverse as some place, but for what they have, I would certainly pick them over the more popular Mei Long Village and J&J. Those places are fine, but they don't make my heart sing, and it sings still for the shen jian bao.

They also sell frozen dumplings to take home at 50 pieces per bag for around $12. I steamed some XLB at home and they came out pretty well. The shen jian bao, which are a bit more complicated to cook, are a bit intimidating and, for now, are still sitting in my freezer.

Tastio Bakery & Deli
306 N Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 571-0636


SinoSoul said...

Sorry you didn't read about DSW until Tasting Table. I wrote it up on Yelp the first week they were open.

I'd argue against the defined nature of DTF. Dean Sin World uses chicken aspic. I find that much more refined than the pork aspic at DTF.

sku said...

Thanks for the comment SinoSoul. I was summoning DTF from memory, but I should go back for a DTF/Tastio head to head.