Supreme Dumplings serves six types of xiao long bao. Photograph by Amber Fouts.
An order of xiao long bao is a fleeting moment in time. They’re tough to make and quick to wither—a hothouse flower of a dumpling, its delicate skin improbably constraining a burst of hot soup. Dumpling fans might associate these with Shanghai, but in modern-day Seattle they come burnished with Sichuan peppers, filled with American heritage pork, or as the calling card of a popular Taiwanese chain.
Before March 2020, ordering these beauties to-go seemed about as practical as packing an ice cream cone in your checked luggage. But as society leaned into mobile orders and takeout, local soup dumpling purveyors adapted their recipes to travel, or embraced the art of freezing xiao long bao so you can steam your own at home. Here, our favorite local spots for soup dumplings.
Bellevue’s restaurant scene now includes this stylized house of soup dumplings, with polished service and a glimmering neutral-toned dining room seemingly inspired by those translucent dumpling skins. Supreme makes six types of xiao long bao. Each basket arrives with a set of tiny bamboo tongs and instructions to pinch the top of each dumpling when you transfer it to a spoon—testament to how delicate these are. The chicken and truffle version puts a pleasant, earthy spin on familiar flavors, but the Szechuan-inspired version, with its pepper-infused broth, pairs the delicate pleasure of a soup dumpling with the tingly, sinus-clearing appeal of legitimately spicy food. Reservations are 100 percent essential (even for weekday lunch), especially until Supreme completes its next-door dining room expansion.
Downtown Bellevue, Downtown Seattle, Tukwila, University District
The Taiwanese chain’s arrival in 2010 ushered in a golden era of xiao long bao obsession around these parts. Now our region boasts four DTF locations, all attached to major shopping malls. Each one has the signature window into the prep area, so you can watch dumpling makers folding and pinching while waiting for a table. The dumplings themselves are gloriously reliable, filled with high-end Kurobuta pork or a blend of pork and crab. The rest of Din Tai Fung’s menu hews to similarly high standards, from wontons to noodles to even the simplest side of greens.
It began as a mom-and-pop restaurant in Bellevue, luring fans with dan dan noodles, pan-fried Q-bao, and endless steamer baskets of xiao long bao. Now Dough Zone spans 11 locations in three states, with two more due soon in Woodinville and the University District. Each one serves XLB that belong in a handbook—thin skin filled with seasoned broth and pedigreed proteins like Berkshire-Duroc pork. Baskets come with just six dumplings, a subtle encouragement to sample more than one kind of filling. While takeout orders were rare pre-pandemic, the kitchen has tinkered with its recipe to ensure such delicate xiao long bao can travel without wilting.
This spot just beneath the Chinatown gate is a neighborhood institution in the best possible way. That's partly because of owner Ping Liu’s motherly warmth, but mostly thanks to the enormous array of dumplings made daily in her kitchen. These include her specialty pan-fried lu bao, all manner of pot stickers, and eight varieties of xiao long bao, from crab and pork to beef, even lamb. Sturdy-to-thick wrappers encase a restrained amount of soup and filling garnished with generous bits of green onion. They’re great with a bubble tea in Ping’s trim dining room (and a dose of her exceptional, tingly chili oil); also available frozen, in bags of 50, to steam at home.
Among the more unusual pandemic pivots: XCJ’s journey from casual counter within a Bellevue food court to purveyor of a nationwide xiao long bao subscription service. Like so many other restaurant owners, Jennifer Liao and Caleb Wang started experimenting with delivery and frozen food during the restaurant shutdown. The results of their extensive R&D essentially transformed their restaurant into a production facility for frozen dumplings. Ten minutes in a bamboo steamer, and they’re as delicate and flavor-packed as anything served in a restaurant. You can still visit the counter for a ready-to-eat lunch of XLB (or their original signature, the sheng jian bao). Or just pick up a stylish bag of 50 frozen dumplings (pork, chicken, or shrimp and pork) here and sidestep shipping fees. Best to throw in a green jar of ginger scallion sauce, equally marvelous over dumplings, or straight from the spoon.
A temple of carbs occupies a modest storefront on Lake City Way’s main drag, comforting us with stuffed pancakes, pan-fried bao, and wontons in chili sauce. Petite xiao long bao, not much bigger than a coat button, display a marksman’s ability with pinches and pleats. While other XLB specialists in town might be a better destination to satisfy a particular craving, Mount and Bao’s version happily rounds out a meal of overarching doughy excellence. A freezer by the front register has tons of frozen dumplings, including soup dumplings in 10-piece packages.
The kitchen whose highlights include a legendary scallion pancake added xiao long bao to its repertoire so regular takeout customers could change things up a bit during the pandemic. They’re still on the menu—petite like gumdrops, with refined pleats that resemble tiny pinwheels. Inside, both soup and pork filling are impeccably seasoned. This neighborhood institution has adapted its cash-only policy—somewhat—to take payments via Venmo.