Dumpling New: Chef Danny Bowien shares his twist on the Xiao Long Bao

Recipes Dumpling New: Chef Danny Bowien shares his twist on the Xiao Long Bao

Some say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But to Danny Bowien, the mastermind and chef behind the hip bicoastal restaurant Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco and New York City’s Chinatown, every dish is open to a new interpretation and a new adventure.

“We don’t try to do things better. Just different,” says the Oklahoma-raised chef about his restaurants’ award-winning cuisine. Danny wanted to take one of his favorite dishes, the classic Shanghai Xiao Long Bao soup dumpling and turn it on its head. “It’s a crazy sensory experience when you bite into one. The heat, the stickiness and slight sweetness of the dough, the vinegar, the pork but with that slight taste of seafood. We wanted to maintain those perfect flavors, but give it a twist.”

Danny with his twist on the classic xiao long bao - in a lettuce wrap with Dungeness crab.

The twist? Do things as they do so often in New York City – upside down and backward. To celebrate the opening of W Shanghai – The Bund, Bowien created a soup dumpling that brings the flavorful punch we love, but without the soup and without the heat. “I love soup dumplings. From the moment you bite in, there are so many flavors and aromas. You have to be patient and you can’t rail into them the way you might want to. This version you can eat a lot of since they’re not scalding hot, and it’s pretty healthy. But the flavors are still there. The lime juice, the sweet crab, fish sauce, the water in the gem lettuce. When you close your eyes it tastes like you’re eating a Xiao Long Bao, but backward.”


With Danny’s version, you can indulge, and indulge a lot. More of a lettuce wrap than a dumpling, this dish holds all of the classic flavors but feels lighter, is refreshingly crisp, and highlights Dungeness crab as a nod to Danny’s San Francisco roots (that’s where he first tried the delicacy while in culinary school).



Go inside the mind of the chef as he constructs his deconstructed play on the Shanghai soup dumpling, one mouthwatering step at a time.

Danny’s Xiao Long Bao Inspired Lettuce Wrap


What’s Inside

Dungeness crab legs




Smoked fish roe


Fish Sauce






Crispy Onion


Gem lettuce


Shiso leaf


Ginger Miso Sesame leaf


Pork jelly

Dungeness crabs are a favorite from Danny's days cooking in the Mission in San Francisco.
Besides some light pickling and making the pork jelly, this recipe is pretty easy to put together at home with ingredients from an Asian market.
Danny starts with cooking up the crabs while he's prepping the other toppings.
Chillies give the sauce that kick we love.
"When you eat soup dumplings the pork gelatin inside the dumpling steams and melts and turns into that soup. This is a play on that flavor, but cold."
The cooled pork jelly is cut into small, flavorful cubes, bringing that quintessential Xiao Long Bao pork flavor to the dish.
"We added a ginger pickled sesame leaf for that classic Shanghai flavor."
Sesame leaf is like a Shiso leaf, but this one is super flavorful after being pickled in ginger and miso.
The main part of the dish is the crab legs, cooled and dressed in lime, vinegar, fish sauce and chillies.
Danny gets ready to plate the one-bite wonders.
Crispy onions are great for texture in one flavorful bite.
The pairing of gem lettuce, basil, dill, and shiso leaf make the dish light, crisp, and actually pretty healthy.
A smoked salmon roe gives a salty, smokey punch on top.
Even Danny admits: "I couldn't stop eating them."