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Paradise Dynasty “8 flavours Xiao Long Bao” – my last Singapore meal

After over six months in Singapore, and after having travelled to many other countries in South East Asia stuffing my face with delicious food, it was a very tall order for my last eating venue to leave a good impression. Waiting for the plane that would take me back to London for good (or at least, for the foreseeable future), my mind was as busy with memories of those incredible months – the new friends, the travel, the laughter’s, the flavours and smells of street markets and fine dining venues – as it was with anticipation of my beloved London. Still, man (and woman – this woman for sure) needs to eat…and eat I will. Here’s my review of Paradise Dynasty “8 flavours Xiao Long Bao” signature dish, a suitably grandly-named end to my Singapore foodie adventures. 

When I was walking around Changi Airport Terminal 3, slightly dazed and lost in my own emotional thoughts, I spotted a new restaurant which had been wrapped in “Opening soon” sign for months. It was a branch of mid-level dim sum chain Paradise Dinasty, tagged with typical Asian subtlety “The Legend Of Xiao Long Bao”. Now, I do love my dim sum – I almost cried thinking I was leaving the one city in the world where you find 17 (yes, seventeen) branches of Din tai Fung, NONE OF THEM at the airport which is inexplicable. Anyway, I digress. I was sold on the xia long bao – or as acronym-loving Sngaporeans call it, XLB – and made my way to it in no time.

xiao long bao paradise dinasty

The house specialty, displayed with the same understatement of the name on practically everything, is the “8- flavours Xiao Long Bao”, that is, the famous dumpling stuffed with “world flavours” such as cheese, crab roe, wasabi and garlic - and of course, ingredients perceived as “luxury” in the Asian market like foie gras and truffle. Fusion-confusion? Probably. Lame? Well, you have to suspend judgment when it comes to dim sum restaurants this part of the world– they are no Yauatcha for sure. And then as long as the food is good, who cares?

So here’s my verdict on the Paradise Dinasty signature “8-flavours Xia Long Bao” – of course, rated flavour by flavour and in the exact order prescribed by the restaurant, to the benefit of us ang mo (foreigners), from the lighter to the stronger flavours.

Overall: the dumplings look far less bright and glossy than in the picture, and this is probably a good thing as I’d be worried about such unnatural hues in real food. However, they also came in irregular shapes (although handmade, they should really be as similar as possible) and had generally a slightly too thick skin for my taste.

• Original xiao long bao: the traditional, Shangai-born XLB was a decent specimen, tasty and delicate, with a rich broth filling and not too far (skin thickness aside) from the “golden standard” of the XLB at Din Tai Fung.
Mark: 7

• Ginseng xiao long bao: for those of you who have never tasted ginseng root, it is bitter (as you would expect something with so many medicinal qualities to be) but quite subtle; in this morsel, the flavour was in fact so subtle I could hardly spot any difference from the plain XLB.

• Foie gras xiao long bao (yes, foie gras – sorry if this offends anyone but I bloody damn love foie gras): The broth was again very good, and the filling as smooth and creamy as you would imagine, and the broth was suitably oily (as you can see in the picture). All in all, this nutritional nightmare one of those things that should be wrong but it just tastes so right. Too bad for the frankly unattractive brownish colour and the slightly soggy bottom.
Mark: 8

• Truffle xiao long bao: I positively disliked this one – very soggy (so much that it split open halfway, and with a mushy filling with a very generic “truffle flavour”. Not remotely a patch on the Din Tai Fung version (which is also much pricier at SGD 4 for one dumpling).
Mark: 5

• Cheese xiao long bao: in theory, this is a food perfect storm waiting to happen (if you ask me, every dim sum place should have a cheese dumpling – yes I know Chinese food has no dairy), so my expectations were high. Sadly, they seem to have chosen a quite mild – read: bland – cheese, probably some form of young cheddar, so the concoction, although pleasant, lacked any punch. Also, the skin was quite dry.
Vote: 6

• Crab roe xiao long bao: I am not the biggest fan of roe, but this one was surprisingly good, if slightly soggy. Creamy texture, without any fishy taste in the filling and a yummy savoury broth
Vote: 7

• Garlic xiao long bao: after so many rich fillings, humble garlic struggled to stand out. The dumpling has a very strong garlic and chives smell and flavour, as you would expect of course but…a tad too much garlic for my taste.
Vote: 6

• Szechuan xiao long bao: I am a bit of a chili addict, albeit not to the point where heat can replace flavour altogether, so I am perhaps biased. I find this final dumpling quite good: it was very fiery, with a full on 麻辣 (reads mala, means “numbing hot”) flavour; the broth was also red and the dumpling had a quite pleasing flower-like appearance.
Vote: 7.5

All in all, the “8 flavour xia long bao” basket was an experience with many up-and-downs, and I am still convinced that the classic xiao long bao, done properly, still hits the spot without the need for any flourishing. However, I can see why the idea of flavoured XLB can work without being purely a marketing gimmick for Westerners.

paradise dynasty changi airport

It has to be noted that everyone else at the Paradise Dinasty branch I went to in Changi was eating other items from the vast menu. Their La Mian- Chinese noodles from which the more popular Japanese ramen has descended- is especially good according to trusted Singapore food blogs like Lady Iron Chef, and I should have probably gone for that for a satisfying last meal in Singapore.
I consoled myself thinking that there are many great ramen restaurants in London, and that at SGD 13.80 (around £6) for the sampling basket, this was indeed a cheap and tasty dinner – something I will really miss when I am back to Europe, where you £6 meal options are …well, limited.

I hope you enjoyed my little memory from the last day in Singapore. If you are on a stopover and wondering where to eat in Changi Airport, do consider the Paradise Dinasty Xia Long Bao signature dish (perhaps in addition to their La Mien) for a sample of something you can literally find ONLY there in Singapore (and perhaps for a good reason ;-).

 

Here’s the link to the Paradise Dinasty branch at Changi in the popular Singapore food portal Open Rice. It includes the exact location in Terminal 3, phone numbers etc. 

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2 Comments

  1. I share your disbelief that there is no DTF at Changi!!! Just madness. Interesting to see how the different flavours work/or not in the form of xlb

    • Isn’t it true?! we should campaign for #DTFatchangi

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