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Xiaolongbao - the quintessential Shanghai snack
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This undated photo shows foreigners learn how to make xiaolongbao, or steamed buns. [Shanghai Daily]

This undated photo shows foreigners learn how to make xiaolongbao, or steamed buns. [Shanghai Daily]

Tasty, savory xiaolongbao is the quintessential Shanghai snack and the delicate steamed buns originated in Nanxiang Town, which now celebrates its cuisine and culture.

Nanxiang Town in Jiading District is famous for its specialty products and snacks, such as noodles with fatty mutton and tulip wine.

The most famous and popular snack, however, is undoubtedly xiaolongbao (literally "little basket buns"), round delicate steamed buns filled with pork or another treat. It is served with ginger-infused vinegar and is standard at many state banquets.

Xiaolongbao is said to be the quintessential Shanghai snack that originated in Nanxiang Town.

To promote the culture behind the taste treat, the 2008 Nanxiang Xiaolong Cultural Exhibition will be held from September 28 to October 8. This is its second year.

The exhibition with the theme of "xiaolong, making life more tasteful" is part of the 2008 Shanghai Tourism Festival and Shanghai Shopping Festival, drawing visitors from home and abroad.

Visitors can watch the making of xiaolongbao, taste many different fillings and try their hand at making their own. There will be a contest among skilled cooks.

It's not so easy to get the skins thin but firm and the fillings tasty, not bland, turning savory and soupy when steamed. The buns should be plump and juicy. You should be able to pick one up with chopsticks without the skin breaking.

On the opening day, the renovated Nanxiang Ancient Street will be opened to the public. It is listed as one of Shanghai's six "time-honored unique streets."

The street features more than 40 stores with a strong flavor of old times and famous brands, some companies going back more than 100 years.

Tasting xiaolongbao and strolling around, visitors can see both ancient scenes and modern development.

Legend has it that xiaolonbao were created by Huang Mingxian, owner of Rihuaxuan Snack Store in Nanxiang Town.

"In the birthplace of xiaolongbao, Nanxiang citizens are making the brand of xiaolong culture bigger, better and stronger," says Yan Jianming, deputy Party secretary of Nanxiang Town.

"This national holiday is bound to be unforgettable with temple fairs, delicious snacks and our ancient town. Culture promotes prosperity. A new Nanxiang Town with profound culture and unique charm is rising."

The 2008 Nanxiang Xiaolong Cultural Exhibition also includes the 2008 Shanghai Bamboo Culture Art Festival and the 2008 Nanxiang Investment Summit.

Lion dances will be staged, and dragon boats will race. Famous singers such as Han Hong and Jasmine Leong will perform.

At the investment summit, well-known entrepreneurs and business people will brainstorm on strategies to attract investment and upgrade industry.

(Shanghai Daily September 20, 2008)

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