I finally, finally got to try Bai Nian Tang Bao (百年龍袍), that restaurant under construction I’ve been seeing across from The Palace / Valkyrie. The restaurant’s tagline is: The Origin of Xiao Long Bao – and with that claim, you know it got on my radar.
If you are a tita like me and clubbing isn’t your scene anymore, a better reference would be Denny’s. Bai Nian Tang Bao is somewhere just behind Denny’s, right there on the edge of the Uptown Parade Parking Lot.
BAI NIAN TANG BAO
What’s in a name? When I visited today, I was fortunate that the owner was there and we got to chat. Something that has been bothering me was the name Bai Nian Tang Bao, when the Chinese characters actually say Bai Nian Long Bao. He explained that they went with Tang Bao because people might misconstrue Long Bao, and they didn’t want to have to keep explaining what “long” meant (dragon) and not “long” as in ‘not short’. After all the xiao long baos we Filipinos have eaten, I didn’t really think that would be a problem, but okay. There’s the explanation. 🙂
Bai Nian Tang Bao’s specialty is actually the Crab Roe Xiao Long Bao, and its giant version – the Giant Tang Bao (big crab roe soup bao).
What makes Bai Nian Tang Bao different?
Bai Nian Tang Bao is a restaurant chain from Shanghai, and there’s a story that comes along with it about how Crab Roe Xiao Long Bao became famous. In 1786, Qing Dynasty Emperor Qian Long was touring the country and he passed by Long Pao town in Jiangsu Province (Jiangsu is near Shanghai). The people specially prepared Crab Roe Xiao Long Bao for him. He liked it very much, and it became one of the specialties of the Emperor’s menu.
But by all accounts, the regular xiao long bao originated in Shanghai.
Bai Nian Tang Bao has received various awards in China, most notably for their Xiao Long Bao. Can’t really tell you much about the awards because they are Chinese awards I am not familiar with. BNTB now has more than 300 branches in China and is going global. This is their first branch in the Philippines – they just opened last November 2017.
Now as for the food, you’ll notice that they don’t provide the usual ginger strips that other XLB places do. The reason for this is because BNTB XLBs are made fresh – they want you to taste the original flavor of their XLB, without the ginger masking any not-so-fresh flavor.
The crab roe they use is from Shanghai crab (hairy crab). The frozen Shanghai crab roe is shipped to the Philippines. It’s authentic!
They have a real Chinese chef! Haha. By this, I mean that their head chef is from China and trained/worked in Shanghai. Authentic, too!
I tried a few of their specialties. The first thing I tried was the Giant Tang Bao (P258).
It is one big, giant bao the size of a small dimsum steamer basket. It is served with a straw. You poke the bao with the straw and use it to drink the soup. Like this:
The crab roe filling / soup tastes fishy because of the roe, but in a good way. If you are used to raw roe, FYI, all the crab roe here is fully cooked. The filling also includes finely minced pork. As with their XLBs. I noticed that the meat seems manually minced and not machine ground. The ground meat has some bite, and does not have that over-processed texture.
When you’ve sipped all the soup you can, go ahead and eat the rest of the bao. Notice the very thin skin! That bao skin is resilient!
Here’s the Crab Roe Xiao Long Bao (P288 for 6 pcs) – it has pretty much the same flavor as the Giant Tang Bao, but it’s just in XLB form.
They have this handy guide to show you how best to eat their XLB:
Another thing I really loved was the Shanghai Golden Sheng Jian Bao (P138 for 4 pcs). When I first saw the order, I thought, man, they’re small! It looks like a ping pong ball. But after eating it, I think it’s better this way – you can appreciate everything in one bite, or two, and you have the best ratio of crust to filling.
It is a cross between what we locally call “fried siopao” and a xiao long bao. It has a nice, thin outer layer of siopao bread, a crispy fried bottom, and a very soupy pork filling.
I also liked the Special Sausage Fried Rice (P219) – I think it’s priced on the high side for a single serving of fried rice, but the Chinese sausage they used was really good. It was fragrant, not fatty unlike the usual Chinese sausages we see; and even though I know it’s sausage, it also kind of tasted like ham. The fried rice is served with a bowl of clear soup.
We also tried the Special Sticky Rice & Pork Siomai (P138 for 4 pcs) – this is just glutinous rice cooked like kiam peng, encased in a dimsum wrapper. The filling is glutinous rice cooked with soy sauce, pork, etc… while it tastes pleasing, the appeal is more nostalgic, reminding Chinoys of grandma’s cooking. I thought the wrapper needed to be steamed a little bit more, though. This is a very uncommon dimsum item to find at other Chinese restaurants, so if you want to try it, go ahead.
For dessert, I was able to share a piece of the Red Bean Bao (new item, not yet on the menu) with my friend Trisha. The red bean paste has something extra – maybe plum? It’s not just sweet red beans. There’s an additional fruity sourness that gives the sweet red beans something to lean on, flavor-wise.
Here with Mr. Paul Li, the person behind bringing BNTB to Manila:
All in all, I was very happy with my first Bai Nian Tang Bao dining experience. It reminded me of our trip to Shanghai.
Bai Nian Tang Bao serves Shanghai cuisine, and does a very good job of providing authentic Shanghainese flavors. Shanghai cuisine is very different from Cantonese cuisine, which most Filipinos are more familiar with.
Shanghai cuisine is simpler, tending to highlight the freshness and quality of the ingredients used. Don’t expect delicate, nuanced or complex flavors. I was also able to nibble on other dishes from Bai Nian Tang Bao from my companions, and I find that the flavor profile tends to be sharper / stronger, if that makes sense, while the Cantonese cuisine that we’re familiar with tends to be rounder. So that’s something to take note of. Shanghai cooking doesn’t tend to use as many flavors and spices aside from the basics like soy sauce, vinegar, salt, etc…
The way they do the XLBs here is closer to the authentic ones in Shanghai. Hong Kong and Taiwan based XLB restaurants have already tweaked their XLB recipes to their tastes.
The must-tries for me are the Giant Tang Bao and the Shanghai Golden Sheng Jian Bao. I also liked the xiao long baos, you should give them a try, too! 🙂 The big, crab roe Tang Bao is a rare item to find in Manila. As far as I know, you’d have to fly to Shanghai to experience it. We had to line up for over 30 minutes just to try it in Shanghai. But now it’s here and actually better than the one we had in Shanghai! 🙂
Now you have the chance to try authentic Shanghai specialties right here. If you want some crab roe Giant Tang Bao and XLB, I highly recommend Bai Nian Tang Bao. The Sheng Jian Bao, sometimes also called Sheng Jian Mantou, is also a rare item to find in Manila. That, and the Giant Tang Bao, are the items I really see myself going back for at every opportunity! 🙂
Pricing – it wasn’t as expensive as I had expected, considering the location, the imported ingredients, the imported chef, etc… Their prices are pretty reasonable, compared to other nearby restaurants’ pricing.
Bai Nian Tang Bao
Ground Floor, Uptown Parade
9th Avenue cor. 38th St, Taguig, Metro Manila
Contact No. : +63 917 623 8260 ; (02) 838-1716
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!