I am not a huge fan of Chinese food, mainly because my experience of it is that it tends to be quite meaty, very oily and often fried. As a huge vegetable lover, I don’t often crave a beige plate. There are a ton of cheap and cheerful Asian restaurants located on Denman Street in the West End, selling everything from ramen to sushi and Korean hotdogs to Japanese cheesecake – so Chinese food is pretty easy to avoid.
When we first arrived in Vancouver last year, I thought Jingle Bao had changed its name temporarily because Christmas was just around the corner. Turns out I was wrong and it is actually Jingle Bao all year long. I had a look at the menu online and was convinced that maybe we should see for ourselves if there is an explanation for their eternal festivity and give myself another opportunity to try Chinese food.
Jingle Bao was busy, but we managed to nab the last table. The drinks menu was limited, however we did manage to find an IPA that was unexpectedly delicious, shout out to @Russell Brewing. The food menu was much bigger and broken down into sections: our trouble was that we didn’t really know how to distinguish various dishes from each other – a lot of them sounded the same. We ended up ordering a few things from each section, opted for a variety of different meat and vegetarian options and picked almost exclusively from the menu items which were considered ‘most popular’.
The signature rainbow xiang long bao arrived first and gave us plenty to ooh and aah over. The different coloured skins were indicative of the filling (white: original, pink: spicy, yellow: shrimp, green: spinach and brown: mushroom) and because they were going to be tricky to eat we just divided them up. The trick to eating xiang long bao (which are essentially dumplings filled with broth in addition to filling, aka soup dumplings) is to prick a hole in the skin of the dumpling once it’s safely on your spoon so that the steam can escape and then popping the whole thing in your mouth at once. It is literally an explosion of flavour and so fun to eat. On the menu was a GIANT xiang long bao, where apparently you get a straw to help you slurp the broth as it’s impossible to eat in one mouthful – next time I will be ordering that!
The crispy snowflake dumplings came next. We’d gone vege with these ones, even though we didn’t really know what crispy snowflake meant. We soon realised: the dumplings were loosely connected by a fried lattice that had been decorated with a spicy mayo and flowers. It was very beautiful to look at and those crispy mouthfuls of bok choy and mushroom were also delicious to eat! Excess sauce was mopped up by a BBQ pork pun which was perfectly fluffy and doughy at the same time.
To finish we had some Taiwanese fried chicken with a yummy sweet chilli sauce and BBQ pork chow mein with seasonal green vegetables. I was starting to get full by this point, but the chicken was just begging to be eaten. We ended up getting part of the chow mein packaged up as leftovers, which we took home for a delicious lunch the next day. With great service and great prices too, I think Jingle Bao has good reason to be festive!