Whenever we go to La Mian/Xiao Long Bao restaurants like Crystal Jade and Din Tai Fung, A and I are actually bigger fans of the xiao long baos than the la mian. In fact, we always just share one la mian, and load up on the xiao long baos. For some reason, at both restaurants I’ve yet to find a la mian dish that I can call my favourite. I don’t like dan dan mian because it’s too peanut-y, and Crystal Jade’s various versions of la mian always end up tasting the same – like noodles drenched with mapo tofu sauce. Tasty enough, but not warranting repeat orders. Din Tai Fung has less choices, and we end up ordering either the beef or pork chop noodles in soup.
Which is why I was quite psyched when my sister-in-law told me about her current favourite dish at Crystal Jade – the kou shui ji (loosely translated as saliva chicken. Probably intended to mean that you’ll drool when you see/eat it, rather than any other grosser reason). We headed to the Scotts branch on Wednesday night to try it out, and also to see what’s left of Scotts and bid it a fond farewell before it shuts its doors for good in a few days’ time.
The kou shui ji is basically steamed or poached chicken, the white chicken rice kind, topped with a delicious sauce that seems to be a mixture of the chili sauce/oil that they provide in the restaurant, ground peanuts and chopped spring onion. You can either order the chicken on its own ($7 for a portion), or get a set for $16.80 that includes half a chicken, some la mian, Japanese cucumbers and century egg. We opted to share one set, and got a couple of portions of xiao long bao too.
The waitresses warned us that the kou shui ji dish is cold, and it certainly was, down to the noodles as well. But it was really good – the sauce was just right for me; any more peanuts and it would have been too much. It was spicier than expected but still completely manageable. The combination of textures in the dish was great as well – the chicken was smooth and tender, the cucumber was cold and crunchy, and the century egg provided a rich and creamy taste. The noodles were average, but I figure they’re just meant to be vehicles to mop up the sauce.
One thing to note though – the chicken isn’t boneless, so if you’re like A, who only eats boneless chicken, there’s only the breast meat portion of the half chicken for you. A ended up having all the breast meat and about 80% of the noodles, which suited me fine. I went low carb, and had the rest of the half chicken – wing, thigh and the rest of the good bits.
I can safely say that I’ve personally found a dish that I will be ordering again and again whenever we go to CJLMXLB (can their name be any longer…). As for their xiao long baos though, they were a little disappointing and no where near the standard of Din Tai Fung, in my opinion. There was insufficient soup in the baos, and the skin was really thick and starchy. It was quite ok when the baos first arrived and we ate them hot, but once they cooled down, the skin got cold and tough. Din Tai Fung’s baos are much more refined, with much thinner skin which doesn’t overpower the meat filling.
I guess if we want noodles, we’ll go to CJLMXLB for the kou shui ji set, but if we have a craving for xiao long bao, I’ll still satisfy it at Din Tai Fung instead.
It's sad to see what's become of Scott's in its final days. The food court was pretty decent and one of the best when it opened way back in the day. Always too crowded for me to want to go though.
Anyway, the service at CJLMXLB was good as with all CJ restaurants. I've realized I prefer Asian noodles cold and spicy so the dish was pretty much up my alley (except for the Century Egg and bones in chicken). Decent portions to share if you order a side or two.
As for Xiao Long Bao, since I douse the thing in vinegar and don't really taste the bao, i think I prefer this to Ding Tai Fung, just cause it's cheaper.
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