I LOVE dumplings of all kinds: Polish pierogi, Nepalese Momos, Beijing Jiaozi, Italian ravioli, Japanese Gyoza and Sichuan Chao Shou …to name a few.
Shanghai is famous for it’s soup dumplings. While there, I made it my mission to sample as many of these delicious steamed or fried pockets of hot goodness as I could.
To my surprise I found that there are different types of dumplings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Breakfast dumplings: Shao Mai
Shanghai’s Shao Mai are different from the Canton steamed pork and shrimp dumplings I always order in HK. The Shanghanese variety are smaller and filled with glutinous rice, sweet marinated pork, mushrooms, onions, soy sauce and garlic. You can buy them every morning on almost every street corner or dumpling place and is a typical breakfast in Shanghai.
Lunch dumplings: Xiao Long Bao
The place to go to for Xiao Long Bao is Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant at Yu Yuan Garden.
The restaurant is not only famous for their dumplings (pork or hair crab meat and thick, sweet and blazing hot broth) but their queues too. People queue for them throughout the day, not only during lunch time.
Fortunately, only the ground floor has a perpetually long queue. After an hour or two of queuing, you can buy 10 freshly made hot dumplings to take away (20RMB).
The first floor has a slightly shorter queue for sit-down meals but only one type of dumpling is sold there.
The second floor has the full menu and the highest prices. We ordered several baskets of dumplings (crab meat and spicy pork, crab roe and pork, shrimps and pork, vegetables, Matsutake mushrooms and pork) and waited as they are all made to order.
Every table has instructions on how to eat them. It’s difficult to eat them in one big bite the moment they arrive at your table. You have to keep in mind that they are filled with delicious but boiling hot broth.
The trick is to set the dumpling on the spoon, bite a small hole in the top and slurp the soup out first. Then add some vinegar and ginger and only then eat the entire dumpling in one go.
Often people burn themselves or spill the soupy contents of the dumpling on their trousers or shirts.
Dinner dumplings: Sheng Jian Bao
Another Shanghai speciality: Pan-fried dumplings filled with pork or prawns AND soup.
Shallow-fried until perfectly crispy at the bottom and sprinkled with black or white sesame seeds (depending on the filling) and spring onion.
We found our favourite at another one of Shanghai’s ‘institutions’ Yang’s Fry Dumplings.
And now I am starving. So I’m off to the very reliable (but pricy compared to Shanghai) Din Tai Fung where they sell the best Xiao Long Bao in HK despite the fact that it is a Taiwanese chain.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a branch of Yang’s Fry Dumplings in HK yet.