DIY street food: Shengjianbao

DIY street food: Shengjianbao

Dainty xiaolongbao are great, but for winter, it’s all about the hearty shengjianbao
DIY Shenjianbao -- vendor
Ms Shen’s shengjianbao stall is at 173 Songshan Lu, near Taicang Lu (嵩山路173号, 近太仓路).

While the delectable xiaolongbao get a lot of attention here in Shanghai, their greasier and heartier rival -- shengjianbao (生煎包) -- are equally as tasty.

We think they’re so good that we created a shengjianbao eating tour of Shanghai. (Warning: not for their faint of stomach.)

We recently caught up with a vendor on Songshan Lu, a well-known block packed with cheap local dining near Xintiandi, who opens her stall as early as 5:30 a.m. to start frying.

“The first thing I do when I get here is make the dough for the dumpling because it needs to rest,” says Shen. “Then while the dough is rising and resting, I prepare the filling.”

  • More on CNNGo: Don't want to make your own shengjianbao? The place to pick them up is Xiao Yang's

To make the filling, Shen uses a blend of minced pork and pork jelly, or gelatin, that melts when the shengjian are fried, creating a greasy and scalding hot broth. Shen admits that she has a pretty good laugh when she sees shenjianbao-newbies eating her creations for the first time.

“People who haven’t tried shengjian before do one of two things,” she says while grinning. “They either pop the entire dumpling in their mouth in one bite, and are immediately burned by the 'soup' inside, or they bite the dumpling in half, spilling the hot juices all over themselves.”

The trick is to pierce the dumpling wrapper, making a small hole in  the skin and slurp out the soup. Then, you can eat the shengjian without fear of broth going everywhere.— Ms Shen, master shenjianbao maker

“The trick,” Shen divulges, “is to pierce dumpling wrapper, making a small hole in the skin and slurp out the soup. Then, you can eat the shengjian without fear of broth going everywhere."

The secret ingredients

Shen has a few secret weapons in her shengjianbao recipe that help set hers apart from the competition in town.

“Almost all shengjian recipes call for a splash of Shaoxing wine,” she says. “But I don’t use just a splash -- I use quite a bit and it creates a really nice and contrasting flavor to the soy sauce.”

“I also knead a little bit of the pork fat into my dough. This creates a more elastic texture, making it easier to roll out thin. It also gives the dough a richer taste.”

And her last secret ingredient -- well, not so secret anymore -- is sage.

“I mix in a little bit of sage into the filling. It gives it a very warm taste that I think is otherwise hard to find.”

Back to school

We watched Shen expertly stuff her dumpling wrappers and pinch them shut, but she was particularly busy during our lesson so we didn't have a chance to put what we watched into practice. 

Still wanting to master the art of making this delicious street snack, we headed to the Chinese Cooking Workshop, where local chef Guo devoted two hours to showing us how to roll out dough, and then perfectly envelope our homemade filling into the dumpling wrappers.

After a few burnt buns, we think we’ve mastered how to make the perfect shengjianbao, and chef Guo has gladly offered a delicious recipe.

Click "Next" for the shenjianbao recipe

Shanghai shenjianbao - plate

Shenjianbao (生煎包)

Ingredients: Wrapper/bun

  • 150g wheat flour
  • 75g water
  • 2g yeast
  • 2g baking powder
  • 4g sugar
  • For the adventurous chefs, add a bit of pork fat as Shen suggests.

Ingredients: Filling

  • 100g minced meat (pork)
  • 2g salt
  • 2g sugar
  • 1 pinch of pepper
  • 1 dash of Shaoxing wine (or more to taste)
  • 5g light soy sauce
  • 5g green onion
  • 1 pinch minced ginger
  • 1 pinch sesame oil
  • 60g pork jelly (fat)
  • 5-10g water
  • Sage to taste (as suggested by Shen)


  • Mix all the filling ingredients together (turning only clockwise) and set aside.
  • Mix baking powder with flour and make a hole in the center of the flour.
  • Add yeast in the hole and water to make a dough.
  • Set aside to wait for dough to raise.
  • After the dough has sat for about 30 minutes, roll it into a long cylinder and cut into six equally sized portions.
  • Flatten each piece of dough to create a disc.
  • Place one portion of the filling onto each flattened circle and close it (the "knot").
  • Place the buns upside down (on their knot).
  • Arrange the buns in the frying pan (knot side down) and add water.
  • Cover to fry for 12 minutes and then garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onion.
  • Serve with vinegar.

getting there

Chinese Cooking Workshop
No. 307, 3/F, 696 Weihai Lu near Maoming Lu
威海路696弄307号3楼, 近茂名北路
tel +86 21 134 8277 1529