Shanghai food tour: The search for the best shengjianbao
Xiaolongbao sure get a lot of attention here in Shanghai. But we think the soup dumpling’s evil twin brother, the shengjianbao, is equally (or possibly more) delicious.
Recently, we set out on a food tour of gluttonous proportions, as we discovered the eight best places in Shanghai to grab shengjianbao.
1. Zheng Yi Feng
Cost: RMB 30 for six
Why we love them: “There is no question these are the best in Shanghai,” says Ling, a frequent patron here. The shengjianbao dished out at Zheng Yi Feng have a thick and flaky fried bottom, with minced pork and whole baby shrimps stuffed in the sweet and fluffy bun. Although very juicy, the thick baozi soaks up most of the fat, making for a delicious experience.
Zheng Yi Feng, 137 Tianping Lu, near Guangyuan Lu 天平路137号, 近广元路
2. The corner of Taicang Lu and Songshan Lu
Cost: RMB 4 for six
Why we love them: Freshly fried right on the street on a huge cast iron skillet, these are everything shengjianbao are supposed to be. A brown, crispy bottom, with tender and juicy minced pork folded into an almost transparent wrapper and doused with the requisite vinegar, these make for the perfect start to any day.
173 Songshan Lu, near Taicang Lu 嵩山路173号, 近太仓路
3. Shanghai Tang Café
Cost: RMB 118 for their all-you-can-eat dim sum brunch (unlimited shengjianbao)
Why we love them: During the weekends, the Shanghai Tang Café does a very modern and haute interpretation of the classic shengjianbao. These pan-fried dumplings are stuffed with honey glazed roasted duck meat, bringing a little sweetness to this otherwise savory nosh.
Shanghai Tang Café, 2/F 333 Huang Pi Nan Lu, near Taicang Lu 黄陂南路333号2-3楼, 近太仓路, ＋86 21 6377 3333
4. Feilong Shengjian
Cost: RMB 5 for four
Why we love them: Of all the dishes in this dim sum eatery, almost every single Dianping reviewer said these shengjianbao are not too be missed. Spiked with a little huangjiu (Shaoxing wine), the broth inside these fried dumplings have a little kick and are best enjoyed with vinegar. “A single order of four is just never enough,” says Adam Chen, a Feilong regular.
1/F, 2002 Sichuan Bei Lu 四川北路2002号东泰休闲广场1楼, +86 21 6587 7822
Cost: RMB 6 for eight
Why we love them: At RMB 0.75 a bao, these are some of the cheapest in town. As with most shengjian vendors, these sell out by the afternoon, so get there early to enjoy some black sesame and scallion-scattered dumplings. The star of this stall is actually the bun of the shengjianbao -- mixed with a little pork fat, the flavor of their fried knots oddly remind us of pretzels.
41 Dongxin Access Road, near Dongxin Lu and Wuning Lu 东新路, 近武宁路
6. Xin Nan Hua
Cost: RMB 12 for four
Why we love them: Xin Nan Hua’s oversized bao are pillowy and light, enveloping minced pork and shrimp with all their glorious juices. Another reason we love Xin Nan Hua is that on Fridays, we can carry out our shengjianbao and we’re just steps away from the Friday Muslim Market.
Xin Nan Hua, 360 Changshou Lu near Xikang Lu 长寿路360号, 近西康路
Cost: RMB 4.5 for four
Why we love them: No tour of this city’s best shengjianbao would ever be complete without the mention of the place that made this breakfast and snack item so widely known and popular. And while these bao used to be housed in a David-like stall on Wujiang Lu, their taste can only be described as Goliath. Xiao Yang’s has been featured in almost every travel and culinary publication on the planet, and for good reason. The bao here are delicious.
Yang’s Fried Dumplings, 2/F 269 Wujiang Lu near Taixing Lu 吴江路269号2楼, 近泰兴路, +86 21 6136 1391
8. Chinese Cooking Workshop
Cost: RMB 150 per lesson
Why we love them: Now that we’ve tasted the best shengjianbao in town, it is time to learn to make our own. The chefs at the Chinese Cooking Workshop teach how to roll your own mantou, and then how to delicately stuff them with the pork and scallion filling. After rolling, twisting, and frying your baozi (buns), you can enjoy an entire plate of your juicy creations.
Chinese Cooking Workshop, www.chinesecookingworkshop.com