There isn’t a lot to do in Shanghai beyond shopping and sipping fancy cocktails in a fancy bar with a fancy view of the city’s skyline. But Shanghai’s dining is unrivaled, and the dumplings alone made Shanghai worth the trip. Here are my suggestions for where to get the best dumplings Shanghai has to offer.
Best Soup Dumplings in Shanghai – Xiao Long Bao
Shanghai is home to the soup dumpling – Xiao Long Bao. If you have never had a soup dumpling, you are missing out. My mouth is watering just thinking about opening up a steaming bamboo basket full of those beautiful, delicious little soup dumplings. They have delicate skins and are often filled with pork or, if Shanghai has you feeling fancy, pork and hairy crab roe. They also have a little bit of soup broth inside of them, so when you pop one in your mouth, you experience an explosion of juicy pork goodness. (Make sure to let them cool for a minute first – they can be like hot lava straight out of the steamer!). They are often dipped into a tangy sauce containing a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, and maybe a bit of garlic or ginger.
I ate at two great places:
Jia Jia Tang Bao – 90 Huanghe Lu by Feng Yang Lu. Closest metro: People’s Square. Cash only. Hours: 6:30 am- 3pm. I had to wait in line to get into this place and was told that they often sell out by 1 p.m, so go early.
The place was packed with locals and a few foodie tourists. I ordered a few baskets of the pork soup dumplings and squeezed myself into an opening at one of the long cafeteria-style tables. The dumplings were amazing – the skins were so delicate that they were translucent, and they were filled with a bit of pork and a very flavorful broth. While the dining room was nothing fancy, they make the dumplings to order right in front of you, which was great. They were also a steal at less than $2 per basket of pork dumplings.
Din Tai Fung – Inside the Xintiandi Plaza, Xintiandi, South Block Plaza, 2nd Floor, Lane 123 Xingye Lu, near Madang Lu. Closest metro is Huangpi Rd. (S). Credit cards are accepted. Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-3pm, 5pm-midnight; Fri 11am-3pm, 5pm-1am; Sat-Sun 11am-1am.
This is actually a Taiwanese chain, but it was rumored to have the best soup dumplings in town, so I suspended my prejudices in favor of mom-and-pop operations and gave it a go. It is an upscale operation, and there was a 25 minute wait even at 2 p.m. The soup dumplings were every bit as good as those at Jia Jia Tang Bao, but ten times more expensive, costing nearly $10 a basket. Both the pork and pork and crab roe dumplings were delicious – although I preferred just the pork – but I made the mistake of ordering additional dishes which ranged from unremarkable to remarkably un-good.
Best Fried Dumplings in Shanghai – Sheng Jian Bao
Yang’s Fry Dumplings: 97 Huanghe Lu (near Fengyang Lu) (right across the street from Jia Jia Tang Bao), nearest metro: People’s Suqare. Cash only. Hours: 6 am – midnight. Expect a line and be ready to fight for a seat.
Hands down, the best fried dumplings I have EVER eaten were at Yang’s Fry Dumplings. They were also cheap, at around $1 for four large, filling dumplings. These dumplings have a thicker, puffy, doughy skin and are pan fried to be crispy on the bottoms. They are also filled with pork and a delicious broth, but be careful! They are super hot – you need to bite a small hole in the top to release the steam before you chomp down on one or else you will burn the heck out of your mouth. Sadly, no one shared this little tip with me, and my mouth suffered for it. These dumplings are also made right in front of you – the smell while you are waiting in line in positively torturous.
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