Shan Dong Restaurant in Oakland Chinatown (long)
We finally made our annual trip to Oakland Chinatown over the weekend. We decided to try out the Shan Dong restaurant for it's "famous" shui jiao (water dumplings).
ShuiJiao is a Northern Chinese food, and a specialty of Shandong (literally meaning Mountain-East) province. Other food that are often attributed to Shandong origin are ManTou (a doughy bread), BaoZi (a bread with pork/vegi filling), and various hand-pulled noodle dishes (such as ZaJiang Mien and TsaoMa Mien; known also in Korean-Chinese restaurants as Jjajangmeun and Jjamppong). On the other hand, knife-cut/sliced noodle is more of a specialty of Shanshi (Mountain-West) province.
Being a Shandong-ren myself, I orderd only the specialties. We started with green-onion pancake, some soy milk and added a vegetarian BaoZi and a Pork BaoZi, and finished with the pork-leek(chives) ShuiJiao.
The pancake was good, and seem close to what I had as a kid. But there was not enough layers to it.
The soy milk was not loaded with sugar even though we ordered the sweet version. This was good since we're able to adjust the level of sweetness, unlike those really sweet versions you'd get at Chinese supermarkets.
The BaoZi was a winner. The skin dough was obviously homemade and had good texture. The filling was juicy without being fatty, and had just enough "juice", not soup. It was also quite big size, measuring about the size of a person's closed fist. Two of these would make most people full - and at .75 each, it's a great value.
This is the best BaoZi I've tasted here in the US. Just to mention that BaoZi also come in a smaller variety - this is called Xiao Long Bao in Shandong. It is similar to the BaoZi in all respects, except the size is about 1/2 to 1/3 smaller... Now it is still larger than the Xiao Long Tang(soup) Bao (the Shanghai specialty), which we've talked about often in the Chowhound boards as XLB. It is also different in the skin. XLTB has a "wet" skin, but XLB and BaoZi has a "dry" skin. The XLTB also has more soup in its filling than the XLB and BaoZi. But anyways, that is a different thread...
I also noticed that they had these huge ManTou with red dates that my grandma used to make during Chinese new years. Since I'm not a huge ManTou fan, I did not try it. Just to tell how huge - it is about 3 to 4 times larger than the big BaoZi itself.
On to the most important part of the tasting - the ShuiJiao. Unfortuntely, this was a disappointment. The ShuiJiao here suffered from being previously frozen. So the skin is chewy due to the thinkness, but mushy on the most outer layer, and generally lackluster. The size is also bigger than the ShuiJiao that I'm used to. This itself is not a problem - IF the filling is done correctly. But in this case it was not. The filling was too dry and the pork grounded too coarse. It was too dry and not juicy enough. Combined with the lame skin, this was the disappointment of the meal.
From the menu, I've noticed that they also have Shandong Chicken (Shaoji) and TsaoMa Mien and ZaJiang Mien. Although I've yet to try these dishes, their presence on the menu tells me that there's no question to their authenticity. It's just that the ShuiJiao is not up to the standard of the real deal. However I'm still looking forward to visiting again to try out the ShaoJi and other noodle dishes. Now that we've moved from deep in the south bay to Fremont, we'll make our annual Oakland trip more frequent.
I also found the Sui Jiau (Dumpling) that is much raved, underwhelming to say the least. I posted a report on this place several months ago while searching for the perfect potstickers. Very disappointed after putting high hopes and hearing many people raved about it. The good ones that I had in Indonesia were small in size about 3 inches or smaller and still had some soup inside with lightly browned skin. It's one of those things that you keep eating forever. I think if I open a restaurant selling these, it will probably do well.
I am not sure why people raved about the dumpling at Shan Dong.
However, I remember ordering the knife cut noodles and they were good.
re: Han Lukito
I too have tried the dumpling at the Shan Dong I found them to good, but not worth for me to drive all the way to Oakland. What I found most interesting was the that the owner and the cook spoke Cantonese without a Northern accent. But I do watch the lady rolling the dumpling and buns with that little stick so famous in Northern Chinese cooking. She was really good.
If I am in the area I too would eat the knife cut noodles.
re: Han Lukito
When I was a kid visiting Taiwan, I used to get taken to the dumpling houses where you'd eat plates and plates of the shui jiao. I don't think I've ever found any as good here in the states, but since I live near Lake Merritt, Shan Dong serves if I get a craving. I prefer pork and leek, but they have a few other varieties as well, including a vegetarian version(not bad.)
Whadda ya know, I've got a menu right here: (3.95-4.25 for 10, but it's an old menu)
1)Special Shan Dong Dumplings
2)Pork with Leeks
3)Pork with Cabbage
I agree with you guys that they could be a lot better:
The skins are too thick, really.
The filling could be more flavorful, needs seasoning.
But they serve their purpose from time to time.
Speaking of shui jiao, I noticed that China Village (Solano Ave.) has this on the menu under dim sum at 10 for 3.95. Yet to try it, but sounds promising. I had their xiao long tang bao the other day, and they were quite nice, though I have not been travelling all around trying them like some of you have been.
Though I'm certainly no authority on the subject, I agree completely with you on the potstickers at Joy. They are the best I've ever tasted! I had given up on potstickers long ago because most are so boring, but when Mr. & Mrs. Yimster, Limster, Low End Theory and I met for a breakfast at Joy, the potstickers were a revelation! I've got to get back there again soon for some more good eats...
Disclaimer: I have no idea what is 'authentic' or not, and it's been almost a year since I've eaten there...
I've tried the Shan Dong Chicken. First time there, we were ordering the Kung Pao, and the waiter suggested we would prefer the Shan Dong ("house specialty!"). It was pretty good. I remember the sauce was moderately sweet. Seemed odd, as we were told it was spicy, and it certainly wasn't. I believe the chicken was deep fried first, and there was shredded lettuce under it.
The Lotus Chicken was also good. Chicken bits (ground, if I recall?), rice noodles, and what tasted like a black bean sauce. It comes with a huge pile of large lettuce leaves to wrap it in. A bit messy, but fun.
I liked the hot'n'sour soup, but probably because it was very peppery and spicy. Yeah, it's Hunan, but still. ;-)
The dumplings are good for convenience; you can buy a frozen 50-pack of them for ~$12. Makes for a cheap and quick lunch. Doubtless they're not amazing, but they beat the dumplings in a lot of the Americanized Chinese places!
Question: what is the BaoZi called on the menu? Or is this a place that has different menus? (I have a takeout menu, and can't see anything similar...)
re: Marc Wallace
The bao zi are the 'buns' under the breakfast section. Not that I read Chinese, but that's what they are. When you go in, there are usually trays of them in the front. The ManTou mentioned by tanspace I think must be the Special Twisted Buns. The dough's the same as with the buns, but twisted in a funny way so that it pulls apart in sections after it's been cooked.
ManTou is a general term for Buns without any fillings. The Special Twisted Buns are a type of ManTou. It's probably YinSeJuan. The "huge" one that I mentioned in the original post is also a type of ManTou.
BaoZi on the other hand is more like a giant dumpling - in the sense that it has a skin and has filling. But the similarity ends there. In Shandong and Northern China, BaoZi is meant to be a meal by itself, as well as ManTou.
I guess the only thing similar to it I can think of is the BBQ Buns that some of you may have tasted at the Dim Sum places. Basically that has the skin, and the filling (of BBQ pork) You can think of BBQ Buns as the Cantonese equivalent of BaoZi. However, the filling to skin ratio of BaoZi is more similar to XLTB than BBQ Buns. BBQ Buns, at least the ones I've tried, has very thick skin and little filling.
BaoZi will have a skin that is proportionally thicker than a dumpling due to its large size. But is more "airy" and lighter. The filling is similar to a XLTB filling, usually made with pork/vegi or beef/vegi, but without so much sauce. But it is juicy. From the outside, if you can imagine a XLTB that's several times bigger, you have the basic shape of a BaoZi.
But a picture is worth a thousand word, and I've found one below. In it it shows the various shapes that BaoZi can take.
re: Marc Wallace
I guess I had the wrong impression about the Shandong Chicken dish. The dish I was thinking is a cold dish. It is cooked through a complex process and ultimately the meat and skin of the chicken is pulled off, instead of sliced, and served by drizzling a special sauce made with soy sauce, garlic, etc, and served cold. The meat is tender yet has a good firmness. It is similar in some way to many of the cold-plate chicken dishes served at higher-end set dinners. But the ShaoJi dish is always an entree by itself and is not served as part of any cold-plate.
The dish that you described may be some other dish, which I guess I'll have to try to find out.
I just found this thread by accident doing a search on jjampongbab. What's the current consensus on the restaurant if it still exists. Also, what other Shandong restaurants, if any, are there in the Bay Area. It is known as one of the great cuisines of China, but outside of dumplings I don't know of any Shandong restaurants in NY.
Can I assume shui jiao is a version of the same dumpling that's known in Cantonese (Wade Gilles, I guess) as suey kow?
Robert L, if you're here, have you been there?
re: Peter Cherches
Characters are the same, but the execution for the Cantonese and Shan Dong dumpling are dramatically different. You can use shui jiao as a search term for the SF board and find reports from all round the bay, mostly from Korean-Chinese and Shandong places with a smattering of Taiwanese outposts in the mix.
Shandong cooking is often identified as Mandarin or Beijing around here, or can be found in Korean-Chinese restaurants. Perhaps it is the same in NY.
re: Peter Cherches
Twelve or thirteen years ago, when I worked in DT Oakland and had only recently gotten hooked on shui jiao in Shanghai, the dumplings at Shan Dong were very good, even the frozen ones which I bought by the large bag. About the time the above thread began, I went back there after several years absence and found the shui jiao to be very disappointing, with skins that were way too thick.
San Tung, in San Francisco, has shui jiao that are much better and truer to form.
As Melanie pointed out, Cantonese "suey kow" are an entirely different beast, more like a flat, crunchy wonton with bamboo shoots and wood ear fungus inside. Cantonese restaurants that carry the northern style sometimes qualify them as "Santung suey kow."
re: Gary Soup
I second the recommendation of San Tung in S.F. It's in the Inner Sunset on Irving St. and used to be one of my regular stops back when I lived there. Really fine hand-pulled noodles too, if memory serves. I understand though that they've become a little too popular in recent years.
I miss this cuisine. Nothing really like it that I've found in NYC, except one little now gone stand in a dingy mall in Flushing.
The Korean-Chinese places in NY are definitely Northern Chinese, but I think the dishes are significantly enough transformed that you wouldn't call them Shandong or Beijing.
The only place in Shandong province I've been is Qu Fu, birthplace of Confucius. It has its own cuisine, which I didn't care for, specialties being a pretty weird-tasting smoked tofu and caramel potatoes!
Shan Dong hasn't changed at all in the 3 years since this original thread. The "pork and leek dumplings" and "pork and vegetable buns" (the BaoZi referenced above) are still great when they are fresh. Sometimes the former have been frozen or the latter have sat around... then they are only good. Great dry fried string beans and Lotus Chicken.
Hand cut noodle with meat sauce is another winner -- is that "Zha Jiang Mian"? Also, does anyone know the English name of the "TsaoMa Mian" in the post above?
The staff are also very sweet, esp with kids.