Recent Chinese noshing, mostly Shanghainese
My dad came into town last week, so this is a brief digest on my meals with him. The first day's lunch was spent with my aunts and uncles in the Sunnyvale/Cupertino area, which was new to me. As dad wanted xiaolongbao, my aunt and uncle suggested Hu Chiang (though my aunt had heard that the only thing there worth getting were the xlb). There were 8 of us(one of whom was vegetarian), so we were able to try a variety of items:
2 steamers of xlb, 2 steamers of vegetarian dumplings, Shanghai vegetable rice (huifan), scallion pancakes, sliced beef wrapped in a baked flour pancake (bing), tofu family style, a stir fry of sliced bitter melon, drunken chicken, and Shanghai rice sticks (niangao). We all agreed that the xlb were decent, and I liked the scallion pancakes because there actually was a lot of scallions in them. Everything else was pretty so so. Service was good and as we arrived a little before the crowds, there was no wait for a table. My dad gave the xlb a 6 out of 10. The skins were thin and pretty durable, only a couple out of the steamers were broken. They were sizeable and really juicy, so much so that some juice squirted out and stained my slacks. The problem was that the texture of the meat was very loose, with little discernable flavor.
The next day, I dropped Dad off in Berkeley and stopped to get takeout at Shanghai Xiao Chr on Durant. The waitress convinced me to order the xlb, (I don't usually think they travel well), also got scallion pancakes, hot and sour soup, and Shanghai stirfried nian gao with shredded pork. The xlb were much smaller than at Hu Chiang, but wrappers were thin though there were several broken ones so not as much soup. The taste of the meat was better, so sweet that I suspected sugar had been added. The scallion pancakes were much too thick and the niangao also not really worth ordering. The hot and sour soup, however, was just right. The next day when I spoke with my dad, he told me he'd been taken to the Shanghai Xiao Chr in San Mateo and also tried their xlb, which he rated a 7 out of 10, primarily because of the superior flavor of the filling.
Sunday dinner was spent at Lily's House in Lafayette. We ordered the Shanghai smoked fish, veggie duck, longjing shrimp, lion's head meatballs, the pan touched tofu with spinach and dry fried string beans. Dad thought the fish was quite good, and liked the flavor of the meatballs.
Our final meal was lunch in Oakland Chinatown, where I had hoped to go to Shanghai Xiao Chr (to let dad compare xlb between 2 branches). Unfortunately, they are closed on Tuesdays. So we ended up at Shandong Restaurant, which was packed. A good sign, or so I thought. We ordered the Shandong boiled dumplings, a pork chop soup noodles with the hand made noodles and a sliced fish with black bean sauce off the lunch menu. We each were comped a bowl of hot and sour soup, which was way over vinegared. The sliced fish was fine, but the dumplings were over boiled so the wrappers were too soft and the filling was tasteless. The broth in the pork chop noodles also had no flavor, while the pork chop itself was well marinated (it was breaded and fried, then cut into bite size pieces). The noodles were thick and chewy, but needed some salt too. Maybe we ordered badly, as many other tables had tasty looking dishes, but based on that meal I wouldn't bother to go back.
We went on a Tuesday, close to noon. My aunt tells me on weekends it is still a 45 minute wait. Just get the xlb and the scallion pancakes. Some in our party liked the sliced beef in a bing, but I didn't think it was that great.
Thanks, sounds like my kind of tour. By way of reference, how long has your father been in the US (I'm assuming he lives here) how much regular access does to have to this type of food, and when did he last visit Shanghai? (Just trying to get a sense of the level of calibration in his expectations.)
I have a B-I-L who'll be visiting from Shanghai for the first time soon and we may be on a similar tour.
re: Gary Soup
Dad grew up in Shanghai, has lived in the States for 50 years, but goes to China 2 to 3 times a year, usually going thru Shanghai as I have an aunt who lives in Pudong. Plus, my uncle is a restauranteur, so when they are together it's usually very good food. Dad told me the best xlb he's ever had in the States was down in LA's Monterey Park, but that was a long time ago, not sure of the name. As far as regular access, my mom is from Jiangsu Province, and cooks lots of JiangZhe dishes.
One item I always get at Shandong in Oakland is their siu beng w/ meat... much better than the other place (Szechuan? on 8th & Webster). Shandong's rendition has way more filling.