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Feb 11, 2009 08:59 PM

Best Shen Jian Bao in San Francisco city?

For once, not a discussion of who makes the best Xiao Long Bao, but the pan fried doughy version with pork and juicy soup inside, called Shen Jian Bao (sometimes written as Sheng Jian or Jien Bao).

For the South Bay I dare say Shanghai Flavor Shop does it the best.

I had a terrible monsterous version at New Mandarin Garden in South SF, and that was as north as I had got.

So what do the hounds think is the best SJB in SF city proper?

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  1. Sheng jian bao happens to be the proper PinYin spelling for 生煎包, FWIW. I haven't found a decent version in San Francisco. Unlike XLB, the "soup" inside is mostly fat, and purveyors seem to fear being tagged with the "G" word, "greasy."

    1. This doesn't answer your question, but to add to the geographic mix. We loved the version at Asian Pearl in Pacific East (Richmond). I don't know if it is authetic.

      Would love to hear about other East Bay versions.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jmarek

        yes, the sheng jian bao at Asian Pearl was really good! the only thing is that they're not always available during dim sum

      2. Just need to chime in here: Shanghai Flavor Shop's taste really good- the soup doesn't strike one as fatty or greasy. Word of warning- the restaurant is disgustingly filthy. It is pretty offensive, the walls are covered with food/sauce splatter and the carpet is an abomination. The food we had seemed OK, but I just couldn't have confidence in the kitchen with a dining room in that condition. The dishes seemed clean and the service was friendly and nice. You really need to know what you are walking into if you make the trip. Also, they are closed from 3-5 between lunch and dinner, even on weekends.

        Shanghai Flavor Shop
        888 Old San Francisco Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

        12 Replies
        1. re: P. Punko

          One can argue that the tables at Shanghai Flavor Shop have kitchen smoke/grease on it (elbow grease), and the chopsticks have a hint of stickiness to it for some reason (

          But in a morbid way it adds to the authenticity of a hole in the wall from China.

          Although I would disagree that the restaurant is "disgustingly filthy", perhaps my tolerance is a lot higher than yours :-) (I've seen worse in my time). The Chinese and Taiwanese expat communities already know about this place and flock to it in droves. Get there too late during lunch hour and expect a wait.

          Their spinach and pork wontons (huan duan)'s are pretty good too. I saw two female employees wrap them at a table nearby from my last visit.

          But yes, I'm going to have a hard time finding or at least knowing about a place that does SJB just as good, northward of SFS in Sunnyvale.

          1. re: K K

            This restaurant is my favorite tip from Chowhound. I do not mind that it's not spotless.

            I do appreciate that the limited menu offers dishes to enjoy with the great SJBs. My (intended) point is that this is not a walk-up food stand selling only one item.

            For example, SFS makes a variation of "ma yi shang shu" and will adapt the spice-heat to one's liking. The vegetable dishes are prepared with wok hei.

            The New York Times ran a story last year, with an emphasis on stalls in food courts that make one dish extremely well.

            The article does say that the surroundings are not spotless, but the food is "worth the journey."

            1. re: anyhow

              For San Mateo, I enjoyed the Ma Yi Shang Shu (ants climbing trees) at Sun Tung, a real hole in the wall (and arguably cleaner than SFS) near the multi-plex movie theater.

              1. re: K K

                Thanks for this suggestion. I will be glad to check it out soon.

                1. re: anyhow

                  It's not spicy, but I enjoyed it with white rice on the side. While you are there, try the garlic greens with dried tofu (suan miao dou gan). Might be a wall special item. (For those reading, avoid the XLB unless you like them on the big and dry side with cabbage inside the pork)

            2. re: K K

              I've seen worse too- my post was kind of an FYI for a general crowd. I know expectations can be calibrated differently for different places. Just because there are worse places out there doesn't make the level of cleanliness here enjoyable. It was more of a bummer because the food we had was fine to pretty good. I think I had reached a personal threshold for a sit-and-eat place. I didn't want to give them a pass this time because I guess I've reached my limit of eating in freezing and dirty restaurants- and I like that chowhound tries for accuracy and honesty. I don't want SFS to suffer in business, I want them to wipe off the wall once in awhile. I've eaten in a lot of hole-in-the-walls that take pride in providing a clean restaurant, even if entirely barebones.

              We went because I had read a previous post of yours mentioning the SJB, and we decided it would be a fun little trip. We really did like the SJB, but my DC and I felt a keen disappointment that the surroundings that day seemed to be a deal breaker. I still very much appreciate your tip and posts on Chowhound because I can say that I've had a pretty good SJB, and my food experience level has increased in both good and bad ways. :)

              1. re: P. Punko

                What do you all think of the 生煎包 at Koi Palace? I had some decent ones a while ago but the problem with that restaurant is the dim sum is not that consistent (dinner much more so).

                1. re: P. Punko

                  The credit for Shanghai Flavor Shop really goes to senior hound tanspace, who first outted this place (at least for me to discover it). Both of us have had some experience with SJB, although me much less in Asia (only limited to Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, where they are famous for it, the strange thing is that I've had the Shihlin SJB last month, and for some reason they had much much less soup than SFS, although better quality and tasting pork. So score one fo SFS for soup).

                  The Cong Yoh Ban Mien (dry noodles with soy sauce, scallions, oil, dried shrimp I think) all tossed up together is great, but a bit hearty. Little Shanghai in San Mateo does another good version that is not as heavy, but if you want grease and mo carbs in your diet, SFS does it nicely.

                  And did you all know SFS used to offer XLB? They eventually crossed it out of the paper menu, then the new batches don't even mention it. I wonder how those tasted.

                  1. re: K K

                    I'll have to try it sometimes, though without a car it's easier to get to Shanghai for SJB than Sunnyvale. I've yet to find a satisfying version in San Francisco, Oakland or the northern peninsula.

                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                      I don't like yelp, but they give Sunny Shanghai a bad rating. It's a hole in the wall, but I love the staff (mom and pop) and they have amazing pan friend buns. They have a beautiful skin (relatively thin), super crispy bottom and a juicy meaty finish. They are not greasy at all. They are the best imo that I've had in the Bay Area

                      1. re: airflux

                        Looking back on my post from last June, I did find the SJB at Siunny Shanghai to be "as good as I've found in the US" (though I haven't tried Shanghai Flavor Shop). My problem may be that I'm in Shanghai about every year, hitting the good stuff, and I may be subconsciously (or consciously) using the sJB at my namesake Xiao Yang's as a benchmark.

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Many thanks, XY, for your comments.

                          I was thinking of your earlier posts describing "Yang's Fry-Dumpling" in Shanghai, when I commented that Shanghai Flavor Shop serves a menu of noodles, both dry or in soups, and other dishes.

                          Of course, I cannot compare these SJBs or, similarly, the XLBs in the bay area with Nanxiang Steamed Buns Restaurant, Shanghai.

                          I hope to travel to China some day and will visit those famous shops. If you want to come down on Caltrain, I could meet your train and drive you to SFS. They are open for lunch on weekends from 11-3.

            3. Any news of SJB outside of Shanghai Flavor Shop?

              I just got back from LA where I happened across some killer SJB, and remember how much more like I like them than XLB.