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Feb 21, 2009 10:38 AM

Dumplings in Shanghai

Please forgive a question that has probably been asked and answered already. I did search the board but wanted up-to-date info. I will be bringing my teenage son to Shanghai for a few days in April and he is on a quest for dumplings. We will be staying at the Westin Bund and were wondering where we shouldn't miss.

Thanks in advance

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  1. You probably found this thread already -- just reposting in case...

    1. The Nanxiang Steamed Dumplings shop will be recommended because it's such an institution (even Anthony Bourdain "had" to go there) but the dumplings have gone way downhill from its glory days. It desn't even make the top twenty in ratings by locals (on

      A thread I started has a few suggestions; Jia Jia Tang Bao is the new "must try" place from the standpoint of locals. It's quite easy to get to, and surely the Westin's concierge can point you to it.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Xiao Yang

        Glad to hear son has been watching Bourdain eat at Nanxiang Steamed Dumpling shop on Youtube and it was on the list.

        1. re: Xiao Yang

          Tang Bao, and XLB, are not dumplings.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Of course they are dumplings. The term is a very broad one, and English menus typically translate xiao long bao as "small steamed dumplings" or "steamed Shanghai dumplings."

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              XLB (and Tang Baos) are baos.

              Dumplings are not baos.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Semantics. But dumplings can be baos, if you define baos broadly as meat/veggie wrapped in dough.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Words, words, words. To Shanghainese, a xiao long bao is a xiao long mantou, and a shengjian bao is a shengjian mantou, and who's to argue with a Shanghainese?

                  Language is the servant of the people, not the master, and a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

          2. The soon-to-be-demolished Wujiang Lu houses Yang's Dumplings - a place I recommend to all my friends. The dumplings are fried and contain a kind of oily soup around the pork. I think they are called 'shengjian.'
            Anyhow, an alternative to nanxiang and other steamed dumplings, which I find a bit bland.
            Wujiang is a great old Shanghai institution which will be demolished by the end of the year to cater for some 5* hotel. Lots of interesting street snacks down there and is teeming with life on the weekend. Again, ask your concierge - it's behind Najing Xi (west) road metro station, near the TV station.

            1. Yang's Fry-Dumpling, which another commenter had mentioned, has another location on Huanghe Lu north of People's Square. It's right across from Jia Jia Tang Bao (the soup dumplings), so you can try the two most famous Shanghainese dumplings in one go.
              Here are some photos of the fried dumplings. Just ask for the "shen jian bao", since the menu is in Chinese.

              1 Reply
              1. re: AppetiteforChina

                Yang's also has an outlet inside the Shanghai #1 Provisions Store on Nanjing Lu (#21 on the attached map).


                A bit harder to find, but worth the effort because they serve even bigger, juicier sheng jian bao is Xiao Xiang's, at 234 Dongjiadu Lu


              2. Right by Metro 2 station "Nan Jing Xi Lu" is WuJiang Lu.
                Above the Burger King is another branch of
                NanXiang Steamed Dumpling, Yang's Fried-Dumpling is also on the same floor.

                These are the most famous steamed dumpling, fried dumpling in Shanghai.
                (for 4 x more money, I like Din Tai Fung's xiao long bao more, at least 3 branches in Shanghai).

                14 Replies
                1. re: catraveller1

                  Jia Jia Tang Bao's xiao long bao are at least the equal to Din Tai Fung's and about 1/7 the price (7.5 RMB for 12 dumplings, versus 45 RMB for 10).

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Hi guys.

                    I remember the first few trips I came to Shanghai, I would happily go to most local "old brand name" restaurants. Usually sucked in by the crowd and line outside the shop and sometimes word of mouth from local friends. But very soon my system started telling me that something was wrong.

                    I have now come to dislike most local small eats (dim sums, xiao chi's). You see, Chinese people on the mainland have for a couple of generations gotten very used to the idea of MSG in their food (most family can't cook a meal without the stuff, and many restaurant have a bottle of the stuff on the table for those who like their food tastier). As a result, the restaurant industry has no choice but to cater to that habit. To the extent if a restaurant don't put enough of the chemical taste-booster in their dishes they get angry complaints from their customers. MSG is cheap, so why not be generous with the stuff.

                    The flip side, however, is that people like myself who have come from relatively MSG free culinary environment find eating experiences in this type of eateries to be pretty bad. Especially after the eating. Not nice.

                    Sorry. This is a long way of saying I personally don't like some of the seemingly fairly popular places mentioned above (nanxiang and xiao yang).

                    Come to think of it, I am not sure if the dumpling in this topic means xiao-long or sheng-jian, or does it include shui-jiao and yun-tun? For Xiao-long, as Xiao Yang above mentioned there is a very good thread from earlier. If we include shui-jiao, then I have come across a tiny dingy hole on a small street that makes some pretty good shui-jiao dumplings. As far as my system could tell, it is free of MSG. Taste good. And cheap. But definitely not a place to hang out or entertain guest. Its... well, an ordinary little joint that I happen to like a lot. Its on Yan Qing Lu near the Dong Hu Lu end (not far from K Wah Center on Huai Hai Lu). Dong Bei Jiao Zi or something. Give it a try if you happen to be in the area. Though I have a feeling this place is probably not that unique in the context of things...

                    Jia Jia I have never tried. Hm. Need to check out perhaps. Thanks guys.

                    1. re: kaman

                      I prefer Shengjian to xiao long bao, for excellent shengjian I have found 2 places so far that I'd really recommend, one is on tianyaoqiao lu, midway between nandan lu and caoxi lu (you can't miss it, shengjian is always prepared next to an open window in huge 3 feet diameter frying pans) and the other is on jianguo lu, midway between chongqing lu (the raised road) and danshui lu.

                      Yang's is good but it's so busy that you normally have to take away and I don't enjoy the overall experience so much.

                      It's interesting that everyone has their own way of eating shengjian, I roll mine round in vinegar, then bite a hole in the top and drink the soup inside, then pull out the meat with chopsticks, dip in vinegar and eat that, then finish off the rest of the dumpling with regular vinegar dips.

                      Did I mention that I like vinegar?

                      1. re: E Woks

                        From observing while standing in queues, Sheng Jian Bao are basically fried with occasional steaming. Busy places like Yang's have the fast turnover that gives you fried food that are still crisp.
                        The other reason I like Yang's products is while the skin is thin, the folds where the dumpling is fried are much thicker to give a more crispy mouthfeel.
                        I haven't come across any restaurants that do this as well.

                        Scallion oil cake is the other food a streetside stall version has beaten all restaurant versions I've sampled.

                        I mention mexican cooks at DTF's LA branch to point their product have consistency. However a midrange restaurant chain that charges about the same prices in LA become high end in China, mid range in Japan.

                        Jia Jia, De Long Guan's dumplings don't have the same consistency , thickness of the wrappings, appearance of the folds varies across visits.

                        1. re: catraveller1

                          The wrappers at De Long Guan are every bit as thin as DTF's, at least at the Shanghai DTF branches.

                          Xiao Xian on Dongjiadu Lu makes shengjian bao every bit as good as Xiao Yang's, assuming you get them fresh from the skillet, as of this morning (they were my breakfast). I haven't tried all the Xiao Yang branches (they have about a dozen now), just the Wujiang Lu, Nanjing Lu and Huanghe Lu branches, but judging from reviews there seems to be some variance in quality among them.

                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                            I've tried Xiao Xian's Sheng Jian Bao, I don't like their fillings as much as Xiao Yang's.
                            Wrappings at the various Xiao Yang's branches varies across branches and visits.
                            The fillings are consistent and the crispness of the wrappings , since at every visit they all have high turnover,

                            The couple visits of De Long Guan's JiangXi lu branch right after Chinese New Year had different cooks and dropoffs in wrapping quality (thicker). The wrappings are thinner during the last visit.

                        2. re: E Woks

                          e_woks, had a late-ish lunch at yang's dumpling house, today. (the place wasn't too busy around 1:30 p.m.) the skin was great, really nicely crisp and coated with those fantastic white sesame seeds -- but the filling was not at all to my taste! is it normally mushy? the texture was strange and unlike any other shen jian bao or XLB filling I've ever had. this went beyond being tender; it really was just mushy.

                          1. re: cimui

                            Yang's... and the competition across the street. (Jia Jia Tang Bao)

                            1. re: cimui

                              hmm, I've not had a mushy one before, sounds a bit weird, they're normally semi-firm, quite similar to XLB filling

                              1. re: E Woks

                                bad day at yang's, maybe, or something to do with the off hour? if i can swing back there to try again, i will, given the reputation.

                        3. re: Xiao Yang

                          On taste,
                          Din Tai Fung, De Long Guan, Jia Jia, are close.(but in that order)
                          NanXiang is not in the same league.

                          On appearance of the Xiao Long Bao,
                          even the Mexican help at Din Tai Fung 's LA branch make much better looking products than the other 2.

                          On restaurant surroundings and service level, DTF is much better.

                          Downside is way higher prices.

                          1. re: catraveller1

                            I don't know why you'd think that the XLB makers from south of the border would not make good looking products. They are skilled in doing a lot of tasks. In fact, manny Chinese restaurants in LA employ Mexican cooks.

                            1. re: catraveller1

                              You don't eat the appearance. Some of the most attractive XLB's are frozen supermarket brands that may be mechanically rendered. Put a little wabe sabe in your life!

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                Well yes you do eat the appearance. In Chinese cuisine (and others too) the three prongs of a good dish are color (i.e. appearance), fragrance, and taste. So the sppearance of a dish is of equal importance to the taste.