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Nov 6, 2013 10:30 AM

JThur01's Best Shen Jian Bao

For those who disagree, he'll meet you in back of the building.

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  1. RE: Shau May

    "These are well browned, if not as spectacularly crafted or downright pretty as that as Shanghai No. 1, and the meat to broth to bao ratio is spot on."

    I just wonder how one determines the proper meat to broth to bao ratio?

    Me thinks I need to bring may abacus next time I go SJB-ing.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      ipse, it's called literary license. Or, s*** written in an attempt to explain infinitesimal differences :-)

      As far as terminology. I realize the differences, but some of it isn't necessarily mine. I'll just leave it at that.

      Chris, see above. I never intended these to be a "Best" or even "Great" Those terms/words were not my own. Though CH has to accept some of the blame as these four places were chosen in part because those are the places most mentioned here for SJB :-)

      Any other worthy SJBs out there?

      1. re: JThur01

        Thanks Jim. I know there have been discussions here on CH re: the absolute nature of these lists and the possible negative impact they have re calling things "the best", but they're a necessary evil IMO - and I personally love to read (and make internal) lists if just to digest them easily because of the organization.

        I like the ones at JTYH. No one really talks about those, but I know that they're not really standard.

        1. re: chrishei

          I like the ones at JTYH, but they are *SO* doughy....

          1. re: ilysla

            They are indeed, and just flat out bigger too. Last time I was there I finished an order of 5 + dao xiao mian + fried intestines. Couldn't move for an entire night...

            1. re: chrishei

              Try eating the SJB, dao xiao mian (lamb, of course), + cat's ears. You really won't be moving after that....

          2. re: chrishei

            Thanks Chris, I'll check those out next time I'm at JTYH.

      2. Nice lineup.

        I like that SN1 has excess broth in their SJB. Kinda like what you get at Yang's in Shanghai. Does Shau May have more, less, or same amount of broth as SN1?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Porthos

          Less, and they can be a bit inconsistent on how much less. Still, closest I've had to Yang's around these parts.

          1. re: mrhooks

            Porthos, oops, sorry I missed your query. ^yes, exactly as mrhooks writes, less and inconsistent at Shau May.

        2. SJB has broth? I like the innards to be moist, but I've never thought of the liquid in there as being voluminous to be considered broth....

          56 Replies
          1. re: ilysla

            You wouldn't know it from most versions around town. After trying Yang's in Shanghai, if they don't have copious broth, they're no good by me.

            If you note the picture below, there is one in the bottom right hand corner with a slight dimple in it. That's because the rest of the sphere is broth filled. Almost a 25/75 broth:meat ratio.

            1. re: Porthos

              Interesting. I wonder how they prevent the broth from being absorbed by the dough. Will have to try some of these other ones myself.... ;)

              Surprised they serve SJB at Shau May since I always assumed it was a Taiwanese place....

              1. re: ilysla

                > Surprised they serve SJB at Shau May since I always assumed it was a Taiwanese place....

                You've just outed yourself as having never been to Taiwan :)

                Sheng jian bao (or shui jian bao, as they like to call them-- they're the same thing) are a fixture at virtually every night market in Taiwan, big and small.

                More often then not, there's no soup inside. (Though in my experience the US SJB seem to be drier than Taiwanese/CHinese). But when there is, it's glorious. THe only SJB in LA I've had with any soup inside was at Shanghai No1 Seafood Village. I don't really like the SJB at Shau Mei/Kang Kang because the filling as a sweetness I find off-putting.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  isn't the sweetness more a shanghai thing?

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    This discussion is awash with the same semantics that the piece got lost in :-)

                    "Broth", "soup", "juice"...the point being everyone of the four had enough liquid - whatever you want to call it, pick your term - to seep out all over the plate, sometimes a surprising amount. Usually, it was at least a spoonful (so, amount wise, how is that any less than an XLB? ;-), proportionally, it's greater). Of the four, Emperor was the driest with much of the (name of your choice) soaking into the bao. At all four, the liquid - again, whatever you want to call it - was so strongly flavored and colored that I would not say it was solely the juice from the pork. But, SJBs can vary from time to time, as in ray's at Kang Kang and some of them I had on other visits to places. Perhaps I simply got them on juicier days?

                    Shau May is Pan-Chinese. Dunno about ownership, someone else will have to fill that in.

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Correct, although at some Taipei night markets (e.g. Shihlin and Shih Da) some of the Shen Jian Bao vendors offer variants, like pork and veggie 菜包 or pure pork bliss versions 肉包.

                      The pork and veggie one ends up being a tad cheaper, particularly the ones around Shih Da night market. The pure pork bliss version at Shihlin has a little meat juice but does not gush out soup. There's something about eating these with some killer chili sauce from a bag.

                      And therein also lies the problem just like XLB...people expect soup gush. Xiao Yang may be considered a "standard" since there is ample soup that makes the modern fans happy (as well as travelers and blogger types) but to old timer Shanghainese who lived through the evolution of SJB will find XY's rendition not authentic, despite its popularity. Then there's also the change of the pleats folding upward and out, vs inward and down (a change done due to cost savings which became a standard), and the matter of browning on the top or bottom of the bao.

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        I think shuijianbao are wetter than shengjianbao

                        1. re: will47

                          You're absolutely entitled to think that :)

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            I think more specifically, shengjianbao use plain water in cooking, whereas shijianbao use a water / starch slurry and less oil.

                            Wikipedia also suggests that traditionally, shengjianbao (from Suzhou area, originally) have a pork only filling, vs. pork + shrimp / cabbage in shuijianbao

                            In any event, they're not the same thing. I've only had vegetarian versions of both, but I've had the shuijianbao that Mei Lin Dou Jiang had, and to me, the texture of the outside was softer and wetter than the shengjianbao I've seen.

                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          Since shui jian bao came up, I wanted to note that Beijing Duck House has them listed that way on their menu.

                        3. re: ilysla

                          In 1949, the Communists Party took control of China, and Chinese people from all over China fled to Taiwan. This is why Taiwanese food has strong influences from many regions in Mainland China.

                          1. re: raytamsgv

                            Yes, my mother was part of that group that fled, so I'm aware, thank you. ;)

                            I've strongly disliked the few times I've had Taiwanese food, so no, not really a Shau May fan and have never been to Taiwan. I assumed that they were as militant about not eating non-Taiwanese food as my HK friend is.... ;)

                            1. re: ilysla

                              I've strongly disliked the few times I've had Taiwanese food

                              Better gather up some points on EVA and hit the 2013 Beef Noodle Soup festival before it ends in 3 days:

                              You and JG would get along great.

                              1. re: TonyC

                                I need the English translation! Am I race traitor if my freq flyer plan is British Airways???

                                I'm okay w/ beef noodle soup. Really like pork chops. Love dao lu mien. Problem is that I prefer the thicker noodles (hence my enjoyment of JTYH and papardelle), and Taiwanese food just seems so... LIGHT.... Ephemeral?.... Transient?.... Non-satiating??? I actually think it's probably the last one. There's also some off-putting about the texture, but I can't quite describe it articulately.

                                I think the other prob is that Shau May also seemed kind of dirty to me growing up, although I can't explain why I think/thought that way b/c I never stepped foot in one (maybe it was the general dingy-ness of the strip mall it was in).

                                On a perhaps related note (to the dish of month), one of my fav breakfasts is sweet soy milk + fan tuan (hold the suan tsai, please). Don't have it very often, though, b/c I don't make it out to the SGV much (and my parents always bought it for me, so I wouldn't even know where to get it!).

                                1. re: TonyC

                                  I was going to suggest Old Country Cafe to ilysla, but if she thought Shau May was dingy...

                                  So, I'd suggest Monja.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Bring your passport to SinBaLa - you're entering Taipei.

                                    2. re: JThur01

                                      HE. I'm a HE.

                                      I've actually already been (to Old Country). ;) I tried ordering a Taro boba in Mandarin and was very worried the woman was going to a fish-head boba. Still not old on the food there.

                                      Do you remember what Shau May (is there only one cafe on San Gabriel Blvd?) looked like 20 yrs ago? Old Country seems very clean in comparison to me....

                                      Will try SinBaLa on Monja (never heard of the latter; is it new?). Do they have the brown sticky rice dish? I think that's the only Taiwanese thing I like.... =(

                                      1. re: ilysla

                                        Since I can't correct it in the original: "but if he thought Shau May was dingy..."

                                        Sorry about that ilysla. No, I wasn't around at Shau May back then. Monja recently opened a second location in Rosemead (original is in Industry/RH). BeBe is another good thought.

                                        1. re: ilysla

                                          All Shau May(s) have ALWAYS been filthy. When LA instituted the grading system, the demise of shau mei/shau may/kang kang was just presumed. Somehow they got the inspector on payroll and survived, and even manage to get sold off to non-Taiwanesers.

                                          Monja in Rosemead is clean, servers speak Engrish, but the parking lot is certifiably Asian. The hub/wife team is younger, and the menu reflects more of the current Taiwanese flavor than Sinbala. It's also way closer to a proper freeway:

                                          The big sausage/little sausage wienerducken is fun, though overpriced as hell.

                                          Fan tuan: Huge Tree. If you want to get in touch with the proverbial roots, they're also hiring. Perhaps the Latina cook will teach you how to enjoy suan cai.

                                          1. re: TonyC

                                            Thanks for mentioning Monja. We love Ningxia night market so I'm glad to read the owner is taking his inspiration from a night market that specifically focuses on traditional foods. I'll need to check it out.

                                            At Fengjia night market in Taichung last month, I had a few of the sausage-in-sausage (comically translated as "large intestine in small intestine", which as I understand is the literal word-for-word translation of the dish) as it was one of the only delicious things I was able to find at Fengjia. I think it cost 50 or 60 ntd ($1-2 USD). How much does it cost at Monja?

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              What TonyC doesn't tell is you is that he was actually giving me shit and kicking my ass the last time I told him to go to Monja.

                                              And re: prices at Monja ... if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Sounds like you may have internalized some erroneous expectations of our dear Mr. TonyC.

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Context, my dear watson: you suggested "Monja" when they were in the middle of moving/revamping menu, and hence was CLOSED. So I was like: you tease. Which is not the same as ass kicking.

                                                  I still wish they'd bring back the old street-stewing menu.

                                                  1. re: TonyC

                                                    Chill, Holmes. Was just giving you the time.

                                                    (By the way, you know what's funny? I only dug up that exchange cuz I was searching for AMG motors in my inbox. Just custom built one)

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Off topic, but which one? Not a CLA45, I hope. That seems so... YOUNG.

                                                      1. re: ilysla

                                                        No, not an AMG car.

                                                        A one-off, custom built AMG engine. This one has two signatures.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          You have your own clean room for assembly?

                                                          1. re: JAB

                                                            In San Cesario sul Panaro. The engine is being delivered to Horatio the man himself for final assembly.

                                                            Buyer is a Chinese dude who got tired of his Bugatti Veyron -- felt too many kids on the block already have one and that whole parachute thing is just so 2011.

                                                            And nothing says "Son of Corrupt Political Communist Leader" like a custom built Pagani.

                                                            Man is a true artist. Doesn't have his own garden to grow the ingredients, but bring him the goods, and his kitchen will make things like only your wildest imagination could conceive.

                                                            And, oh yeah, the hotdogs at Monja are quite good, as are the chicken nugget things.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              Getting tired of my 16.4 as well...

                                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                                That's probably because you got it in Orange. Never been a fan of the aardvark shnoz on that beast.

                                                                And, oh yeah, good ice water at Shau Mei. And they now also started to wipe down the tabletop soy sauce dispensers twice weekly.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  After randomly googling the words, "shen jian bao," "Watson," "aardvark shnoz" and "M113," I ended up here - WTF - this ain't the pay site I was looking for! Maybe I'll google, "raw gummy monkey nipples" and "Julia Childs" next. Oh, forget it - that's dish of the month...

                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    Try googling "good ice water" in SGV.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            Grandma J.L. says "Too much Yin..."

                                                          2. re: ilysla

                                                            << That seems so... YOUNG. >>
                                                            And lame, especially thru a FWD-4MATIC. Now excuse me while I go fix the exhaust leak on my M113 and re-attach the transmission oil cooler with zip ties.

                                                            oblig food content: I recently tried to heat brisket from Handy's (Long Beach) on the black dash. It didn't work. Mostly cuz Handy's "serves" their take-out brisket straight from the fridge

                                                  2. re: TonyC

                                                    the shau may on san gabriel near las tunas wasn't so bad. i ironically, that one is gone.

                                    3. re: ilysla

                                      Right, I've never considered SJB to be like XLB in terms of "soup" or "broth" or whatever it is you want to call the liquid that oozes out of XLB sometimes.

                                      SJB are essentially twice-cooked boazi -- i.e., steamed, then pan-fried.

                                      Sort of the like Chinese savory version of biscotti.

                                      Granted, there are different ways of making SJB (some include aspic a la XLB, and some don't), but I think it would be a mischaracterization to say that SLB are sort of just like XLB, but pan-fried as well.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        In Shanghai I don't think they are twice cooked which is what makes the ones here no bueno. That's too inefficient.

                                        They are cooked top side down because that is the thickest part. The bottom is actually thin and almost XLB thin. It's more like dumpling wrapper than the thicker bun you get here. Thus the soup doesn't get absorbed. I believe all of this is covered up so it pan fries and steams at the same time. Like panfried dumplings.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          Curious. I wonder if there's a significant difference in the thickness of the dough? W/ the SJB I've had (only in this country), even larger amounts of broth wouldn't necessarily cause a rippling in the skin b/c the dough is *SO* thick....

                                          1. re: ilysla

                                            Good gluten development. Nice elasticity. Obviously not as thin as a regular sized XLB but the ratio of thickness is probably the same. That's at Yang's.

                                            At SN1 it is thicker and more bun like, just more juice in the middle than any version I've had in town. Have never ordered it at Shau May though.

                                          2. re: Porthos

                                            SJB is often twice cooked, which is to say, half done baos are set aside on the cooler side of griddle, then brought back to finish much later. You can see this at nearly all the touristy 'food streets", but obviously not at any of the Da He/Xiao Yang branches.

                                            1. re: TonyC

                                              Yang's in Shanghai. Blurry. I guess it's so busy there is no need for a side griddle. In the background, you can see the wooden lid they use to cover up with during the cooking process.

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                My crappy photo of Yang's finished product (circa 2011). This is the Holy Grail of SJB, in my book.

                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                  Agree. Your photo better shows how thin the wrapper is. Obviously you had already drained the broth on the inside.

                                                  Why only an order of 4. Were you ill? ;-)

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    Oh, no my dear Porthos... I downed 8 orders of those suckers. (I think this photo depicts order 2 of 8)

                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                      8 orders of 4? So 32 SJBs? Beast. I could only down 3 orders plus a couple a bowls of noodles.

                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                        Breakfast of Champions, SH-style.

                                                        1. re: J.L.

                                                          In 1 seating or over the course of 3 days?

                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                            Time was precious on that trip, with too many Chowspots to hit in SH to go back to any establishment a second time.

                                                            p.s. For "dessert", I went across the street immediately after Yang's to JiaJia Soup Dumplings for hairy mitten crab roe pork XLBs (pictured).

                                                            1. re: J.L.

                                                              Beast! You win.

                                                              I was there in May so no hairy crab roe for me :(

                                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                                J.L.: "p.s. For "dessert", I went across the street immediately after Yang's to JiaJia Soup Dumplings for hairy mitten crab roe pork XLBs (pictured)."


                                                                wow. so after eating 32(!) Baos, you were still able to walk across the street and eat these JiaJia dumplings?! You need to challenge Joey Chestnut at pig out on 156 Hot Dogs at the Nathan's eating contest next year! lol

                                                                i feel stuffed just hearing you talk about this. :<

                                                                1. re: chowseeker1999

                                                                  Even for me, that was overdoing it a bit that day...

                                                                  But I'm feeling muuuuuch better now...

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              The XLB comparison was simply for those not familiar with baos beyond XLB. And that's what I'd call it, a comparison rather than characterization. Or, at least that was the original idea and what it started out as.

                                          3. Good ol' Shau May gets some love! Nice sleuthing/chowing, Jim!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              i wonder how much extra business they'll get in the next two weeks.

                                              i'm not crazy about the SJB at emperor noodles. maybe it was an anomaly, but when i got them, they were burnt on the bottom so as to affect the overall taste, and as mentioned previously, the ratio of dough to filling is seriously unbalanced towards the amount of dough IMO.

                                              1. re: barryc

                                                They (the ones at Emperor Noodles) were decent for me, but not anything worthy of "best SJB" lists or whatever. Plus, not that big of a fan of the restaurant as a whole.

                                                A combo + SJB at Shau May is like the best Asian version of a "meat & 3 + cornbread" there can be.

                                                1. re: chrishei

                                                  Thanks porthos, J.L., Shau May may just be a steam table joint, but damned if they don't do SJB proud.

                                                  barryc, how much extra business? I wish. Sadly, the Chinese cuisine pieces don't seem to get many hits at Squid Ink. I don't have the clout of a JGold, even with his shoutout. Concur with you about Emperor as far as meatball to dough ratio, but my visits they were nicely browned though doughy up top. Good meatball, just needs to be bigger.

                                                  Chris. Yeah, I agree (see other post about terminology).

                                              2. re: J.L.

                                                one of the few reasons for an evening run to the SGV?

                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                  Second that! I've been plumping Shau May SJB for years. My favorite experience there was asking a homeless guy outside if he wanted something to eat and having him request SJBs. He wasn't even Chinese, but he knew what was up. :)

                                                  By the way, the Jing Dong Ro Bings at Shau May are no slouch either. Crispy tasty yum.

                                                  For those who want to check it out, call ahead to order - the SJBs take 10-15 mins, or longer if it's busy. As usual, cash only and slightly grumpy counter help.

                                                2. I did not like the ones we ordered from Kang Kang Food Court in Temple City a year ago. The bottoms were charred black on my order and for all the other patrons as well.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: raytamsgv

                                                    SJB is one of those things that are not hard to make, but only difficult to prepare.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      ipse, in the earlier SJB thread, you recommended the version at Dean Sin World. Is that still applicable? ...是不是?

                                                      1. re: JThur01

                                                        I haven't had them in a while, and honestly since Mama Lu left the kitchen, Dean Sin World is a bit like a mutual fund prospectus -- "past performance does not guarantee future results"

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Thanks, ipse. That's kind of what I figured. Despite all the downhill and inconsistent reports since Mrs. Lu left, the bag of frozen dumplings I got weren't that big a drop-off...then again, that purchase was very shortly afterwards, so...

                                                        2. re: JThur01

                                                          Jim, " 是嗎? " is a tiny bit more apropos in this setting, methinks. Kudos for learning Chinese! Keep up the great work!

                                                          1. re: J.L.

                                                            Thanks J.L., after that royal chewing out, I shall not be making that mistake again :-)

                                                      2. re: raytamsgv

                                                        I went today for lunch because I read the article and had no idea what SJB is and the pictures looked good.

                                                        And they came out delicious. I don't have anything to compare them to, but they were pretty tasty. Same with the Egg Tarts.

                                                        1. re: kainzero

                                                          Good. Glad you tried them out. When I write these pieces, I'm really hoping people go and try these dishes/items out.