Wednesday, April 13, 2011


One of the things which spells home for almost any Hong Kong or Taiwan urbanite is the Shanghai soup dumpling.
Yes, the product was invented in Shanghai (actually in 南翔, a suburb), not in Hong Kong or Taiwan.
And no, it isn't a dumpling. It is a bun.


The name means little steamer basket bun (pronounced 'siu long bou' in Hong Kong and San Francisco), and that doesn't really describe it. A springy dough packet is filled with a congealed soup made from pork meat and pork stock, then steamed till done. The dough will be bread-like, the filling will have liquefied. You are supposed to eat the little treacherous item with a spoon and chopsticks - the spoon to catch the rich broth which will spill out at first bite.
If you weren't forewarned, the hot liquid could scald your tongue and your chin.

Mainlanders usually refer to it as 小籠饅頭, which is as vague a term as 小籠包.
Though it may be called 'soup dumpling' in English, that is actually a mis-translation - the dough envelope is yeast-risen and bread-chewy, rather than rolled-out and pasta-like.

Think of it as a wonderful snacky thing, wonderfully warm and juicy. Just about perfect for a nice freezing San Francisco summer.

To up the zing, you can dip it in the small saucer of fragrant dark vinegar and slivered ginger that magically appears with everything Shanghainese.

3319 Balboa Street, at 35th. Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94121

Ten siu long bao for about six bucks, among the best in the Bay Area. You can also have a pan-fried version (生煎包), which is a little chewier.
Noodles, scallion pancakes, potstickers, and, of course, real water dumplings.
The prices are good, the ambience is 'real food place', rather than "white person pulling up nose at anything that doesn't meet his high standards for decor".
It's in the Richmond district (列治文區), which means that it's a bit of a trek from the Chinatown-Northbeach neighborhood.
Opens at eleven, closes at nine.

In Taiwan, Shanghai dumplings are one of the famous menu items at 鼎泰豐 (Ding Tai Feng). Being, in fact, what kept that concern going when their original business started disappearing due to changes in the market at the end of the seventies, beginning of the eighties. The owner and his wife started selling Shanghai dumplings to make extra money, and did so fabulously well that they now have a chain of restaurants in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
And a location in Shanghai.

This is the veritable motherlode. The Nan-Hsiang Mantou Dian is one of the original places for the Shanghai dumpling. They are located in Nan-hsiang on the outskirts of Shanghai. Nan-hsiang (南翔) means 'southern soaring'. Naturally it is northeast of Shanghai (上海) proper.
No, I have never been there.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can I get that with zebra?

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