Shengjian Bao, the fried cousin to Xiao Long Bao, may not get as much attention internationally, but this meat stuffed dumpling bun is deserving of praise in it’s own right. It originated in Shanghai and has been consumed as a snack since the early 1900s. Because this dish is not well known outside of the local community, most restaurants that serve it are small holes in the wall with Chinese only names, making it difficult for foreigners to take a bite out of this part of the culture. Don’t be intimidated, just read Culture Trip’s guide to Shanghai’s best Shengjian Bao and you’ll be a fan in no time.
Perhaps Shanghai’s most ubiquitous chain restaurant, Yang’s Fry-Dumpling is also one of its best. Even with stores all over the city, lines can sometimes stretch out the door. Yang’s dumplings are cheap and consistently delicious, so much so that Yang’s has become synonymous with shengjian bao in Shanghai. Three flavors are available: pork, shrimp, and vegetable.
Da Hu Chun is another popular chain shengjian bao restaurant in Shanghai. What makes these bao so unique is that they’re fried on the top instead of the bottom unlike many of its competitors. There are only two dumpling flavors here, pork and pork with shrimp and there are two non-dumpling menu items as well, curry beef and meat stuffed tofu in vermicelli noodle soup. Culture Trip recommends the store on Yunnan S. Rd.
Tucked away behind a bus stop near Longhua Temple is hole in the wall A De. The restaurant may not look like much, but when the product is so good, broken chairs and greasy counters are easily overlooked. The restaurant can only fit about 10 people at any given time, making A De’s dumplings particularly suited to takeaway. From opening the greasy brown bag to slurping up the soup inside each dumpling, A De’s food is a sensory adventure.
Shengjian bao make the perfect staple for a 24 hour restaurant. Although traditionally eaten for breakfast, the soup dumplings make the perfect midnight snack or “after a few drinks” food. While many other shengjian sellers rely on the oil to convey the flavor, Dong Tai Xiang lets the fragrant meat do all the work. Several other menu items are available as well.
Located in the Zhongshan Park neighborhood, Xiao Yan is convenient for many expats but the restaurant has its fair share of local fans as well. In fact, many people claim Xiao Yan serves Shanghai’s best shengjian bao. The storefront may be small, but the sweet aromas wafting from it make it impossible to miss.