Delicate on the outside, rich and brothy on the inside, xiaolongbao, or traditional Shanghai soup dumplings, are a street food with a simplicity that belies their profound, utter deliciousness. Whether it’s pork, crab or other fillings you prefer, we’ve compiled a list of the top places to scout out these Shanghainese delicacies in their hometown.
This hole-in-the-wall restaurant is a must-visit on any quest for the perfect xiaolongbao. Flavors of soy sauce and rice wine mingle with a rapturously meaty pork and broth filling. With its cheap prices, Fu Chun is always buzzing with hungry customers, so be prepared to share a table with strangers. And while the line outside may be a deterrent, see it instead as a testament to the eatery’s quality.
Launched in the 1980s as a casual family business, Din Tai Fung has now expanded through Asia and beyond. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost the authentic taste xiaolongbao lovers crave. The dumplings here are handmade and steamed to perfection in an open kitchen. With unctuous pork and crab roe fillings accompanied by delicate skins, it’s no wonder that two of Din Tai Fung’s Hong Kong branches have been awarded Michelin stars. The restaurant also serves vegetarian dumplings stuffed with mushrooms and alternative fillings such as chicken or goose liver.
With fresh ingredients and a cozy location, Linlongfang serves authentic xiaolongbao dumplings at bottom-of-the-barrel prices. Try the much-loved egg yolk and pork variety, and make sure to get in there early as the venue closes once the dumplings run out. And they run out quickly. The xiaolongbao are cooked to order, but there is no English menu, so English-speakers can count on lots of gesticulating to get to that juicy dumpling.
Nan Xiang Xiaolong Mantou
On the Shanghai dumpling scene for more than a century now, Nan Xiang Xiaolong Mantou is a historic landmark and restaurant that serves some of the best crab-roe filled xiaolong dumplings in the world. Best tried during the hairy crab season (September and October), the xiaolongbao have moderately thick skins with a rich and creamy filling.
Jia Jia Tang Bao
The older sister of Linlongfang, Jia Jia is run by a team of all female chefs and is a favorite among locals. With lines at all hours, this place may require you to have some patience, as it might take a while before you get your hands on a delicious dumpling. Try the Huanghe Lu branch, arguably the best of the bunch.
De Xin Guan
Dating back to the Qing Dynasty, this noodle shop is more famous for its sweet, porky xiaolongbao than its actual noodle dishes. De Xin Guan serves traditional xiaolongbao, full of flavor and accompanied by modest prices.
(Main image: © Alpha)
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