Got up and went for a late breakfast at the Changning Road branch of Yang’s Fried Dumplings (小杨生煎), which is a nice walk from the house. I needed to run a few errands on my way there so it worked out well. This is a pretty new branch, and not one of those that tourists would hit, so there was no line mid-morning on a weekday.
As usual I ordered one tael of four fried dumplings (生煎包). I’m not a connoisseur and don’t profess to be able to detect the minute differences that is inevitable between branches. Anyway, it was good for me. The buns were very juicy as expected, and this time I remembered to carefully suck out the soup so didn’t have to repeat the squirting accident last time. I thought the filling was a little bit more salty here, but the aftertaste of the pork was certainly sweet.
I also ordered a bowl of curry-flavored beef soup (咖喱牛肉湯). Drinking curry soup doesn’t seem very Shanghainese to me, but I guess the same could be said of having curry beef brisket or macaroni in soup in Hong Kong… Anyway, I wanted some hot soup to warm up and I achieved my goal. There were some thin slices of beef in the bowl, and the soup did taste of beef and curry – with lots of coriander floating on top. Honestly, though… the dumplings gave me much more bang for the buck, considering they’re the same price.
For lunch I decided to hunt down another xiaolongbao (小笼包) specialist. There was a thread on Chowhound on various xiaolongbao places in Shanghai, and I’m making my mission to try out all the top spots by the end of this trip. The Xingshan Road (杏山路) branch of Shangweiguan Nanxiang Xiaolong (上味馆南翔小笼) was pretty out of the way, although distance-wise wasn’t that far from the house. I had to flag down 4 cabs before I found a driver who even knew the location of the street it is on.
The xiaolongbao part of the restaurant only has xiaolongbao and Shanghainese wontons on the menu. I ordered a tael each of the pork dumpling and the shrimp and pork dumpling, and waited outside the kitchen while my order was being steamed. As this is a self-service joint, I heeded the advice given on Dianping.com to grab some paper napkins and insulate my hands when I picked up the steaming hot basket with my dumplings inside.
As mentioned on Chowhound, the dumplings are casually tossed around because they are steamed in larger groups (maybe 3 taels per basket?) then moved to serving baskets. This is especially true as I had two different types of dumplings, and my basket had two dumplings where one was on top of another. And what’s with the extra piece of dough stuck to this dumpling?! Definitely knocking points off…
I spent my Christmas Eve with a family I’ve known for more than 25 years. Julia lives in Shanghai, and her aunt and sister Helen are both here for Christmas. We met at Osteria, an Italian restaurant which was not very far from the house, but took me almost 50 minutes to get to thanks to the difficulty in finding a cab (I thought Chinese don’t celebrate Christmas?!) and the traffic jam.
But what’s important is to spend this holiday with family (or close friends), so I’m glad we got together. We skipped desert and adjourned to my friends’ place to play with their cats.