When we first visited Shanghai a few years ago, I (needless to say) consulted all the books, forums and websites out there to plan our gastronomic excursions. Top of many people’s list was Yang’s Dumplings – a bit of an institution in Shanghai and apparently one of the best places to get your shengjianbao. That’s quite an impressive accolade in a sheng jian crazy city! So we took our place in the queue and half an hour later were rewarded for our patience: Soft on top and fried on a cast iron pan to a perfect crunch below, these dumplings contain a delicious, scaldingly hot broth and juicy pork filling perfectly flavoured with sage and spices. They are, in a word, sublime. Don’t just bite into them without a little planning first though, or you’ll blister your lips, your chin and possibly your thighs as the soup explodes from its casing and dribbles down your front – a sure sign that you are new at this and a rite of passage for anyone living in this city (yeah, been there.) Pierce the dumpling with a chopstick and allow some of the heat to escape before biting into it. The hole will also help to release a bit of pressure so that it does not go bang in your face. You can also just slurp out the soup first, but I like to try and get as much of it into a bite with everything else!
There are many street vendors that sell these morsels all over the city and I’m sure if you keep looking you’ll find ones even better than Yang’s (if you’re serious about this whole business, then follow CNN Go’s Great Shengjianbao Food Tour of Shanghai), but you’ll probably have to go a long way. At only US$0.90 for 4 hearty dumplings, you’ll be hard pressed to find a cheaper, tastier meal anywhere. And the good news is you no longer have to queue at one of only a few restaurants in the city – Yang’s now has over 40 locations, including (oh the joy!) one right opposite our hotel all the way out in Qingpu.