[Shanghai] Xiao Long Bao is available all over Shanghai, with varying qualities.
Not all are of Din Tai Fung quality (ironically). Most I had thick chewy skin, but there were some street side stalls that would throw off your footing, swearing to bring some back if you ever could.
Shanghai’s most celebrated Xiao Long Bao could be found at 南翔馒头店, within the charming Yu Yuan 豫园 at the Old Town God’s Temple precinct.
Disclaimer: it is not the best the city has to offer, but people come here to tick off the box of being in a famous place. (The garden’s really cool anyway.)
The restaurant has also expanded internationally, with branches in South Korea, Japan and Singapore at Ten Mile Junction.
Amongst the scenic buildings, exquisite Jiuqu bridge, old trees who spoke stories and red autumn leaves, you could see one long queue.
One really long queue.
At Nan Xiang, there are 3 different levels of service and pricing. Most of the unsuspecting tourists and ‘commoners’ would queue up on the ground level for 12 hot piping dumplings available for takeaway at 22 RMB (SGD4.60).
Most would just gobble the entire box once they grabbed their hands on one. An average queue time was about an hour, at least you could listen to street performers sing their lungs out.
Note: The queue can be quite traumatic once ‘tourists’ (from other parts of China) surge forward.
On level two, there was a long line with stools for you to wait for anything from 10 to 30 minutes. (My advice: Guard your seat, ignore what the others behind tell you. They might tell you stories so that they could get in front of you. Remember.)
If you were willing to pay more, then go all the way upstairs and spend at least 150 RMB for an almost immediate seat.
Nanxiang was a town near Shanghai where the Xiao Long Mantou was invented. Therefore, you should probably order the Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao (RMB35 for 6, SGD7.32).
The dumplings were compact yet meaty that would splash up tasty soupy broth that might just scald your tongue. The skin used to be more paper-thin, but gotten thicker and therefore more ordinary.
The King Size Nanxiang Crab Roe Steam Soup Bun (RMB35, SGD7.32) is another of Nanxiang’s signature.
What you do is to suck up the broth through a straw, BE CAREFUL as it could be scalding, then save the best meat for last.
A pity for the thick skin and mess anyway.
Two specialist Xiaolongbao restaurants are often regarded as the most authentic, one of which is Nanxiang with 110 years of history (the other is Jia Jia).
The wait could be long, service was rushed, and food quality not as memorable as when I first tried it, but I suppose tourists should visit this iconic restaurant.
Nanxiang Mantou (Yu Garden) 南翔馒头店(豫园路店)
85 Yuyuan Lu, near Jiuqu Qiao, Huangpu District, Shanghai China
Tel: +86 21 6355 4206
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 9pm Daily