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The best dumplings in Shanghai, no doubt!

Not all dumplings are created equal.  Some dumplings exist to fill your stomach, and some exist to fill your heart with love, joy, and peace.  If your knowledge of dumplings is limited to the sad, soggy, thick-skinned and doughy types, then a trip to Shanghai will change your life. 

Be prepared to meet the Shanghai Xiao Long Bao and Sheng Jian Bao, and head straight to these places again and again.

Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao is a unique type of steamed dumpling that is prepared in small bamboo steaming baskets, like the kind you see in most dim sum restaurants. 

The Xiao Long Bao is not at all like jiaozi, the most common dumpling that you’d find in Chinese restaurants worldwide.  Instead, it consists of a meat filling with delicious soup, all encased in a small and delicate skin made of flour.

Usually served with ginger and vinegar on the side, the Xiao Long Bao can be tricky to eat at first. It should be picked up carefully so that it doesn’t split and the precious soup doesn’t spill, and should be eaten whole in one go so that you get the full burst of flavours.  It can also be quite hot, so if you aren’t used to popping foods at high-temperature into your mouth, well you better get used to it.

Because it’s worth it.  

What makes a good Xiao Long Bao?

Ask any local and you’ll probably hear things like how the proportion of meat and soup should be just right. No one likes a dry Xiao Long Bao. The dumpling skin should also be very thin, with no hint of doughiness at all.  And of course, the flavour of the soup and quality of filling plays a huge part. 

The matter of taste is so subjective that ex-chef turned food writer Christopher St Cavish actually launched the Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index  in an attempt to put some science into the eternal debate of where in the world is the best Xiao Long Bao.

Without further ado, head to these places and see for yourself!

Jia Jia Tang Bao

Jia Jia Tang Bao is where a lot of locals, tourists, and taxi drivers would point to you. It’s probably one of the most famous in the city, and for good reason.  Ditch that boring hotel breakfast, and head straight to Jia Jia Tang Bao for possibly the best Xiao Long Baos of your life.

Don’t be surprised if you already find a queue outside, for this place is that popular. Try the crab and pork dumplings, and if you want an interesting variation, try the one with the egg yolk.  This no-frills restaurant may close in the evening, but their popular dumplings may be sold out before midday!

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Image source: tinyurbankitchen.com

90 Huang He Road, HuangHe Pu

Opens daily, 7.30am- 8.pm 

Din Tai Fung

Don’t dismiss Din Tai Fung simply because it’s an international chain. Din Tai Fung in Shanghai delivers the goods, and is still a great choice if you want a authentic taste of Xiao Long Bao. The restaurant also features glass walls that allow you to marvel at the chefs preparing their works of art.

For Xiao Long Bao with a modern twist, try the decadent Black Truffle and Pork dumpling. There are many Din Tai Fung outlets in the city, including one at New World Plaza.

din-tai-fung-xintiandi.jpg 

Image source: Tripadvisor 

Zun Ke Lai

Zun Ke Lai was featured in the Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index and according to Cavish’s index, its skin measures just 0.72 millimeters, the thinnest of all.  Keeping so much goodness in a flour skin that’s less than a millimeter takes a lot of skill, and that itself makes Zun Ke Lai worth visiting.  

666 Tianyaoqiao Lu, Shanghai Indoor Stadium

Opens daily, 10.30am -10pm

Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包

Xiao Long Bao may be iconic, but its cousin, the Sheng Jian Bao, is just as delicious and perhaps even more addictive.  Sheng Jian Baos are dumplings that larger in size,  steamed and pan fried, and commonly eaten as breakfast. But they’re so delicious; it's completely justifiable to have them at any time of the day.

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Image Source: mmia.com

Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao 

Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao is one of the city’s very best, and it’s just across the street from Jia Jia Tang Bao. So forget about the diet and stuff your face with more delicious goodness. You may have to be prepared to eat while standing thanks to the long queues, and you may just as well stand to burn some calories while you consume your weight's worth in dumplings. 

97 Huang He Road, Huang He Pu 

Opens daily, 6am- 9.30pm

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About the author

Tilda is a happy sufferer of chronic wanderlust. When she isn't spending a disproportionate amount of time Googling about places and cultures, she's writing, dancing, and navigating a massive career change. She shares stories and photography on Wanderful People, and shares her coffee with no one.

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