shanghai’s glorious sheng jian bao (生煎包)

I think every place in the world has a food or foods that the community is collectively proud of. Singaporeans are proud of our national dishes chilli crab and chicken rice, but at the same time, those from Katong might be particularly proud of laksa, like those from Upper Thomson of prata and soybean and the supper culture that they birth.

China is a huge country and I think we are aware that there are huge regional differences – as much as, if not more than, its dialects and accents – when it comes to its foods. I, for one, love Sichuan food for all its spices and peppers and chillies.

When it comes to Shanghainese food, it’s hard to overlook xiao long bao (小笼包) and sheng jian bao (生煎包).

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On my last business trip to Shanghai, my colleagues and I tried to make ourselves more upbeat about the tough goings with good food at night. Here’s one of the crab meat xiao long bao we had from Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包). Unfortunately we thought did not live up to the hype it has online.

The real MVP was the sheng jian bao from Yang’s Dumplings (小杨生煎), just across the street!

Sheng jian bao is essentially a tiny version of a normal pork bao but with a crispy, pan-fried bottom and a soupy inside not unlike a xiao long bao. Sprinkled with green onion and white sesame, it is fragrant and delectable when hot, especially in cool weather. Apparently it’s a common breakfast item in Shanghai since the 1900s.

After coming home, for my first meal out with G we ate at Crystal Jade (do you know that it’s Shanghainese?). The sheng jian bao left much to be desired. If you’re visiting Shanghai, do not give its sheng jian bao a miss!

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