A bold statement, indeed. Roughly, a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post “In Search of the Perfect Shanghai Soup Dumpling” where I compared Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao to Lin Long Fang’s xiao long bao. Din Tai Fung came out triumphant. I am proud to announce that I have finally found the perfect xiao long bao.
My San Francisco friend introduced me to one of her college friends who has been living in Shanghai for roughly the past eight years. When he suggested a group gathering at Jia Jia Tang Bao 佳家汤包 (50 HuangHe Road; 黄河路50号), I was definitely intrigued. We planned to meet at 11:30am and when I arrived at 11:20am, a long line had already formed. The people in line were a mix of locals and foreigners (including fellow Americans) and I heard whispers about which xiao long bao were the best.
Jia Jia Tang Bao is definitely more of a hole-in-the-wall local restaurant. There is limited seating and it’s all communal tables with plain stools as seats. They have a variety of xiao long bao, but the problem is they often sell out by 12pm. By the time I arrived at the order counter at 11:50pm, there were only three types left: pork and egg yolk, pork and crab meat, and just plain crab meat. For a group of 5 people, I hastily ordered six steamers of three pork and egg , two pork and crab and one crab. Roughly, 10 minutes later, Jia Jia sold out of pork and egg yolk dumplings. For an extra 1 RMB, you can order the house ginger, which I highly recommend because xiao long bao isn’t complete without shredded ginger.
The seating is relatively organized because they don’t allow you to sit down until you’ve ordered food. Our group of five people was relatively large so we only had to share our table with one other person. The steamers came out and I was ready to eat! Each order comes with 12 dumplings and we quickly ate while trying to avoid burning our tongues on the hot soup inside each dumpling.
The dumpling skin was thin, the filling was so tasty, and the inside was bursting with soup. Everything danced in my mouth, creating a perfect food moment. This was my first time having Shanghai soup dumplings with egg yolk, but I really liked it. I honestly believe those were my favorite. The general consensus of the table was that the pork and crab meat were the best. I liked the all crab meat/roe dumplings, but it was really rich and I don’t think I could have eaten an entire steamer of them. We were pretty lucky because October-November is crab season in China so the fillings were really fresh. Otherwise, I think they add frozen crab meat (this is me just guessing based on the seasonality of food).
If you go to Jia Jia, I definitely recommend getting there at 11am. By the time we actually finished eating and left Jia Jia, the line was even longer! While I won’t be frequenting every weekend, I now know where to take people to get good xiao long bao.
Also, right across the street from Jia Jia Tang Bao is Xiao Yang Sheng Jian 小样生煎. Sheng jian bao 生煎包 is basically the pan-fried version of xiao long bao. At Xiao Yang Sheng Jian, there aren’t different fillings, just pork, but the dumplings are also filled with hot soup. It’s another famous Shanghai institution. After Jia Jia, we actually stopped by Xiao Yang to give our out-of-town guests another taste of Shanghai.
It was a fruitful and wonderful trip to HuangHe Road and I would highly recommend going to both Jia Jia Tang Bao and Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Bao. You could even get Xiao Yao to-go and eat it while you’re waiting in line at Jia Jia! Look at that. I’ve already planned your perfect eating day for you.