Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)

I voted on the Miele Guide a month or 2 ago and I’m really happy to see Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包) on the list! And then I realized I’ve been meaning to write about the restaurant since June last year (yes, 10 months ago) … and I still haven’t gotten around to doing it. I will do so right now.

Let’s just say no food blog would ever be complete if Shanghai was the subject and Jia Jia Tang Bao wasn’t mentioned. And that’s saying quite a bit about the restaurant already. If you think Din Tai Fung is good (well, it is), Jia Jia Tang Bao is better – by quite a bit … but DTF is still pretty good (notice I’m being very cautious not to aggravate the Din Tai Fung camp here). And if I were to ever put together a “Top 10 Best Culinary Experience I’ve Had”, this restaurant would also be up there on my list. Wow. Along with Xiao Yang Sheng Jian (小杨生煎馆), which I’ll briefly mention later.

Anyway, given how good this place is, I think it deserves a little story-telling about how I (or rather, my very good friend Vince) found out about the restaurant:

It was in late 2005 when both Vince and I were working as consultants in Shanghai and let’s be honest – what else is there to do then, other than watch pirated DVD’s, eat and clubbing? I think he grew sick of always dining at fancy restaurants (he stayed at the Marriott serviced apartments for 9 months, paid for by the client, of course) and so he went on a mission to scout out good local hideouts. Jia Jia Tang Bao was relatively unknown at the time and he found out about it by asking a taxi driver where he goes for xiao long bao, and you can’t really go wrong with that! Btw, I really think the restaurant should write Vince a cheque and cut him a piece of their profit for spreading the word back in the day … but we’ll have our legal department do that later.

And that was the original Jia Jia Tang Bao, which was located on Henan Nan Lu near Zhong Hua Lu Wen Miao Lu (Thanks for the correction there V). It was literally, a hole-in-wall restaurant with really dirty floor, tables, chopsticks, etc. You can probably fit about 10 customers inside the restaurant and another 10 outside. Opening hours are usually from 11:30AM to about 5-6PM; and that’s because they have limited food supplies every day. Once they’re done selling all their xiao long bao, they’re closed for the day. And just like Din Tai Fung, all of their xiao long bao’s are made fresh every minute.

Because of Huangpu District’s plan to expand Henan Nan Road, that original store had to make way for the district government. If you try to visit that same location today, you’d be standing in the middle of a very busy road. But the owner had strategically opened a newer (and cleaner) branch on Huanghe Road near Nanjing Road (north of People’s Square). This location has been around for close to 3 years now and continues to be frequented by a lot of tourists (mostly from HK), expats working in Shanghai and some locals as well.

Here are some pictures from the Huanghe Road restaurant and their fooooood:

Menu at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai

Menu at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai

If you try to visit the restaurant from 11:30AM to about 2:30PM (or maybe even 3PM), expect to wait in line for about 20-30 minutes. Either you go really early, like before 11:30AM, or you go after the lunch rush, which is around 3:30, but if you go any later than say 4:30PM – 5PM, you’ll risk missing out on some of the dumplings since they only make so much each day and if they’re sold out, then they don’t bother making any more!

Jia Jia Tang Bao at 4PM

Jia Jia Tang Bao at 4PM

See, no holes in the wall!

Here’s a Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤), which cost RMB 2 and is absolutely tasteless and MSG-filled. I don’t know why I get this every time – I guess I like the seaweed, but I think its a good way to warm up for what’s coming next.

Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤)

Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤)

The Pork Dumplings. This can be quite salty sometimes, but it really brings out the flavour from the fatty pork, which is basically what the juice / soup is inside the thin layer of skin. I really like my xiao long bao skin thin, and while this might not be quite as thin as the ones from Din Tai Fung, the ones here are really damn close.

Whats even more important than thin skin, is how tough it is. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soup-breakage accident here unless the tang bao’s been sitting in the steam basket for much longer than it should’ve. You know that feeling when you think you have a good grip of the xiao long bao with your chopsticks, only to have the pork ball and soup fall out, leaving you with only the skin? Yeh, non-existent at Jia Jia Tang Bao. Its almost like they had a team research on the skin in a science lab.

Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包)

Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包)

Btw, if you want to try all of the different flavours, you must work your way up (i.e. have the “simpler” dumplings first … and then proceed to the more “complex” dumplings). Using the price of the dumpling to tell is generally a good gauge, but make sure you tell the lady at the counter that’s how you want it. During the lunch rush, they might just throw whatever is ready at you … which could potentially ruin your culinary experience there.

Here, we made sure the flow was:

  1. Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包) – ¥7.5
  2. Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包) – ¥19.5
  3. Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) – ¥81
Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包)

Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包)

Next up was the Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包) (above), which is a mix between what we just had and what we’re about to have. But I would say its still 80% pork and 20% crab roe. The strong and sharp flavours from the crab roe is unmistakenly there, but it was still pretty much a pork dumpling mixed with small orange oil drops from the crab roe.

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包)

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包)

All of their dumplings come in a dozen in a steam basket, but the pure crab roe dumplings come in 6 per baskets and they give you 2 baskets. At RMB 81, this is definitely not cheap by Shanghai standards, but what they give you is, as the name suggests … PURE crab roe, crab meat and crab roe oil / essence. Til this day, I have yet to find anything close to the quality / quantity of roe they give you in these pockets of culinary orgasm. Each piece of this dumpling is like eating a mouthful of the best part of a hairy crab – only without all the effort. Enough said.

What remains a mystery to me is that the hairy crab season is between late September to December of each year. So how are they able to serve this dish throughout the year? And how is it that the quality remains the same (assuming they have folks taking out the crab roe and meat from hairy crabs during the fall / winter season every year and put the stuff in the freezer).

Well, that’s not something I should dwell on anyway.

What I should really be concerned about is what a dozen of these pure crab roe dumplings would do to my cholesterol level after every visit. I swear, this or sea urchin will kill me one day.

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) - Close Up

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) - Close Up

Just look at that!!!

The Essence!

The Essence!

Our battle trophies.

One of the most satisfying meals you'll likely have

One of the most satisfying meals you'll likely have

This place continues to be one of my gratifying culinary experiences ever … but to those 2 ladies below … it was just another day at Jia Jia Tang Bao. Such simplicity and zero-pretentiousness = Shanghai’s most underrated restaurant.

Taking a break from the lunch rush

Taking a break from the lunch rush

Two items were sold out already as we were leaving …

If you're late, you might miss out!

If you're late, you might miss out!

Jia Jia Tang Bao  (佳家汤包)
Huanghe Lu (near Nanjing Road West)

Oh and if you’re still not full (although I’m pretty sure you will be stuffed) … look across the street and you’re find the equally famous Xiao Yang Sheng Jian, but that definitely deserves its own little post. Here’s a glimpse of the Huanghe Lu branch (not Wujiang Lu branches).

Yangs Fry Dumplings (小杨生煎馆) on Huanghe Lu

Yangs Fry Dumplings (小杨生煎馆) on Huanghe Lu

If you want to do it the Shanghai way, try visiting the restaurant in your PJ’s, just like that gentleman you see in the middle. It was like 4PM!

Waiting for the next batch of Sheng Jian Baos

Waiting for the next batch of Sheng Jian Baos

If you’ve never seen how real shen jian dumplings are made, have a look … it always amazes me how they’re able to handle a burning metal plate with ripped cardboards as grips.

Menu at 小扬生煎馆

Menu at 小扬生煎馆

These 2 are must-try restaurants in Shanghai. And yes, you can quote Siuyeh. You won’t regret it … but be warned. If you’re having more than 4 shen jian bao’s from 小扬生煎馆 for lunch, you can pretty much forget about dinner.

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Yan’an Highway in 3.5 Minutes & Smoking Toddler!

I’m addicted to Youku.com … again, credits to Steven Lin for all the crazy stuff happening in China.

Smoking Baby in Sichuan
SLR + Turbo Top Speed on Yan’an Highway

Nuts. What’s even crazier is the way the kid’s smoking doesn’t seem like a first time for him. Irresponsible parenting.

Yuxin Sichuan Dish

Of the many Sichuan restaurants in Shanghai, there’s of course the famed South Beauty and Pinchuan Sichuan – both of which caters to a slightly expat / foreigner market, given the decor and of course, the higher-than-average prices.

South Beauty remains at the top of my list, but there’s this other slightly more local alternative that I enjoy equally as much, and that is Yuxin Sichuan Dish. There are currently 2 branches in Shanghai and their spicy dishes are numbingly-good; not quite as presentable as South Beauty, but definitely as flavorful (as with all Sichuan dishes) and a lot more spicy.

Take a look at all of my favorite dishes:

All the dishes you see here + large bottle of Tsingtao and plum juice = RMB 205. Worth going to? Absolutely.

Yuxin Sichuan Dish (Huasheng Branch)
5/F., Huasheng, No. 399 Jiujiang Road
Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 63611777

Yuxin Sichuan Dish (Jing’an Branch)
3/F., Zhao Shang Ju Square, No. 333 Chengdu Road (North)
Jing’an District, Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 52980438

Nanling Restaurant (南伶酒家)

When I was in Shanghai recently, I asked my friend to take me to a restaurant I’ve never been to and he recommended Nanling Restaurant (南伶酒家). Apparently, its not really Shanghainese cuisine – it was something called Huaiyang Cuisine, but to be completely honest, I thought it was a combination of Shanghainese, Beijing and Sichuan Cuisine …

My friend ordered and we also asked the server to recommend some dishes to us. We were served Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包), “Lion’s Head” (獅子頭) and Plain Saute Shelled-Shrimps (清炒蝦仁) that is undeniably Shanghainese. Followed by Nanling’s famous Kao Ya (烤鴨), which I’ve always associated with Beijing Cuisine because of Quanjude’s (全聚德) reputation. The final dish of the night was “Water-boiled Beef” (水煮牛肉)! Tell me that’s not from Sichuan!

So what I learned that night was “Huaiyang Cuisine” = “Shanghai, Beijing and Sichuan Cuisine”, which is terrific. Rather than travel to different places, it was all served in one restaurant!

lol … nah, I’m sure there’s more to “Huaiyang Cuisine” than what I said, but … I’ll have to look into this 🙂 The damage for the night was RMB 300 for 3 (or RMB 100 each).

Nanling Restaurant (南伶酒家)
No. 168, Yueyang Road (near Yongjia Road; French Concession)
Shanghai, China
Tel1: +86 21 6433 0897
Tel2: +86 21 6467 7381
Opening Hours: 11:30AM-2:30PM (Lunch), 5:30-10:00PM (Dinner)

Haiku by Hatsune

I met up with some friends for dinner at Haiku, one of my favorite Japanese restaurant in Shanghai (aside from Nadaman of course, but that … is too pricey, lol). We had a big group and since I was in charge of ordering, and I really couldn’t be bothered with getting everyone’s approval on what I order, I decided to get everything in the Sushi Roll section with a star (Chef’s Recommendation) next to the item, followed by some cooked dishes. Check it out!

Haiku Salad

Haiku Salad

Rolls 1 & 2

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Rolls 1 & 2

Roll 3

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 3

Roll 4

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 4

Roll 5

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 5

Roll 6

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 6

Roll 7

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 7

Roll 8

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 8

Roll 9

Haiku Chefs Recommendation: Roll 9

Tempura at Haiku

Tempura at Haiku

Fried Chicken at Haiku

Fried Chicken at Haiku

Grilled Beef at Haiku

Grilled Beef at Haiku

Fatty Pork at Haiku

Fatty Pork at Haiku

For the grilled beef, Haiku actually give you a small grill so you can place the raw beef on top to cook yourself. We had the server do the job for us this time … so I can’t show you the stone grill. Anyway, its definitely worth a visit 🙂

Oh right … we had more food than this, there 8-9 of us and we paid a little less than RMB 200 each. Hmm … reasonable I think.

Haiku by Hatsune
28B Tai Jiang Road (near Hengshan Road)
Shanghai, China

The group also has several other “sister” restaurants around town. They are:

Hatsune
Guang Hua Dong Lu, He Qiao Building, Block C
Tel: +86 21 6581 3939

Kagen Teppanyaki
28D Tao Jiang Road (near Hengshan Road)
Tel: +86 21 6433 3232

Sushi Inc.
2/F., Citigroup Tower, Lujiazui
Shanghai, China
Tel: +86 21 5877 6551

Daikichi in Shanghai

I don’t know much about Daikichi, except that I suspect they have hundreds of branches in Japan and a handful outside the country. Remember in my Ji Heng Mian Guan entry I had mentioned that “Hongqiao / Gubei area is a popular residential district for Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese expats working in Shanghai and so you’re find an abundance of the similar authentic cuisines in that area” … well, Daikichi is about 2 shops down from Ji Heng Mian Guan, so go figure!

Remember also that I had mentioned eating at Magushi and Yakitoritei in Hong Kong in my previous posts? Well, Daikichi trumps those experiences too. What I can say about Daikichi is that they serve a very traditional (and safe) list of yakitoris on their menu, whereas Magushi (and maybe Yakitoritei) is a little stronger on creativity.

I’m just a sucker for Yakitoris. Check it out!

Edamame, Cabbage and a Perfect Pour of Sapparo Beer from Daikichi

Edamame, Cabbage and a Perfect Pour of Sapparo Beer from Daikichi

Note: A perfect pour of Sapporo draft (and ice-cold too!) … until I took that first sip before I snapped this photo 😦 Got Beer?

Daikichi on Guyang Road, Gubei / Hongqiao, Shanghai

Daikichi on Guyang Road, Gubei / Hongqiao, Shanghai

The Perfect Ox Tongue Yakitori

The Perfect Ox Tongue Yakitori

This was better than any other ox tongue yakitori (gyutan or 牛タン) I’ve tasted anywhere else. The meat was fresh, salted-to-perfection, juicy and most importantly, its THICK-CUT!!! The lemon added that extra 1% to make this a perfect 100% (full marks) dish.

Beef Yakitori with Lots of Spring Onions

Beef Yakitori with Lots of Spring Onions

Nankotsu or Chicken Cartilage

My Favorite Yakitori: Nankotsu or Chicken Cartilage

Rebā (レバー) or Chicken Liver Yakitori

Rebā (レバー) or Chicken Liver Yakitori

Hatsu (ハツ) or Kokoro (こころ) or Chicken Heart Yakitori

Hatsu (ハツ) or Kokoro (こころ) or Chicken Heart Yakitori

Eggplant Yakitori with Cheese

Eggplant Yakitori with Cheese

Tebasaki (手羽先) or Chicken Wing Yakitori

Tebasaki (手羽先) or Chicken Wing Yakitori

Mushroom Yakitori

Mushroom Yakitori

Japanese Rice Ball (飯糰) with Cheese

Japanese Rice Ball (飯糰) with Cheese

Japanese Rice Ball (Grilled Plain with a Dab of Soy Sauce)

Japanese Rice Ball (Grilled Plain with a Dab of Soy Sauce)

The plain grilled rice ball with burnt rice (with the help of a brush of soy sauce on the rice ball) made it that much better. We weren’t (or at least I wasn’t) a big fan of the rice ball with cheese …

So we had all of this and to finish off, we ordered some more Gyutan and Nankotsu to make this night even more memorable. The bill came up to be about RMB 210, which I thought was quite reasonable. The quantity that we had (plus the quality) would’ve easily been HKD 400+ in Hong Kong … perhaps even leaning on HKD 500.

Shanghai rocks.

Daikichi (Guyang Branch)
No. 435 Guyang Road (near Songyuan Road)
Shanghai, China
Email: daikichi0678@yahoo.co.jp

President Ajikura

I was at Jiu Guang Sogo Department Store in Shanghai when I came across this place.

Can someone tell me if this “President Ajikura” squid ball joint is supposed to be famous in Japan or something? Somehow, I get the feeling that this is something that’s locally established, and the founder (Chinese founder that is) just decided to slap on some silly name to make it foreign …

In any case, I didn’t find these to be particularly good. Maybe because they were only warm when I got them – they really need to be piping hot. The biggest turn-off was that I can taste the oil (“so what?” you say) … well, the oil tasted like what we would call “萬年油” or “ten-thousand-year cooking oil” as in, the oil tasted like its been lying around for a long time … you know that stale-kind of tasting … grease?

My stomach is already reacting to the thought of having tasted that stuff. Ugh.

Squid Balls from President Ajikura

Squid Balls from President Ajikura

President Ajikura sucks as much as President Bush (lol, you all probably saw that coming!)

President Ajikura (Jiu Guang Branch)
Basement of 久光百货 (Jiu Guang Baihuo or Jiu Guang Sogo Department Store)
Jing’an District, Shanghai

President Ajikura (Changle Branch)
No. 191, Changle Road
Luwan, Shanghai 200051
Tel: +86 21 5466 1817
Website: www dot ajikura dot net