Once upon a time, there was a street called Wujiang in Shanghai just outside the Nanjing West Subway Station. At all hours of the day, the street was lined with food vendors and inside the old buildings were delicious, old-school Chinese restaurants. On that street was a hole in the wall called Yang’s Fried-Dumpling, which served a delicious xiaolongbao (pronounced shiao-long-bow) with the special twist that it was fried (as opposed to the traditional steaming method). Xiaolongbao is one of Shanghai’s signature dishes, a dumpling stuffed with pork that creates a soup inside when cooked. The dumpling is sealed air-tight so the soup stays inside until it is eaten. Even though Yang’s went against tradition by frying their dumplings, there was always a line outside their door.
A lot has changed in Shanghai in the past couple years, especially on that street that literally does not exist anymore. All of the old restaurants, including Yang’s and a place that had my favorite kung pao chicken, were knocked down to likely build some sort of shopping center. Fortunately, at least Yang’s has been reborn in a little mall on the other end of Wujiang Street. Yang’s looks out of place in the white-tiled, sterile mall, but they still have a line of people out the door at all hours. The dumplings come in sets of four for five rmb and have to be paid for at the cash register in advance. After grabbing a receipt, you can get in line and watch the dumpling-makers work away.
After watching them work tirelessly to scoop out ground pork, stuff it inside hand-crafted dumpling dough and fry those suckers up, my hunger for xiaolongbao grew and grew. Finally we made it to the front and grabbed our dumplings. I opened the lid and they looked simply beautiful. Now the key to eating these soup dumplings is recognizing the fact that these have just come out of the fryer and are filled with scalding hot soup, so it’s best to not just plop the whole thing in your mouth and take a bite. Instead, the idea is to take a small bite from the top and slowly slurp the soup out. This is the best way to avoid a burnt tongue and to truly appreciate the soup. After slurping all the soup, the rest of the can be eaten pretty easily.
I picked up my first dumpling and went through the ritual. After slurping and biting, I found that Yang’s hadn’t lost their touch. The soup was delicious and the pork had some great flavor. Although I’m pretty skilled with the chopsticks, these fried dumplings were pretty tough to pick up without puncturing the dumplings. This caused the tragic loss of soup in a couple dumplings, but the fried-dumplings made up for this with their incredibly tasty and crispy dough.
Despite moving into an odd little mall, Yang’s Fried-Dumpling is still a force to be reckoned with in the Shanghai. Although not prepared in the traditional way, frying the dumplings adds a nice little crispiness to the dough that just can’t be duplicated by steaming. Because of that, Yang’s should definitely be on the list of places to eat for any visitor to Shanghai hoping to get some delicious xiaolongbao.