Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wanshou Zhai Xiaolongbao

Wanshou Zhai Xiaolongbao is a small stall that sells an atypical but very tasty xiaolongbao. It's on 123 Shanyin Lu, near Duolun Lu and the Hongkou Soccer Stadium, in the North of Shanghai. It's not the normal stomping grounds for myself or the average foreigner in Shanghai, but actually the area is one of my favorite parts to wander in Shanghai - I'll have a few updates on the area before too long. It's another place that I had walked past before, without giving it a second thought. The storefront is small and really nothing special to look at:

And it's cramped on the insides as well! I took this picture from the far corner of the restaurant. There's four tables inside and one table outside. This place is packed even during off-hours, strangers end up sharing tables:

In the back are cooks, preparing food. Here's a shot of it below. In this case, they're preparing won-tons, not xiaolongbao. They also serve noodle soups:

So obviously the restaurant is not anything fancy. The xiaolongbao, though, are excellent, if unusual. The general idea with xiaolongbao is, the skin should be as thin as possible, without being easy to break and letting out the soup inside. However, the xiaolongbao at Wanshou Zhai are unapologetically thick and chewy, the complete opposite of the general ideal. However I feel about this, there's no way around that the soup inside their xiaolongbao is the best I've ever had, absolutely juicy and full of flavor. The meat is decent and the vinegar is typical. Here's a picture of four and a half kuai's worth:

This restaurant was rated on as the fourth best xiaolongbao in Shanghai. I wouldn't go that far, but they're definitely very good. Being in an interesting area of older houses, and the nearby Lu Xun park, certainly doesn't hurt. I recommend any xiaolongbao fan to check them out!

Update 2/17/09 - I've been a number of times since writing this, and have a few more thoughts. This is the rare xiaolongbao restaurant which would be a very good restaurant even without having xiaolongbao on the menu. All the noodle and won-ton dishes are excellent. Myself, I generally go for the spicy-pork noodles, alongside my xiaolongbao.

That said, it can get absurdly crowded any day of the week, particularly around lunchtime or as an early-ish dinner. I also feel quality varies. While it's never bad, the xiaolongbao can be made sloppily when it's too packed, and not have any soup inside. So it might be worth it to make a point of visiting at an off hour, say the early afternoon or after 6:30


xc said...

I Like your Blog very much.
i'm a chinese. today, i have to do some research for chinese culture. that's why i found your blog.

it's very interesting to learn a place which i lived in for 20 years from your angle.

and what your did is very detailed. amazing!!!

Leo Simmons said...

Just went today. Your blog is excellent, by the way.

I thought the dumplings were good, but where was the soup. I frequented Joe's Shanghai in Manhattan all the time and maybe my idea of xiaolongbao is tainted. Granted, my order was for take out and I did find the meat inside quite scrumptious but again without soup is it xiaolongbao?

I've yet to try the others you've reviewed by will be going to all eventually. Also, are the xiaolongbao here supposed to be as small as they are?


Jeff Rutsch said...

Oh really? I've been a couple times, and both times the soup inside was really the highlight.

Yeah, maybe the soup doesn't survive take-out very well. Or maybe it's something else. And the xiaolongbao are pretty small, but that's just how they come in Shanghai.