Sunday, 14 February 2016

Shanghai Yuyuan Gardens Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao JK1402 豫园南翔馒头店

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Though Yuyuan Gardens of today is a tourist trap, no tour of Shanghai is complete without a day jostling with locals and other tourists here.

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Though steamed dumplings are everywhere in Shanghai and many are cheaper and better elsewhere, no visit to Yuyuan Gardens is complete without tasting the iconic steamed dumplings at Nanxiang Restaurant 南翔馒头店.

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Many people have the same idea.

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If you are in a hurry, you can skip to the well appointed restaurant upstairs (third storey) bypassing the long queues, which we did on day one.

Founded in 1900, Nanxiang restaurant which invented the dainty xiao long bao 小籠包 became state owned in 1949 and has remained a state-owned enterprise since. This is Nanxiang's flagship in Yuyuan and the restaurant has outlets overseas, including in Singapore.

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The steamed dumplings are freshly hand made in full view of the customers. The minced pork dumplings are steamed in small bamboo baskets which is the hallmark of Nanxiang xiao long bao 小籠包 which means little basket buns.

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The freshly made pork dumplings straight out of the steamer were excellent - it is almost redundant to say.

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The thin skin (though not paper thin) wraps a ball of minced pork suspended in piping hot juices. Breaking the skin releases the juices in a gush and a whiff of porcine aroma in the puff of hot steam. The tacky juices were mildly savoury sweet as was the tender ball of minced pork. (Those orangey bits at the top were crab roe. We indulged in a basket of premium xiao long bao since it's hairy crab season :-D )

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It is customary to dip the xiao long bao in a ginger and vinegar dip for added tangy, subtly spicy flavour. Personally, the slight tang does enhance the enjoyment of xiao long bao.

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And, then there is the tang bao 汤包 (soup dumpling) which is basically a larger version with more minced pork and more tongue scalding juices, hence the name soup bao.

Don't suck on that straw until the juices cool down. It will burn your tongue and ruin your meal, if not your day.

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Nanxiang's excellent xiao long bao is matched, if not exceeded in quality, by many other restaurants. But, that is not the point. This Nanxiang is a sort of xiao long bao mecca. We were here to imbibe a little xiao long bao history and spirit at the original restaurant where the dish was created over a century ago. (Though frankly, this third storey joint while well appointed, felt like any generic shopping mall restaurant.)

Three of us spent RMB200.

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We came back another day to join the queue at Nanxiang's xiao long bao take-out at the ground level. Personally, there is enough to see at the historic Yuyuan to be worth repeat visits, if you have the time.

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The xiao long baos here are also freshly hand made and steamed.

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The xiao long baos here come a wee bit smaller, with thicker skin, splashed with vinegar, served in a paper box and eaten with disposable chopsticks. Nothing exquisite but more affordable and quite delicious too. Actually, I liked these doughy chewy baos with savoury sweet juicy minced pork fillings with a touch of tangy flavour from the vinegar sloshing in the box.

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I love enjoying my xiao long bao perched on a railing and watching the throngs of locals and tourists at Yuyuan Gardens on a bright beautiful day.

Price - RMB50 for two of us.

Feeling - Priceless.

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Upstairs or downstairs at Nanxiang 豫园南翔馒头店?

Both, if you have the time as they are totally different experiences with it's own charm.

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If pressed for time, go upstairs to the third storey restaurant.

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If you got time, queue downstairs. At the restaurant upstairs, the quality of xiao long bao 小籠包 can be matched by many places in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore or anywhere that has a Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 franchise.

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The downstairs xiao long bao has a likable folksy feel. And, it comes with the unforgettable feeling of eating in the courtyards of gorgeous Ming Dynasty Yu Yuan Gardens built in the 1500s. You can only get it downstairs and outdoors at the gardens itself.

(There is also the intermediate pricing, factory cafeteria style dining at the second storey. I had my xiao long baos there during my first visit to Yuyuan over a decade ago and didn't enjoy the crush and shoving there. It was like eating inside a rush hour subway train.)

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Restaurant name:  Nanxiang Steamed Mantou Restaurant 南翔馒头店
Address:  218 Anren St, Huangpu, Shanghai, China (Yuyuan Garden Metro station) beside 城隍庙 City God Temple
GPS: 31.226721, 121.492813  /  31°13'36.2"N 121°29'34.1"E
Hours: 7:30am to 9:00pm

Non Halal

Dates visited: 9 Oct 2013, 11 Oct 2013

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10 comments:

  1. great pics as always bro. Shanghai is a place I've always wanted to visit, now all I need is an excuse to find a trail nearby (which I think its hard to!)

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  2. Wow!! That crazy queue!! Was it worth it?

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  3. i love tang bao 汤包 more because of the juice in it. Unfortunately in malaysia, it is quite rare. and not many restaurants execute it well :(

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  4. Haven't got a chance to really explore China yet, Shanghai is definitely on the list and I am so gonna try this!

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  5. The Queue definitely is crazy....but still the xiu long bao is one of the famous in the world...must TRY!!

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  6. all these 包 look so sexy
    must serve it while its still hot!

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  7. wow.. by the look of the crowd etc, the food must be so good...however since it has pork, I won't be having the pleasure of trying it...

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  8. looks like an awesome place for xiao long bao. great recommendations.

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  9. I've not have the chance to visit Shanghai yet but your post will definitely come in handy when I do visit. Thanks for such an informative review.

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  10. Ah Tony the dishes look fab! Will definitely head on over - especially for the xiao long bao lol!

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I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is the same as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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