Jesse serves traditional Shanghaiese cuisine in an “it’s all about the food” setting. And the food is excellent. Fresh ingredients cooked perfectly with delicately balanced flavors and heat. The massive Braised King Prawn is exceptionally juicy and served in a “lick the plate clean” sauce that is as colorful as it is delicious. The Noodles with Scallion Oil, topped with dried seaweed, is a true standout, make your reputation kind of dish. And the Shredded Pork tastes like it was “born in the sauce” (to borrow a well-worn phrase from an LA staple Mexican joint).
Mixed Mushroom with Beancurd Sheet
Shredded Pork in Chili Sauce
Braised King Prawns with Chili Sauce
Braised Beancurd with Chiui Sauce (garlic, chili, pork)
Noodles with Scallion Oil
Shanghai Vegetable Rice
In a new food mall on West Nanjing Lu, on the second floor, is Yang’s Fried Dumpling (Xaio Yang Sheng Jian), purveyor of what is quite simply the best dumplings in the world. Going to Yang’s is a pilgrimage; I now understand what a Crusader felt upon finding the Grail.
It’s not much to look at. And there is always a line; two actually. One to order and one to pick up. Walking up to the register counter, I point at a decaying, bright yellow menu. “Je-ga”, I say pointing, “this one”. One order dumplings, one hot and sour rice noodles.
And then there is the wait for a table, hovering like a vulture for a space to open. But its not a problem. Its worth it.
The dumplings are simply the best. Flavor bombs that literally explode when bitten into. Weapons of Mass Digestion. Fried in a cast iron pan to a crisp on one side. Sprinkled with sesame seeds on the other. The doughy outer shell like a woman, soft and hard in the all the right places.
And if highly enriched uranium has a food equivalent, then this pork filling is it. Boiled in its juice as the dumplings fry. Wanting to evaporate your mouth in a mushroom cloud of flavor.
And then there are the rice noodles, as balanced a dish as you will find. Deep ripples of rich flavor, cut with cilantro sour, spiked with green pepper heat, crunchy with peanuts, silky with the gelatinous noodles.
Get on a plane. Come to Shanghai. Eat Yang’s Fried Dumplings. Xie xie, the quest is over.