The Best Dumpling in the World

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.


Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi Shanghai

Any student of Los Angeles ethnic cuisine knows that the best dumplings in So. Cal are at Din Tai Fung’s outpost in Arcadia. So I was pleasantly surprised when my informal poll of Shanghaioans on the best dumpling house resulted in the answer Din Tai Fung. Although there are many locations in Shanghai, we went to the one at Xintiandi, an outdoor shopping and dining mall as western as they come.

The food was as expected, simple and amazing. Apps included (1) bean curd with black mushroom and soybean and (2) sautéed pea sprouts. The xiaolongbao included mini-soup with pork, chicken with black truffle (sublime), and mushrooms. We also got some pork and shrimp shu-mai, vegetable filled bao, and for desert, bao with red bean paste and with juju paste.

Yao Ji Chao Gan Restaurant, Old Hutong, Beijing – part 2