Monday, 30 July 2012

Explore Shanghai: Xiao Yang Sheng Jian

I love traveling. It lets me discover little tidbits about places I never knew. Things that are hardly covered in travel guides (or buried deep inside one so it's really hard to get to that piece of information) and which friends living there may not tell you about because it's such a way of life to them already that to them, there isn't anything special about it to share with you about.

How many of you have heard of this thing known as a sheng jian (生煎)? 

It looks like a bao (bun), or a mantou of sorts, except that it has a crispy panfried top where the folds of the bun converge, and it's got sesame seeds on it.

The steamed bun that we are familiar with, usually with pork, chicken, char siew or other assorted fillings.

Xiao long bao
The catch: shengjian has soup in it, much like xiaolongbao, except it is nothing but xiao (small). 

Imagine panfried xiaolongbao in the size of a normal steamed bun, and you get a shengjian (fried dumpling). I'll refer to it as shengjian in case you guys get confused with the guotie which is ALSO known as fried dumplings, and then there's the bazang dumpling (rice dumplings which are triangular/pyramidal). You get the idea. 

I wish the English language could describe Chinese foods better. Like how do you describe ma la 麻辣? Hot and spicy? Hot is 烫, as in the temperature hot,and it is also 辣 spicy. 麻辣 = numbing spicy? -.-"

Back to my shengjian. The first time I had it was in Shanghai, in this restaurant known as Spicy Joint 辛香汇. 
Read about it here.
But their shengjians were dry and has no soup in it, so it was really quite disappointing and wasn't really that worthy of mention. 

I had the honor of trying the BEST shengjian in Shanghai, and it was ooooooooo~oooOO~~~~ heavenly~~~~~ 

Shengjian from the most famous Yang's Fried Dumplings, aka 小杨生煎, along Huanghe Lu, near Feng Yang Lu, near People's Square (近人民广场).

18 years of history and still going strong with 37 outlets across Shanghai, I'm sure it can't be wrong.
To maintain the quality of their Shengjian, they don't do franchising. (I'm glad they don't. With the country's notoriety for fake-anything-using-non-authentic-ingredients, I won't know what I'll be putting into my mouth.)

Started by a Miss Yang (surprise surprise~ Lol~) who came from humble beginnings selling tea eggs, fruits, and even worked at a department store and had her own boutique, she started Xiao Yang Sheng Jian in 1994 at the age of 27. 

That being said, shengjian wasn't started by Miss Yang. It's a Shanghainese specialty with a history of over 100 years, and there is even a famous guideline for eating shengjian:

meaning the skin has to be thin yet doesn't break easily and is not burnt, the bottom 20% is nicely panfried to a crisp, and the meat fresh and soup savory. Pardon my excellent translation. Lol~

The one Shanghainese street food you HAVE to try if you're here - Xiao Yang Sheng Jian. 
No I'm not exaggerating. It's THAT good. *craving, salivates~*

Beware: Piping hot inside.

Their shengjians are served upside down, with the folded part crispy golden facing down and the "butt" facing up, unlike the usual ones as seen in the 2nd picture of this post. I believe this upside-down style has become Yang's signature. Google shengjian and those that you see in this form are most likely Yang's Fried Dumplings. =)

These shengjians are usually eaten as a snack / dianxin, hardly as a dish to go with rice or anything like that. A serving of 4 will usually fill a girl like me up. Guys may need 2 servings before you're full, or hop over to Jia Jia Tang Bao across the street (if you're at the Huanghe Lu outlet) for more dumpling extraordinaire in the form of xiaolongbao.

They don't always give you spoons, so ask for one, or make sure you have good chopstick skills.

How to Eat a Sheng Jian: 

1. Dip the shengjian into the plate of vinegar (usually given to you).
2. Hold the shengjian with the butt facing you. 
3. Take a small nibble off it so you create a hole in the pigu. (Vivid imagery eh?) 
4. Then suck, very gently, as the juices may burn you (oooooOO~~~).

Else, if you have a spoon, once you have bitten a hole, pour the juices out into the spoon, and savor the soup and shengjian separately.

Eh hem. Yeah, that's how you eat it. Without creating a mess, and without hurting yourself.

These shengjians go for 6RMB / 4 pieces. 太便宜了呗~!“批私物资” ~(a Shanghainese term I learnt from my boy's housemate meaning 反正便宜,or it's so cheap it doesn't matter if it's bad.)

You can get Xiao Yang Sheng Jian at

2/F, Huang Pu Hui, 269 Wujiang Lu, near Taixing Lu & Maoming Bei Lu,
吴江路269号湟普汇2楼, 近泰兴路 和 茂名北路


97 Huanghe Lu,  near Fengyang Lu

Those are the most famous branches. OR,
The whole list of branches is here. Find the one most convenient for you. ;)

One month in Shanghai is not enough for me. I'm a soak-it-all-in-slowly explorer.

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