Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-Fried Pork Buns 生煎包)
What is it?
Sheng jian bao, or pan-fried pork bun, is a popular street food from Shanghai. Cooked just like fried dumplings, shengjian are sizzled in oil on one side in a flat pan, until golden brown and perfectly crispy. The other side remains soft. But while fried dumplings are crescent-shaped, shengjian are round, stuffed with pork and encrusted in sesame seeds and scallions.
Why is it famous?
Even though it is hard to pinpoint when sheng jian bao was invented, what’s established is that it originated from the Shanghai area. When Emperor Qianlong from the Qing Dynasty travelled to Suzhou and Shanghai, it was documented that he had a type of pan-fried mantou (steamed bun). He enjoyed it so much he ordered the imperial chefs to learn how to make it back in Beijing.
What makes sheng jian bao so addictive and yet, so tricky to eat, is the scalding hot pork broth, which surrounds the juicy meat filling. Eating sheng jian bao properly is an acquired art. If you bite off too much of a chunk on top, the juice will come squirting out (not to mention, burn your tongue). So the trick: bite a small hole and slurp out the juice.
Where to eat it?
No one does sheng jian bao like Yang’s Dumpling. The restaurant chain is Shanghai’s most popular location for the delicacy.
Originally a single shop serving only two items and called Xiao Yang, the chain now charges about Rmb8 for an order of sheng jian bao and also serves an exotic variety that’s stuffed with hairy crabmeat. It now has over 40 locations in Shanghai. The original is at 54 Wujiang Road but does not take telephone bookings. Local Shanghainese like to pair sheng jian bao with a bowl of vermicelli soup with tofu puffs to cut out the greasiness of the pork buns.
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