Shanghai – Jia Jia Xiao Long Bao

During my Asia trip this summer I had planned 24 hours in Shanghai, in transit from Suzhou to Hong Kong. My top priority for this day trip was eating the best authentic xiao long bao (soup dumplings) possible. After a lot of research, I narrowed my choice down to Jia Jia Xiao Long Bao, located near People’s Square.

The Hubby and I arrived in Shanghai with his parents and brother just after breakfast. High speed trains between Suzhou and Shanghai has cut the transit down to just 30 minutes, making day trips to the city very easy. We dropped our luggage off at the hotel and set off for our xiao long bao adventure.

We arrived at Jia Jia Xiao Long Bao just after the lunch rush. The restaurant was small, with 20-30 wooden and plastic stools surrounding communal tables. Our group of 5 had to wait longer in order to sit together. This was a no frills hole-in-wall shop, filled with locals and tourists alike. Signs posted on each wall in English and Chinese warned customers of the slippery floors. With the kitchen constantly pumping out xiao long bao, the shop was steamy. Part of the kitchen was open and we could see 4 women making the xiao long baos to order. The finesse and speed with which each worker did their task to make the baos was mesmerizing.

Like many small Chinese restaurants, the menu was a placard system behind the cash and changed based on the day’s availability and as items sell out. We placed our order at the cash before sitting. An English menu was available. I could not believe how low the prices were, 20rmb for 12 pork baos, 27rmb for 12 pork and crab baos. The most expensive filling for 6 pure crab meat and roe for 99 rmb, still a steal really. Sliced ginger and vinegar was an additional 1 rmb charge per person.

For the 5 of us, we ordered two bowls of pork blood and egg soup (3 rmb), two steamers each of pork, pork and crab and one steamer of pure crab. To start, the texture of the wrapper was phenomenal, chewy and springy but delicately thin. With a mostly liquid filling, the baos transformed from spheres to blobs in the steamers and sagged precariously when picked up. Biting a small hole into the bao released the delicious aroma of the savoury filling inside and there was plenty of soup to be slurped up. So good and so satisfying. My favourite xiao long baos in Toronto are good, but these ones had a stronger flavour.

My favourite xiao long baos were pure crab ones. The filling consisted of crab roe, crab meat and were very rich. When mixed with pork, the crab complimented the filling but the texture was still like a soft meatball. With all crab, the filing was more liquid, oil and way creamier. As delicious as they were, it would be hard to eat a full steamer by myself.

I would highly recommend visiting Jia Jia Xiao Long Bao for breakfast (they open at 8:30am) for an incredible start to a day in Shanghai at a very affordable price. The Hubby and I enjoyed our meal at Jia Jia so much, we actually went back the next morning before our flight. I wanted those xiao long baos to be the last bite I had of Shanghai.

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