Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
The Lantern Festival is two days away, which means the time is ripe for tangyuan, golf-ball sized orbs of glutinous rice flour. The dumplings’ roundness and their name, which sounds like the word for reunion, tuányuán, embody the family unity that characterizes the holiday.
Tangyuan come with either savory fillings like pork or sweet fillings like black sesame paste, which is also found in certain types of mi gao and baozi. Both kinds are found Shengxing Dim Sum, one of the many dumpling nests that freckle the area surrounding the Hefei Road-Zhaozhou road junction. You’ll recognize it by the trio of portly aunties out front wrapping the delicious bundles at breakneck pace.
Both the savory pork (鲜肉汤团, xiānròu tāngtuán) and sweet sesame rice balls (芝麻汤团, zhīma tāngtuán) run you 2.5RMB a piece. Be frugal, their small size makes them seem easily assailable, but the skin’s creeping starch will put you into a carb coma if you gobble too many. Also mind their deceptive heat – the gluey hide insulates like Nomex, so antsy eaters often mistake them for lukewarm and scald themselves upon scarfing the whole shebang. Swoop them up one at a time in your spoon, nip a hole in the side to release the steam like with xiaolongbao, and then alternate between nibbling and sucking hot juice until you’ve weathered it down to a manageable morsel. The hassle’s worth it. The pork version has the most precise pork flavor of any dumpling in town (it’s not the usual nebulous meatball), while the black sesame rendition provides a sweet, gluey epilogue to the meal.
Shengxing – 528 Shunchang Lu, near Yongnian Lu (顺昌路528号, 近永年路). Tel: (0)21- 5306-7325. Hours: 6am-5pm.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Stinky tofu on Sipailou Road
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