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.
Veggie anything usually plays second fiddle to its meat counterpart, but in our opinion the vegetable steamed bun (xianggan qingcao bao, 香干青菜包) blows the pork one out of the steamer. It’s fresh, vibrant, forest-y, and honestly, even as a skull-sucking carnivore, I admit the generic minced pork ball in the meat one gets old after a while.
Part of it is there’s a bit more going on here. Inside the steamed flour pillow, you’ve got emerald-green (at least it should be) chopped Chinese spinach and little white bean curd cubes, which act as mini juice sponges. Not substantial enough? Go for the xianggu qingcai bao (香菇青菜包), the same thing but with mushrooms subbing for bean curd.
These are some of the most ubiquitous eats in Shanghai, even more common than xiaolongbao, the actual native dumpling. You can find them everywhere from Family Mart to Babi Mantou to your local curbside hawker. Just look for a place with plenty of billowing steam and a line, indicating freshness and turnover. And eat them in the morning, while the filling’s still iridescent, and the bread firm but soft. Come afternoon, their flavor fades and the skin often becomes crumbly and sogged through. 2-3RMB each.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Fried yellow croaker with caramelized spring onions @ Jian Guo 328
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
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