A trip to Cheng Huang Miao Old Town is not complete (for a tourist) without a visit to Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (Cheng Huang Miao near the 9 corner bridge).
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is at least 100years old, the "original" restaurant specialising in Xiao Long Bao (now selling eight different versions), which was invented in Nanxiang, but grew so popular they also brought them to Shanghai. I’ve loved these little babies ever since Helen introduced them to me during one of our regular yum cha sessions. The first time I tried these I burnt my tongue, not realising the soup inside would be so hot… since then I’ve mastered the art of eating Xiao Long Bao – dip it in vinegar with shredded ginger, bite a bit of the dumpling, enjoy the soup and eat the rest of the dumpling OR wait till the dumpling cools down a bit and shove the whole thing in your mouth and savour all the deliciousness that is the xiao long bao.
The first time we visited Cheng Huang Miao, the line for Nanxiang Steamed Bun ran for about 100m, so we decided to come back on another day much much earlier. The next time we arrived 30mins after they had opened and already the line was pretty long but we started queuing…10mins later we had not moved an inch. This is probably because each batch of Xiao Long Bao gets steamed then given so we have to wait until the next batch is steamed 😦 Lining up in the heat, surrounded by boisterous, loud old women playing whistles and jingling bells started to irritate me A LOT. So we followed a couple up the stairs which leaded up to the restaurant section, found ourselves a table and ordered three baskets of xiao long bao and two dipping sauces with ginger. To be seated upstairs you need to pay a few extra RMB, (totally worth it in my opinion) though the wait is probably about the same. While waiting for our xiao long bao we bought some freshly roasted chestnuts to nibble on and watched the people pass below on the bridge.
The Xiao Long Bao that I know and am used to are tiny dumplings thinly wrapped and pinched, filled with tender minced pork or crab and the best part is that distinctive hot broth that spills out and bursting with flavour as soon as you nip a bit of the dumpling. However, in Shanghai I generally found that their dumpling skin is slightly thicker than those served in Sydney where the dumpling is so thinly wrapped, it’s translucent and you can see the amount of soup.
Food Safety Inspection Notification – Excellent
Three poker chips – one for each basket :)))
Pork Xiao Long Bao and Crab and Roe Xiao Long Bao
Overlooking the bridge which warded off ghosts (because they can only travel in straight lines)
They weren’t the best I’ve ever had, (the best I’ve had are at Din Tai Fung or Crystal Jade where they are much much pricier). However, Nanxiang Steamed Restaurant displays many awards and is known as the "original" Xiao Long Bao, slightly overrated but still probably worth a visit for a tourist 😉 It also has an "Excellent" Food Safety Inspection rating which you would NOT expect to find at many places.