They’re delicious but don’t lose your head — the inside can be volcanically hot
Sheng jian bao are small, pan-fried steamed dumplings — a great speciality of Shanghai. They are usually made from semi-leavened dough, filled with pork and gelatin. However there are variations on the theme: some contain chicken, prawns or crab meat.
The name comes from the cooking method. The dumplings are arranged in an oiled, flat plan with a wooden lid — in restaurants you might see ones more than a metre in diameter. The scrunch where the pastry is folded always points up; the bottom is in direct contact with the pan and fries into a crispy bottom, while the gelatin melts deliciously. Meanwhile water is sprayed on top to ensure that that is steam cooked as well. Afterwards, you may see the chef flip the pan — fear not, they are just preventing the crispy bottom from becoming soggy.
Xia long bao, the Shanghai-style soup dumplings, have shot to fame for good reason, but Sheng jian bao, their doughier pan-fried relatives, are less widely appreciated outside their home country. Th extra dough makes them sturdy enough to fry, and sturdy enough to stick in a bag and eat on the move. Go and try them once, and you’ll forever be on the hunt for them back home.
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