I can’t remember exactly the first time I ate Shanghai juicy buns. I was 19 living in Taipei, Taiwan and studying Mandarin. One of my classmates had taken me to a little shop on Xin Yi Road. It was a tiny hole-in-the-wall, but the steamed dumplings called xiaolongbao were exquisite!! In time, that little restaurant, called Din Tai Fung, would become VERY famous for its dumplings. When properly made, Shanghai juicy buns are really juicy. The trick is to dip the hot dumpling into the dipping sauce of black vinegar with shreds of fresh gingerroot before stuffing it into your mouth so that when you bite into it, the juice doesn’t spurt out all over the front of your shirt.
Today Din Tai Fung has branches all over China. There are several in Beijing but my favorite is near the consulates. Last week, during my trip to Beijing I made it a point to squeeze in a visit. I dragged my old friend, Cheng Zhu, who had been my research assistant when I wrote my travelogue/ food guide to China 22 years ago. Together we visited 32 cities in China (Was I crazy??). Zhu still loves to eat and between us we polished off two steamer trays of dumplings. They were as good as I remembered.
Shanghai juicy buns are VERY labor intensive and it’s not easy to make the skin paper-thin and stuff the dumpling so full of juice. Instead I offer another, easier dumpling recipe below. I think it’s equally delicious.