My boyfriend and I just came back from a holiday in Shanghai. Apart from visiting all the must-see tourist attractions, a big part of our holiday was ticking off my long list of must-try restaurants. Shanghai, famous for it’s xiaolongbao, soup buns and fried mini buns. We were spoiled rotten with all kinds of cheap eateries serving up these wonderful delicacies.For those wondering what xiaolongbao is. It is basically a little parcel of filling as well as soup all encased in a thin, chewy skin. A couple of weeks back in Melbourne and we are already missing all of these delicious snacks, luckily my mum knows a place that serves some great xiaolongbaos.
Shanghai Master Dumpling is close to my mum’s office and since they’ve opened around a year ago, my mum has been raving about their buns. So my boyfriend and I paid them a visit. Arriving around 1pm, we were greeted by a full-house of office workers hungrily tucking into their food during their limited lunch hour. We joined the queue outside, but luckily we were seated within 5 minutes.
This is a self-service type of restaurant, which means you have all your cutlery, plates, bowls and water/tea lined up along the back of the restaurant and you get whatever you need yourself. I don’t really mind this kind of setup because food is pretty cheap here, so I guess it keeps the cost down. However, having said that they were extremely understaffed the day we went. There were only 2 waiters running the floor, which is probably how next table’s fried mini buns landed on our table instead. This mistake was quickly rectified after we flagged down a passing waiter.
My boyfriend was pretty hungry so we ordered a dish each and another dish to share. I got the wontons in chili oil and topped with peanut sauce because it had a thumbs up sign next to it.
But this turned out to be a very disappointing thumbs down. I think I would have enjoyed these wontons by themselves in a chicken broth, because the filling of prawn and pork was bouncy and flavoursome. However, the puddle that it was seating in was oily and tasteless. I could not detect the slightest kick from the chili oil and the sesame sauce just made the wontons taste extra oily and sticky. I definitely won’t be ordering this again.
My boyfriend’s noodles were a little better, they weren’t amazing, just average.
Kung pao chicken is a classic representative of Szechuan cuisine, so ordering this at a restaurant with Shanghai in the name probably wasn’t the smartest choice. This Kung pao chicken is no where near authentic, but I thought it tasted okay. It was salty and a little bit spicy, but it was missing the sweetness and numbing sensation that’s characteristic to this dish. However, the chicken pieces were nice and juicy so I thought it was a decent noodle dish given the price.
And now for the best part of our meal – the xiaolongbao.
For me, these buns are just the epitome of culinary wisdom; the skin is thin but retained some elasticity, which made them chewy and a perfect vessel for holding the wonderful soup inside. Biting a little hole through the skin, the rich, pork soup flooded into my spoon. Pouring a little vinegar into my bun to cut through some of the meaty goodness, I greedily gobbled up my bun. The bun made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I haven’t tried the famous Hutong or Shanghai Village yet, but currently for me these are the best xiaolongbao I’ve had in Melbourne. When I was in Shanghai, a friend of ours took us to an authentic snack house to have some of these and I have to say the ones at Shanghai Master Dumpling were better, so I’m pretty impressed.
I probably won’t be going back to Shanghai Master Dumpling for anything else, because I think there are other cheap Chinese restaurants around the city that serves much better, but I will definitely be going back for their amazing xiaolongbao when the cravings hit.