Over the weekend, my mother and I had a hankering for good Shanghai xiao long bao and decided to head to Shanghai Lu for a visit. When we arrived on a chilly Saturday night, the place was pretty quiet but the service was prompt and the staff friendly. After looking at their extensive menu we decided to order a few things to share.
Of course, we ordered xiao long bao (pro tip, if you want to sound like a cool foodie, call it XLB for short). If you haven’t tried XLB (ha get what I did there?), they are a dumpling filled with juicy pork and broth. You dip the dumpling in a vinegar sauce, pop the whole thing in your mouth (be careful, the broth can be REALLY hot) and enjoy the amazing flavours. They are perfect for a chilly evening. XLB is notoriously hard to make and eat. That’s because the skin on a good XLB is so thin that unless you pick them up super gently, the skin will puncture and all the yummy juices will leak out.
There is a whole technique to picking up a XLB ‘properly’ (at least according to my mother). According to Mama Lam:
“Using the lightest touch, pick up the XLB on top where the skin gathers with your chopsticks. This is where the skin is thickest.
In your free hand, hold out a spoon next to the XLB and quickly transfer the XLB from your chopsticks onto the spoon. This ensures that the juices don’t ‘break through’ the bottom of the dumpling (since the bottom is no longer being supported by a flat surface). Once the dumpling is on your spoon, you can pour a bit of vinegar on for flavour.”
The dumplings at Shanghai Lu were pretty good actually, the skin on the dumpling wasn’t too thick (but could be a bit better) and the juice and pork were tasty. And yes, we used proper technique. No leakage!
My mom and I also shared their sliced chicken noodles. It’s a chilled dish, with chicken, cucumber, glass noodles and a peanut/sesame sauce. As you can see from the photo above, the glass noodles are flat and thick cut. They have a great chewy consistency and we quite enjoyed the texture of the noodles, chicken, and the sesame/peanut sauce together. This was my mom’s favourite dish.
Next up we had salted duck. This is another dish that is served chilled. The duck has been marinated in a salt brine and served with bones, skin and fat on it. The focus is the flavour of duck meat, which is quite “gamey”. You eat the skin, fat and meat whole; I love duck so this was a great dish but if you are squeamish about that kind of thing, it’s probably not for you.
Last but not least, MY favourite. The pan fried rice cake with pork. The rice cakes are thinly sliced to the size of a coin and pan fried in a delicious sauce with spinach and pork. Don’t let the word “cake” fool you, it’s not a sweet dish or dessert; all savoury here. When you order this dish, it can be quite oily in some Shanghainese restaurants but Shanghai Lu does a good job on reigning it in. I LOVED the chewiness of the rice cake; some places it can be a bit dry and chalky, but the rice cake slices here are perfectly prepared. The sauce was flavourful and there was a generous amount of pork and spinach as well
All those dishes set us back $39.83 (tax included), not bad! We were too full for dessert and we ended up packing quite a bit to go. What can I say, my mom and I like our food!
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