It’s a rite of passage for many tourists visiting Shanghai: go to Yuyuan Garden, see its famous rocks, ponds, and pavilions, shop for souvenirs, then get in line for xiaolongbao at Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant.
Not all are of Din Tai Fung quality (ironically). Most I had thick chewy skin, but there were some street side stalls that would throw off your footing, swearing to bring some back if you ever could.
Shanghai’s most celebrated Xiao Long Bao could be found at 南翔馒头店, within the charming Yu Yuan 豫园 at the Old Town God’s Temple precinct.
Disclaimer: it is not the best the city has to offer, but people come here to tick off the box of being in a famous place. (The garden’s really cool anyway.)
The restaurant has also expanded internationally, with branches in South Korea, Japan and Singapore at Ten Mile Junction.
Amongst the scenic buildings, exquisite Jiuqu bridge, old trees who spoke stories and red autumn leaves, you could see one long queue.
One really long queue.
At Nan Xiang, there are 3 different levels of service and pricing. Most of the unsuspecting tourists and ‘commoners’ would queue up on the ground level for 12 hot piping dumplings available for takeaway at 22 RMB (SGD4.60).
Most would just gobble the entire box once they grabbed their hands on one. An average queue time was about an hour, at least you could listen to street performers sing their lungs out.
Note: The queue can be quite traumatic once ‘tourists’ (from other parts of China) surge forward.
On level two, there was a long line with stools for you to wait for anything from 10 to 30 minutes. (My advice: Guard your seat, ignore what the others behind tell you. They might tell you stories so that they could get in front of you. Remember.)
If you were willing to pay more, then go all the way upstairs and spend at least 150 RMB for an almost immediate seat.
Nanxiang was a town near Shanghai where the Xiao Long Mantou was invented. Therefore, you should probably order the Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao (RMB35 for 6, SGD7.32).
Article and Photo: Daniel Food Diary