If you’re after comfort food on one of Shanghai’s many cold and misty days, it doesn’t get much more satisfying than baozi. The king of Shanghai street eats, these delicious dumplings can be found at different venues around town.
Baozi are plump, steaming bundles of joy, with a bready texture, and usually a filling of pork, green vegetables or sweet red bean. They tick all the boxes for the perfect grab-and-go food, especially in winter. They’re cheap (expect to pay 1 or 2rmb for each bun), tasty, filling, and served piping hot.
You’ll see stalls on every busy street in Shanghai – look out for the big, multi-layered bamboo steamers, and especially on frosty mornings, a queue of shivering customers outside.
Seeping deliciously greasy juice, the buns are handed over in a thin polythene bag that radiates heat. Make no mistake, the sensation of getting your freezing mitts wrapped around the package as you wolf it down borders on the spiritual.
You really won’t have a problem finding a place to buy baozi, but there are a couple of popular chains to look out for. Babi Mantou has branches all over the city – try 57 Fenyang Lu (near Fuxing Zhong Lu) or 62 Changli Dong Lu (near Nanmantou Lu). There’s a huge range of fillings available here, including sesame or spicy noodles.
Wang Bi is another widespread chain (try the stall at 77 Songshan Road, near Huaihai Zhong Lu), or for a delicious pork meatball baozi head to Haoyong Baozi Ting at 174 Guizhou Lu, near Ningbo Lu.
Shanghai really does spoil you for choice when it comes to street eats, and particularly street food dumplings. There’s the soup-filled, delicate-skinned xiaolongbao, which are a regional specialty and have Shanghai’s residents salivating just at the mere mention. Or the light, juicy jiaozi, which come filled with shrimp, egg, pork and vegetables, also with a thin skin. A tray of these with a splash of vinegar on top makes for very happy eating indeed.
But delicious as they are, both these kinds of dumplings require chopsticks and a certain level of attention if you’re to get them down without third-degree burns or serious down-the-shirt spillage. So for a satisfying snack as you wander the streets, you really can’t do better than a bag of fluffy baozi.
Written by Helen Elfer
Have you ever sampled baozi before? Where's your favourite dumpling vendor in Shanghai? Let us know in the comments below.
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About the author: HelenElferHelen Elfer
Helen Elfer has been a travel journalist for seven years, living in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi before recently moving back to London. You can read about her experiences meeting Uighur rock stars, climbing coconut trees in Kerala, dabbling in the dark arts in England and more at www.helenelfer.com. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller and Time Out among other publications. Follow her on twitter @helen_elfer