Yang’s Fry Dumpling
Ok, I’d better start practicing the difficult (for me) art of succinct-ness or else I’ll still be rambling on and on about Chinese food eaten in October 2007 well into 2008. Don’t hate me but I never ate xiao long bao in Shanghai. I know, I know, but there was just so much else to sample. However, I did try shengjian mantou, which in many ways I found preferable. It’s all a matter of delicate vs. rustic. I was going to say refined but that’s not accurate because the broth inside these steamed and fried pork dumplings was really stellar. I rarely notice things like the quality of stock but when it’s outstanding and bursting with what I can only imagine is that elusive umami, I get it.
There are two Yang’s stands just a few storefronts apart on Wujiang Lu. It’s chaotic at lunchtime and might be at all times. Because I leave nothing to chance, I read up ahead of time and learned that you order from the woman at a stand on the right, she gives you a ticket and then you stand in the long line on the left and pick up your dumplings. And ordering in fours is the standard. We got eight.
As you can see in the picture, the vessel doing the frying is a huge round affair. It looks like there’d be an endless supply, but the dumplings get burned through in no time. It’s very New York in a way, even though I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Customers were making the girl turn over dumplings to get more color on the sides, pointing out ones that looked better, like our equivalent of “gimme that one, no that one” or “cook it good.” I’m still flabbergasted at how much New Yorkers boss around the counter/cart guys and I’ve lived here nearly a decade.
Our line wasn’t that long and we had to wait for maybe three replacement batches, mostly due to the greedy gus three ahead of us who’d brought a soup pot with a glass lid from home (the server is holding it in the top photo) and had that filled, then he pulled out plastic containers from a bag and got those topped off, too. We were like save some for us, mister, and the people in line behind us began grumbling too. Thinking in multiples of four, he had to have ordered at least 32. The pan was decimated. But they’re speedy and a fresh replacement was there in minutes.
We didn’t dare try to snag an inside table (I have horrible fears of ordering food to stay only to end up seat-less) so we tracked down a rare outdoor seat on a low concrete wall and dug into our steaming messy snack. We got stared at by nearly every single passerby. I don’t know if it was because no one eats outside (there were a few others on benches nearby), we weren’t Asian, we were mangling our food or committing some unspoken faux pas, they were curious about what we were eating, or what. This is a modern city with decent amount of expats so it was kind of baffling and nothing like the time James accidentally got a skewer of chicken hearts in Thailand and wound up with unwanted attention from amused locals. Maybe these fried dumplings are good enough to elicit stares. I would certainly swap them for my usual granola bar breakfast.
Yang’s Fry Dumpling * 54 Wujiang Lu, Shanghai, China