Jia Jia Tang Bao - Highly Recommended
90 Huanghe Lu, Shanghai
After the disappointing Nanxiang Mantou Dian, I went to the "internets" to find the best xlb's in Shanghai. There were two places everyone pointed to - Jia Jia Tang Bao and Din Tai Fung. Since I've been to Din Tai Fung multiple times in Taiwan, I figured I had to give Jia Jia Tang Bao a try.
This was light years better than the stuff they serve at Nanxiang Mantou dian and they were real fun to eat. These were very solid and the price was ridiculously cheap ($1.50 for 12 pork xlb!). Like all the locals say, get there early since they sometimes sell out of the pork xlb by 1pm and once they're out of everything they close shop. The place is also a tiny hole in the wall which gives it some street cred in my book, but adds to the long ars waits since it maybe seats only 30 people. We got there at 11:45am and still had to wait a good 30 minutes and the shrimp xlb was gone by then already. Any who, very solid and definitely highly recommended.
All facets of the XLB were pretty damn good. The meat texture was spot on, the meat flavor had a nice porky punch and the broth was excellent. The skins were much softer, but a tad to thin in my opinion. Almost like a wonton skin, but with a bit more elasticity. I dug the Din Tai Fung skins much more as they had more texture and resilience while still being very silky and not doughy at all.
Crab Meat and Roe XLB ***
These were excellent and had the same characteristics as the other ones, but with distinction of having crab meat and crab roe inside. The flavor was so intensely crabby in a wtf way. I totally dug these a lot, but you need to watch out because they come out blazing hot. These were much pricier, but well worth it ($14 for 6)
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way
Although hella delicious, it's kinda weird that a dish that originates from this region is not as good as ones from other areas - Din Tai Fun being one and I believe I've had better ones in Grand Shanghai in NJ. One thing I noticed were the fact that only teenagers were making the xiao long bao. I assume this is to help with the profit margins, but all the masters at Din Tai Fun have been doing it for many many decades. I have to believe this affects the quality and consistency of the xlb. Any who, this place is still pretty damn fun and would highly recommend visiting if you're ever in Shanghai.