Ten years ago not many people outside China had heard of “Xiao Long Bao” (小笼包). It is the Chinese name for steamed pork dumplings and owed its international stardom for its incredible juicy filling and thin wrapper.
I am by no means a dumpling connoisseur but, having grown up in the city where XLB is originally from, I have had my fair share of the soup dumpling and learned a thing or two about how to spot an authentic one. Many Sydney restaurants may list XLB on their menu, but, based on personal experience, less than a handful actually deliver the real deal, New Shanghai is one of the select few.
XLB is a must whenever I visit New Shanghai and it never disappoints. Both appearance and flavour are on point; my guess is the old Chinese lady producing these buns proficiently in the open plan kitchen has done this for a long time.
Another well-known dumpling is Sheng Jian Bao, pan fried round buns with a slightly burnt golden brown bottom and juicy pork filling. The humble dish is so popular in Shanghai that it can be found from both street vendors and high-end restaurants. Most people order both XLB and SJB at New Shanghai, including myself. The quality of its dumplings is a true representation of an authentic local experience and New Shanghai has done Shanghai dumplings proud.
Noodles and rice are a staple in China and each region has its own specialties. But almost exclusive and unique in Shanghai cuisine is the lesser known rice cake. Oval shaped and sliced thinly, it is usually stir-fried with finely chopped greens and shredded pork. The textural and soft rice cake soaks up the flavours from other ingredients and is cheap and easy to make at home. It is a favourite dish of the older generations and it surprises me to see how much the New Shanghai version resembles Grandma’s home cooking.
Entrees in Shanghai cuisine typically consist of cold cut fish or meat. Smoked Carp and Sweet and Sour Pork are among the most popular ones. The fish is not smoked but instead cooked in soy sauce and sugar. Shanghaiese sweet and sour is different from those commonly known in Cantonese cuisine as it doesn’t come with pineapple or tomato sauce. These two entrees are probably the most iconic Shanghainese entrees and I am yet to find a restaurant in Australia that does a better job than New Shanghai.
Slow Braised Pork Belly and Stir-fried Eel with ginger, pepper and soy sauce are synonymous with Shanghainese cuisine, although eel may be an acquired taste for many. But New Shanghai offers much more than just traditional Shanghaiese dishes. Customers have the opportunity to taste dishes from Beijing in the north and Sichuan in the west. Shredded Peking Pork is a crowd pleaser where you wrap pork in a fluffy bun with cucumber and shallots. The snow white, sweet bun is such a contrast to the savoury pork and crunchy vegetables.
Wine may not be the forte of many Chinese restaurants but surprisingly we find some of our favourites from the extensive wine list at New Shanghai. No.19 Sauvignon Blanc from Phillip Shaw in Orange NSW, Signature Shiraz from Robert Oatley in Mclaren Vale SA and Pinot Grigio from Tasmania’s Josef Cromy are choices that we give a thumb up. The light and crispy Pinot Grigio goes particularly well with the Spicy Clams in XO Sauce.
I used to crave for Shanghai dumplings and food was a large incentive for us to travel to China. New Shanghai is where we can get our dumpling fix and a taste of hometown cuisine without leaving the country. But most importantly it offers a true representation of what authentic Shanghai cuisine is all about, whether it is dumplings, entrees or main dishes.
1017-1020/188 Pitt St, Sydney
Phone: (02) 8386 8368
Other venues: http://www.newshanghai.com.au