Un Tour Shanghai: Dumpling Delights - An explosion of Chinese flavours, smells, sights and calories!
Discovering Dumpling Delights UnTour
It all started late one night about a month ago. I had just gotten Instagram (go ahead, judge me!), I couldn't sleep and typed the hashtag "Shanghai" in the search bar. I found myself drooling over pics of dumplings and other delights at the UnTour Instagram, and the next day, I signed up!
Instructions Before the Big Day
The instruction email said to bring my appetite, as there would be copious amounts of food. Challenge accepted. Breakfast skipped. Cipro antibiotics on standby. I was ready!
At first I thought the price of the tour was maybe a bit steep. At 550 RMB ($110 CAD or $80 USD) it seemed a bit expensive, especially knowing that we'd be eating street food, which is quite inexpensive in China. But, the tour did not disappoint!
Before the event, we were mailed meeting directions in both English and Mandarin Chinese, so we could easily get a taxi or a local to point us in the right direction. Our tour guide Nyima was easy to spot, sporting a teeshirt with dumplings! We were joined by a mother-daughter team from Australia, and a businessman from New Jersey. A 4 person tour was the perfect size, as we were to visit some pretty tiny hole-in-the-walls!
We were instructed to wear comfy shoes, as it would be a walking tour. But honestly, there isn't more than 5 minutes walk between stops. It's appropriate for most fitness levels.
Delicious, Delicious Eats!
Boy oh boy, the tour did not disappoint! I was awfully glad I had skipped breakfast. At each stop you can eat as much as you like, and order whatever you like to drink (water, pop, beer, etc.) Once you start the tour, all food, drink and entry costs are covered by your guide. My primary piece of advice is to pace yourself!
Informative tidbit: If the dumpling is just classified as "meat" it usually means pork. Any other meat is usually identified.
The delicious, fried pork potstickers! These were so good! We waited until he had made a fresh batch, and boy, was it worth it! These may be tied for first or come in as a close second. Although, they do come with a little more guilt, since they are fried!
Nyima explained that the owners of this little shop were family. They keep the shop open 7 days a week, until 2 am each night. As is very common in China, they're from a neighbouring province. They've left their child at home to be raised by their parents. They send money back home and visit once a year during Chinese New Year.
Shanghai's famous soup dumplings, also referred to as xiaolongbao! Although, apparently that fact is in hot dispute in the region, and their origin is actually Nanjing!
I was so busy stuffing my face at this stop, I didn't take many pics! But we were served veggie, pork and crab soup dumplings.
Confused at how to eat a soup dumpling? Go the traditional route! First, plop it into a spoon with some rice wine vinegar. Take a small bite out of the side, slurp out the broth and the surrounding vinegar (the louder the slurping the better) and then eat the whole thing! These may be my fave!
Boiled beef dumplings were my least favourite to be honest. They're a little on the mushy, boring side. However, we got some amazing dishes with the dumplings. We had some ramen, with fresh made noodles that we watched being prepared minutes before! We also got some cumin seasoned lamb. Yum! Who knew that lamb was a Chinese dish?! And finally, we had a dish with wide noodles and fried egg. This stop was a nice shake-up from all of the dumplings!
The owners of this stop are part of the Muslim minority in China. As you may expect, none of these dishes contained pork. Traditional Muslim Chinese dishes seemed to be well loved across the country. It's certainly a culture that I'd love to do some more discovering about!
Our final stop was to visit Mike's workshop. Mike was a former chef at the Four Seasons Shanghai (swank!), but left his job to open his own dumpling making workshop.
We were taught how to make dumplings from scratch. I think I could actually do it at home! However, I definitely do not have the finesse that Mike has! Because I was a little on the slow side, Mike helped and made one of my 5 dumplings. When one leaked during the cooking process (a sign of imperfect skill), I smiled and told Mike that must be the one he made. Mike was polite and laughed, but I don't think he was buying it!
Minced meat - 50g
Salt - 2g
Sugar - 2g
Pepper - a dash
Cooking wine - a splash
Light soy sauce - 5g
Green onion - 5g
Fresh ginger - a little
Sesame oil - a splash
Pork jelly (recipe to follow) - 80g
Water - 5g to 10g
All purpose flour - 60g
Water - 75cc
Yeast - 2g
Baking powder - 2g
Sugar - 2g
White sesame to taste
1. Mix baking powder and flour. Make a hole in the centre of the mixture. Add yeast and water to the hole. Mix yeast and water. Kneed together and set aside for rising.
2. With your hands, Roll into long cylinder and cut into 6 pieces, 6 cm in length each. Flatten each piece and roll into a large circle. Place one portion of the filling in the centre and close. Pinch off the top, to avoid leaking while frying and place the bun upside down.
3. Add the buns to the frying pan with hot oil. Add water. Cover to fry (on bottom only) for up to 5 minutes. Then garnish with sesame and chopped green onion.
Pork Jelly Recipe
You may be able to buy this at your local Chinese grocery store. If you can't purchase it or if you are feeling ambitious, follow these directions!
Pork skin without fat 1kg
Green onion 4g
Cooking wine 4g
1. Remove the fat from the pork skin. Clean the pork skin carefully and boil the pork skin.
2. Put the pork skin and water with the green onion, ginger and rice wine into a wok. Use high heat to bring to a boil, then let simmer on low.
3. When the pork skin turns soft, chop the pork skin and place back into the wok. Use low heat to bring to boil again.
4. When the liquid turns sticky, remove all the pork skin, green onion and ginger.
5. When the soup turns cold, it is then pork jelly.
6. If placed in fridge, it must be used within 2 days. In the freezer, it can be stored for a few weeks. When you are ready to use it, heat it. It will melt. Set it aside until it cools, and then it will be jelly, ready to use!
Visit the Stops on Your Own!
Complete with instructions for your Chinese driver!