Everyone should make a trip out to Shanghai at least once, and when you do stop in, you need to get yourself into Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)!
Jia Jia’s is an institution, rated as #13 out of 12,690 restaurants in Shanghai on tripadvisor.com. It’s a no-frills, dive of a restaurant by Western standards, but that doesn’t make it any less delectable. The reason why everyone goes there is for the buns called xiaolongbao (小笼包). *drools*
They have other options as well on their menu (try the duck blood soup!), but the mainstay is the xiaolongbao, which are actually soup buns. Soup buns are buns that have a little bit of liquid that you can slurp out after biting a hole in the side of the thin skin. Good xiaolongbao have a delicious thin, white-yet-kind-of-translucent skin and are traditionally filled with pork. Aside from pork, there are other traditional variations including a crab and roe variation as well as an egg yolk variation.
The seating at Jia Jia’s is communal, which is fairly common in China. There are actually only a handful of tables, which can cause a delay your euphoria. Lines out the door occur at any given time, because it’s a well-known establishment and a lot of travelers and locals alike go there.
Xiaolongbao actually originate from the Shanghai suburb of JiaDing. I’ve had the pleasure of having gone to the original location, which is directly next to the famous GuYi Garden (古猗园). These xiaolongbao are excellent, in an old traditional building with big circular communal tables at which you eat. Outside, between the restaurant and the garden there’s also a slightly cute, slightly creepy statue of anthropomorphic xiaolongbao children.