Shanghai: Suzhou Tang Bao 苏州汤包

Simple food, simple pleasures…

When it comes to food, you simply can’t go wrong with Shanghai. Discard all your preconceptions, assumptions and fears about eating innards and other exotic meats in this cosmopolitan city, for the food present in Shanghai is for China, most tourist friendly, perhaps even safer than Hong Kong. You’d be wise to avoid Chinese establishments in the West, even if they’re staffed by Chinese, but in China, the food, if you can accept it on first look, is generally very good. Dishes like Xiao Long Bao dumplings, La Mian noodles and rice dishes are in abundance across the city, and are for the moment, extremely and affordable.

Reeling from the fatigue, I decide to forgo seeing Shanghai this evening, and instead kick it back a bit. On my request for suggestions for a good Shanghainese meal in the vicinity, the really helpful and friendly hostel staff direct me to Suzhou Tang Bao Guan, which I suppose, is Shanghai’s version of a family restaurant. The Shanghainese are fiercely proud and protective of their local dumpling Xiao Long Bao that I’m cautioned by the hostel staff not to suggest an association between that and the larger Tang Bao (soup dumpling) even though they acknowledge that the Tang Bao is in fact, just a supersized version of the famous dumpling. Appreciative of that critical tidbit, I make my way to the restaurant, and quickly find it. It’s in the middle of summer right now in Shanghai, but no matter how hot the temperatures reach in the day, the night consistently skirts the lower-twenties – making night strolls an absolute delight.

Suzhou Tang Bao Guan, located along Jiaozhou Lu, is a simple yet homely diner, which I’d end up visiting a couple of times either for a nice warm dou jiang (soy milk… I love how China’s soy milk is a little thick, rich and satisfyingly sweet, unlike Singapore’s watered down versions), or late night supper with some of hostel mates. There is the signature Xiao Long Bao; Tang Baos with a wider assortment of stuffing such as shrimp, chicken and pork; La Mian in soup or dry with a selection of ingredients ranging from noodle soup with dumpling to dry noodles with pork chop; and of course, fried rice and rice dishes. I decide on the Suzhou Tang Bao (RMB 5, SGD 1), and a shrimp with assorted vegetables covered rice (RMB 15, SGD 3).

It was surprisingly very, very good, I must say, particularly for the cost.

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