New Shanghai, Ashfield

Friday, July 18, 2014

Xiao long bao, those immaculately shaped pork dumplings bursting with steaming hot porky broth, are perhaps the most famous type of dumpling in Sydney. Din Tai Fung offers the holy grail of pork dumplings, with each crafted to a precise weight and diameter and filled with tasty pork marbled with gelatinous bits, have mouths drooling and queues forming at every joint. 

The lesser known relative to these dumplings are pan-fried pork dumplings, brimming with a similar filling and hot soup but with a fluffier bun wrapper and a bottom fried to golden crispy perfection. These are bigger, meater, more filling - call it the plump, loving auntie of xiao long bao.

Seek out these bao (Shengjian Bao) and it will bring you to a plethora of Shanghai/Chinese restaurants. The very first time I tried these was not too long ago at Shanghai Stories in Chatswood, then at New Shanghai in Ashfield. And now they are one of my favourite Asian foods. Actually no, that's a lie - it's impossible for me to choose a favourite food! But these are definitely up there. 

Among the busy shop-lined buzz of Ashfield's Liverpool Road there lies an abundance of Chinese and Shanghainese restaurants, with all different Asian cuisines in between. In a little cluster lying not far from Ashfield Mall sit a handful of Shanghainese Restaurants with somewhat confusing and interchangeable names - New Shanghai, Taste of Shanghai, Shanghai Night, Shanghai Memory… On this slightly chilly Sunday morning we head for New Shanghai, the more modern of the handful, and making our way up the street there is already a visible crowd of people waiting in line for a table. We put our names down on the list and join them, taking a peek at the menu while we wait.

Our number is called out just as the crowd seems to disappear (funny that, huh?) and we're taken inside the big, brick-and-wood furnished space with a mix of long, communal and smaller square tables, all of which are filled. Along one side of the space is an open window exhibiting nifty chefs crafting delicate dumplings, and a hallway down the back leads to a smaller dining room. 

Shredded kelp mixed with spice and vinegar dressing ($4.80)

A shredded kelp, spice and vinegar dish resembles a Shanghainese take on a salad, with squiggles of kelp and carrot laced with a sour vinegar sauce that sinks to the bottom of the dish and punches with flavour and a hint of chilli. Refreshing, slippery and spicy, that could do with an addition of another vegetable perhaps as the seaweed gets a little bit too much near the end.

New Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Bun ($8.80 for 8 pcs)

The next thing that arrives is the Pan Fried Pork Bun, a serving of 8 plump buns crinkled with intricate folds and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The fortunate thing about these is that they're not as steaming hot as xiao long bao, so you can tuck into them as soon as they arrive on the table! These are moist and have a generous spring onion speckled filling  and a base boasting a glorious shade of caramelised goodness. If you had the stomach capacity you could eat the whole plate (but probably wouldn't have room for anything else) because they are so moreish and delicious. The skin isn't too thick, nor the bottom too oily. The little knot at the top where the folds meet remind me of a tiny topknot, and the bao itself a hybrid of steamed char siu bao, soupy xiao long bao and crispy wor tip or potstickers. The best of both (or all three) worlds!

New Shanghai Xiao Long Bao ($7.80 for 8pcs)

Xiao Long Bao, also titled steamed mini pork buns, are a little sturdier than those of Din Tai Fung. Right in the centre of the raised middle likes a 'plug' of sorts, concealing a pork filling and bursting with hot goodness. These are tasty and the flavour of ginger resounds in every bite. 

Stir Fried Pickled Rootand Shredded Pork Noodle Soup ($9.80)

Shanghai-style noodles are among my favourite type because of their firm bite and texture, as well as their ability to take on bold flavours without succumbing to the slippery awkwardness I often encounter with rice noodles. Stir fried pickled root and shredded pork on noodle soup arrives in a decievingly deep bowl, a mish-mash of bean sprouts, pickled vegetable and squirms of pork atop a bath of noodles. The soup is slightly thicker than that of a typical noodle soup, the flavour of the pickled vegetables lending itself to flavour it nicely. Almost too much so, because near the end of it the flavour intensifies and almost overwhelms the noodles. 

New Shanghai Combination Stir Fried in hot & spicy paste served on noodle soup ($8.80)

We weren't quite sure what the name implied on the menu, bit this noodle soup consists of a hot and spicy paste with bits of vegetable, tofu and meat placed in noodle soup so that paste breaks up and integrates with noodly goodness. The chilli kick isn't too powerful - it's satisfying but not the knock-out noodle we were expecting it to be.

Braised Beef Tendon Noodle Soup ($9.80)

Anything that has the word tendon in it takes my fancy. I think it's the wobbly, gelatinous texture of the tendon and the stringly, slightly fat-laden flavoursome brisket that makes me fall for it every time. This does not disappoint, with chunks of jelly-like tendon and chunks of beef alongside tender chinese greens in a beefy soup. All noodle soups are of good value, with most (aside from 3) under the $10 mark. 

Shanghai Noodle Stir Fried with Shredded Pork and vegetable ($9.50) are thick noodles coated in a tasty soy sauce, not too salty nor bland, with slices of shredded pork and vegetables. It looks like I've misplaced the photo so unfortunately I haven't included one. It was the last to come out, a while after the noodle soups, but steaming hot and satisfying. Each mouthful had us going back for more.

Other dishes on the menu are designed to share as well, from homey congee, seafood options including deep fried and steamed whole barramundi, crispy skin chicken, hot pots and some tempting desserts too. On previous visits we've tried the combination noodle soup - it's a plain soup with a mix of surf and turf and not as flavoursome as the other soups, and the fish congee which is full of white fillets of perfectly cooked fish. On our minds next time will be the wide range of dumplings and sticky rice balls to finish. With so many dishes to choose from it looks like we'll be trawling through the menu for a while to come.


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  1. I used to alway go here as a kid. I loved watching the chefs make the dumplings - so nimble and quick !

  2. i looooove xlb, so perfect for winter!

  3. XLB are always such fun to eat! Also loving the look of that beef tendon noodle soup. Yum!

  4. hello Maddie! It's delicious fried pork dumplings that you tried in Shanghai. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge about holidays.