Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shanghai Park, Princeton

My friend Steph has been craving soup dumplings, so we went to Shanghai Park at the Princeton Shopping Center for the little pockets of perfection. Known alternately as xiao long bao (Little Dragon buns), tang bao (soup buns), or juicy buns, at Shanghai Park the English name on the menu reads innocuously as "crab meat and pork buns." Don't know why, but my friends were incredulous and I had to assure them that the Chinese characters next to those words did indeed say xie feng tang bao (crab meat soup buns).

There's a technique to the eating of soup dumplings:

#1 -- Get a little of the sauce of soy, vinegar, and ginger on your soup spoon.

#2 -- Carefully grab a dumpling from the steamer, making sure not to puncture the skin in the slightest, and nestle it in your spoon.

#3 -- Keeping the dumpling in your spoon, bite just a small hole open in the top of the dumpling to let some steam out so you don't completely burn your mouth.

#4 -- Bite and sip simultaneously as you eat so as not to lose any of the juicy soup goodness!

The other standout dish at this restaurant is the si zi tou Lion's Head meatballs. Named for their size, the meatballs are so soft and melt-in-your-mouth tender -- ground pork mixed with tofu, seasoned with ginger -- so simple yet so good...

I also like the stir-fried nian gao (sticky rice cakes), here with Shanghai salted cabbage (xue cai) and pork. They also make it with shitake mushrooms (which I've had -- really good) or with spinach.

The great thing about all these dishes is that they're all traditional Shanghai cuisine. The Shanghainese are known for their sweet tooths and their love of all things made of sticky rice flour. We also ordered wuxi spareribs, another traditional Shanghai dish, with a fragrant sweet sauce. I actually liked the ones we'd had a few months back at the New Chinese Restaurant in Hamilton better. But not to knock it -- it's not a dish you find on typical Chinese menus since it's a regional specialty.

Mmmm... soup dumplings. Lucky redneckhunter is going for them again on Friday!

Shanghai Park
Princeton Shopping Center
301 N Harrison St
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 924-8001

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