If you followed Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservation to Shanghai, then you have seen Yang's Fried Dumplings. But Bourdain is hardly the one who discovered this hole in the wall. It has been a major draw for hundreds of tourists many years before the arrival of the bad boy chef.
There is nothing glamorous about this place. A few steps down from the walking street, a group of workers scoped and wrapped a seasoned pork paste into wrappers that they stretched on the fly from little balls of dough at lightening speed.
When there are enough to fill a heavy cast iron pan, the buns are packed tightly into hot oil and put on a large flame to fry. When the bottom is sufficiently browned, one of the cook splashes a few cups of water onto the buns and put on a lid.
A short steaming produces these hot buns that are sold by the kilo.
One can either take the buns to go or eat in. The few downstairs tables are always packed, but for the ones in the know, there is a much roomier upstairs dining area up a set of very narrow, very old, and very steep wooden stairs. On each table is a small teapot containing a very potent aged vinegar that is perfect with the buns, once you figure out how to eat without splashing everyone sitting with you. This is a tough task since the buns are much bigger and heavier than the regular soup buns and the fried bottom does not yield to the chopsticks, making it very hard to get a good grip. I was lucky to have worn black as my group of five splashed more than three times and we are all born chopstick users. :)
While not billed as soup buns, these have plenty of juices on the inside thanks to the abundance of lard and meat jelly in the filling. The porkiness tasted exceedingly wonderful with the tempered tanginess of the dark vinegar. But most of all, I love the wrapper as I am a dough girl. Crunchy and charred, the bottom shows strong contrast to the fluffy and slightly chewy top. It's as enjoyable texturally as it is tasty dipped in the vinegar. Despite the tourists, this hole in the wall is always a worthwhile stop in this ever changing city.