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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shanghai Night, Ashfield

Steamed Shanghai style mini pork bun $6.50
(xiao long bao)

Sydney's best xiao long bao? Search no more.

Despite the class and style of the newly opened Din Tai Fung, it's the cheap and cheerful chaos of Shanghai Night that still wins my heart.

Just like Din Tai Fung, the xiao long bao are handmade on-site. Here, however, it's a family-run affair: a modest production line of two sitting discreetly behind a folding bamboo screen.

The xiao long bao arrive in bamboo steamers, delicate pleated parcels of soup-filled dumpling that billow with steam as they descend on your table. The dumpling skins aren't as thin or as translucent as the Din Tai Fung version, but it's the soup inside that makes me weak at the knees. Steaming hot and sweet with pork, the soup is deliciously addictive, prompting a nervous battle of chopsticks as we fight for the next one.

The price is staggering too. At Din Tai Fung, six pork xiao long bao sets you back $8.80, or $1.47 each. At Shanghai Night, you get eight dumplings for $6.50 or make that 81c each. Who said value for money doesn't make food taste better?

Deep-fried rice cake $3.50

And then there are the other treats. Deep-fried rice cake is right up my starch alley. The flat rice cakes are chewy on the inside, protected by a crust of gold. We dip them in chilli sauce and savour them slowly.

Wild vegetables and pork wonton soup $6.00

We carefully portion out the vegetable and pork wontons. The soup is clear and refreshing, a huddle of wontons floating amongst the sprinkling of green onions.

Pork with garlic chive dumplings $7.20

Pork and garlic chive dumplings are sturdy crescents of bite-sized goodness. We douse them liberally with vinegar and soy. Again, these aren't delicate morsels but hearty village fare.

Shredded pork with green bean starch sheet cold noodle $11.80

The green bean starch cold noodle salad is the sleeper hit for our table of seven. Cellophane noodles of mung bean are slippery on the tongue with a likeable chewiness to them. Tinged a pale brown from the dressing of soy, the cool noodles are constrasted with crunchy shreds of carrot and cucumber, ribbons of pork, a smattering of sesame seeds and coriander garnish.

Chicken with chestnuts in hot pot $13.80

The dishes continue.

Hotpot of chicken with chestnuts is a simple homestyle dish. Small pieces of chicken are salty and sweet, perfumed with the flavour of star anise. The small bits of bone necessitate a little patience to eat the chicken. Treasures of shiitake mushroom and chestnut are found buried at the bottom of our hotpot.

Pan-fried pork bun with shallots $8.50

One of my favourite dishes here is the pan-fried pork bun with shallots. A celebration of guilty pleasures, these pork-filled buns are steamed then pan-fried for a crispy brown bottom. How could you say no?

Shallot pancake $4.50

A serve of shallot pancake is all folds and layers and green onion and crunch. It's rich but good, especially when tempered with generous dabs of chilli sauce.

Savoury soy milk $4.50

Savoury soy milk is a traditional breakfast for many Shanghainese. I'm more used to sweetened soy milk so I find its saltiness a little too foreign for my palate to comprehend. The Shanghainese at our table are homesick but happy.

Sweet white fungus and papaya $3.80

It goes on!

The sweet soup of white fungus and papaya is extremely cool and refreshing. Cooked for a long time, the fungus has lost its usual crunchy texture and become soft and silky instead. It tastes sweet and medicinal, in a good way.

Red bean pancake $4.80

Another Shanghai Night favourite: the red bean pancake. The thin crispy pastry envelopes a generous filling of sweetened red bean. It's not as oily as you'd expect, although one piece each is more than enough for each of us by this point.

We've eaten ourselves stupid. We'd chomped our way through six serves of xiao long bao (that's 48 dumplings between 7 people) and we even have a takeaway container with leftovers we can't bear to abandon. Our dinner bill comes to a mind boggling $25 a head, not much more than the $20 I'd spent at Din Tai Fung for a light--albeit elegant--lunch.

It's poky, it's crowded, it's ridiculously cheap. No wonder I love this place so much.

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Shanghai Night
275 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 8437

Open 7 days 10am-10pm
Cash only

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Dumplings - Shanghai Night (Mar 06)

Dumplings - China Noodle King
Dumplings - Chinese Noodle Rest'rant (Jun 07) and (Oct 04)
Dumplings - Daniang Dumpling
Dumplings - Din Tai Fung
Dumplings - East Ocean yumcha (Aug 06), (Aug 05) and (Oct 04)
Dumplings - Uighur Cuisine
Dumplings - Zilver (Jan 07) and (Feb 06)

Ashfield - Ashfield Hotel
Ashfield - Crocodile Farm Hotel
Ashfield - Polish Club
Ashfield - Shanghai Night (Jul08) and (Mar06)
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/24/2008 11:19:00 pm


  • At 7/25/2008 9:00 am, Blogger Y said…

    How funny. I was just talking with the family yesterday about soup dumplings and someone mentioned Ashfield as being the place to go. All that food looks so amazing! If only Ashfield was next door.. ;P

  • At 7/25/2008 2:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this place. It is so cheap and I always walk out totally full in my tummy :O)
    I highly recommend this to. best place in Sydney to get dumplings without a doubt and I have tried many!!

  • At 7/26/2008 8:38 am, Blogger Nora B. said…

    Heard so much about this place, but unfortunately I don't eat pork.

    On a different note, just in case you are interested, Ferragosto 2008 is on 17th August at the usual spot and time:

    I missed out last year, this time I am prepared :-)

    Have a good weekend,

  • At 7/26/2008 2:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with you. This is the best! Its so good, I'm heading there tonight with friends so that I can try more on their delectable menu!

  • At 7/26/2008 11:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Funnily enough, I'm planning on going to Shanghai Night next week :) I am salivsting at the prospect already!!! LOL.

  • At 7/27/2008 3:04 pm, Blogger Rachel said…

    Yum! I can't wait to try this place ... it looks like a great find. BTW what are the bits floating in the savoury soy milk?

  • At 7/28/2008 10:10 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - The food is so cheap and so tasty. It's worth the trek :)

    Hi Anon - Yup it has its legions of fans. With good reason!

    Hi Nora B - There are non-pork dishes like chicken wontons, crispy skin duck and stewed river fish.

    And thanks for the reminder about Ferragosto. I've got a note in the diary :)

    Hi Einna - Hope you enjoyed your meal :)

    Hi aptronym - Lucky you. Enjoy the dumplings!

    Hi Rachel - It was a mix of fungus and tofu. All very delicious :) Our version also came with chilli oil.

  • At 7/29/2008 3:39 pm, Blogger hazchem said…

    and to think, during World catholicsannoysydney Day i had a craving for dumplings but didn't want to venture into the CBD.

    Despite going to Shanghai Night MANY times since your post in 2006, do you think I could remember them?

    Why didn't you post this during WYD? Then I would have remembered and not gone dumpling-less! ;-)

  • At 7/29/2008 8:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    just had dinner w/ p 2 days before u posted this.. haha.. wasnt that hungry though so we just tried shallot pancake and beef brisket!.. next time ill try the dumplings.. :D

  • At 7/30/2008 7:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Phew! I am so glad that I finally made it there last night after all your raves about it :) I will definitely go back there.

    A friend of mine is taking his family to SN on Saturday. I sent him to your blog to he could do some drooling :D

    Have you tried the other Shanghainese place next door and the one opposite? I am curious about those as well....

  • At 7/31/2008 12:05 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi hazchem - Tut tut. At least from now on you'll remember: Think dumplings. Think Ashfield. lol

    Hi Kay - Oh you must have the xiao long bao! And the crispy bottom buns. And the red bean pancakes! Must try! Must try! :)

    Hi aptronym - Glad you finally made it. I haven't tried the other Shanghainese places - I'm too afraid I'll be disappointed. Maybe I could do a three-stage meal across all three restaurants instead :)

  • At 8/01/2008 12:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've always found that the place next door was better? I love love love that Ashfield is so much more affordable than Din Tai Fung as well, although after dining there, i keep craving the uber thin pastry casing... mmmm....
    Ahhh... i ate a whole plate of the shallot pancakes by myself @ my last visit! :)

  • At 8/06/2008 5:22 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jen - I noticed you had blogged about New Shanghai. Call me a traditionalist, but I love cramped and dowdy decor - somehow it makes the food taste better and it always means instant atmosphere :)

  • At 8/14/2008 4:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I went there last week after being told way too many times to go :)
    The shallot pancakes were most impressive..especially dipped in the sauce from the cucumber garlic salad...and how good are the xiao long bao! 2nd only to Din Tai Fung methinks.

    Hope you're well :)

  • At 8/14/2008 10:43 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mel - Glad you finally made it. And yep the shallot pancakes are pretty tasty. Now there's the torture of delicious memories and urgent cravings to look forward to :)


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