Last fall a friend alerted me to the question posed in Sara Deseran’s piece in 7x7,
“ . . . But I have to wonder: Does Melanie Wong know about the spicy dumplings? They’re a delicious Shanghai House off-the-menu specialty that my friends tipped me off to the other night.
Melanie probably does. The Chowhounds have probably written a manifesto about them and there’s probably a correct Chinese name for them that I don’t know about. But until someone lets me know otherwise, I'm going to call them SD for short.”
I had to confess that “SDs” were news to me. Further, I hadn’t been to Shanghai House at all yet, possibly the greater failing given its popularity among chowhounds.
This tip sat on the back burner until a few weeks ago when Sunday brunch plans in NOPA fell apart at the last minute. Standing on Anza Street trying to decide what to do now, I remembered Shanghai House and we made a journey to the west for a dumpling adventure. Scanning the menu, I saw that plain shui jiao (boiled dumplings) were among the offerings and asked if they were available with red oil. Our server said, “You want spicy dumplings?” Bingo.
We started with a basket of xiao long bao (XLB). As others have described, good flavor but juicy rather than soupy filling, and the skins were just a shade too thick but enjoyable nonetheless.
Next was a green onion pancake that was just dreadful, wet and doughy in the middle. Even the exterior was soggy and tough, so my usual trick of peeling away the outer layer and discarding an undercooked middle portion was of no use.
Then the knife-cut noodles, ordered as a stir-fry version. The noodles themselves were as good as any, chewy and firm with wavy, ragged edges and uneven widths and lengths for a most satisfying textural play. Good seasonings, but the palate impact suffered because the carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, and scallions were not cooked enough to release their flavor. As can be seen in the photo, the veggies weren’t even wilted, staying crunchy and raw, barely warmed through. Too bad the cook rushed these out of the wok, as this dish could have been a contender. While we agreed that Joy’s version is tastier, we still fought over the last of the toothsome noodle fragments.
Knife-cut, handmade noodles
The spicy dumplings were a good call. Our batch looked like the skins were just a little thicker than the ones in the 7x7 shot, and had a good bite to them. Made fresh, the dumplings’ pork filling was juicy and richly flavored. Bathed in the complex red oil and topped with minced garlic, these revved-up shui jiao turned into something even more delectable. These won’t make me forget the dumplings at Albany’s China Village, however, I think Shanghai House does a better job with shui jiao than San Tung here in the City.
Shui jiao in red oil -
So, thank you, Ms. Deseran for finding the SDs and calling me out. Now I have a question: isn’t it just a wee bit vainglorious to name a chow find after oneself?
1489 Beach Park Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404
1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
San Tung Chinese Restaurant
1031 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121
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