Battle of the buns

By Xu Junqian ( Shanghai Star ) Updated: 2015-01-23 10:33:11

"It’s the melted jelly, made from a frozen mixture of things like hogskin, chicken feet, and chicken soup, which also contains a rich amount of protein and collagen," says the 41-year-old chef at one of the most coveted restaurants serving Shanghai cuisine in the city."

Guotie is a signature snack in Du’s kitchen, taking the place of other desserts as an unusual finish and a must-order for the sweet-toothed Shanghainese and visitors who want a bite of the snack.

"Most restaurants do not serve that (as an after-meal snack) because its fried feature easily makes people feel greasy at the end of big feast," says Du. His secret is the dipping sauce for the dumpling.

A handful of shredded red peppers together with white sesame is spread on the fragrant vinegar, adding a spicy balance to the dumpling. Although shengjian is also offered at the restaurant, Du attributes the popularity of his dumpling, arguably one of the most famous dumplings in town, to the rarity of offerings, and of course, its divine taste, he jokes, confidently.

Although it is difficult to trace the origins of the first shengjian or guotie, it’s widely believed that the two, which for many non-Shanghainese differ only in shape, originated in 1920’s Shanghai. One of the earliest eateries offering shengjian was Da Hu Chun, which began as a temporary stall by the door of a popular teahouse.

This also explains the dumpling’s Chinese name that literally means "the spring of big teapot". While the teahouse has long disappeared, the savory snack enjoyed by tea-drinkers has continued on. Despite the growing complaints from older generations that the buns are losing their authentic flavor with the rise of new food chains such as Yang’s, there are still many places in Shanghai to eat the popular snacks. Da Hu Chun (71 Yunnan Road S,021-6311-5177)remains the ultimate Mecca for foodies looking for a taste of the snacks.

Other places for a taste of shengjian or guotie

Xiang Xing Ji Shengjian 

Address: 7 Wanhangdu Road, Jing’an district

Tel: 021-5299-0919

Bei Wan Xin for guotie

Address: 111 Ruijin Er Road 

Tel: 021-6466-2962

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