You’d be hard pressed to find anything very good to eat at most food courts, let alone one of the best versions of an item. But the simply named Food Court in Rowland Heights has some of the best xiao long baos in the entire San Gabriel Valley. At the court's Little Shanghai Restaurant, you’ll find excellent soup dumplings among a huge menu of Shanghainese-style dishes.
Xiao long bao originated in the Shanghai area and have gone on to become one of the better known Chinese cuisine exports. They are extremely popular in Greater Los Angeles — something anyone who's stood in line at Din Tai Fung (or who's allowed the ones from Shanghai Dumpling House to squirt them in the face) can attest to. Devotees have been known to debate various components of XLB, ranging from appearance to skin thickness to the amount and flavor of the broth.
After you enter the door of the food court at Pacific Plaza, Little Shanghai is to the left, just past the watch repair place. You’ll invariably see one table taken up with cooking sheets of various baos. The XLB are served no frills, with just a small plastic cup of dipping sauce with strands of ginger. The skin is a bit thicker than at Din Tai Fung, but not by much. Some have reported less broth, though in our experience this too was not significantly so. And at $4.99, the XLB are a great bargain as well.
There are 112 items on the menu. This would be impressive for a brick-and-mortar, but it's astonishing for a small place in a food court. Among the other items is another Shanghai favorite, sheng jian bao. On the menu as Pork Pan Fried Bun, the SJB is both pan-fried and steamed and known for its crisp, crunchy bottom and chewy, doughy top. Most of your other notable Shanghainese dishes are available, but first and foremost Little Shanghai is a dumpling, noodle and bao house.
Little Shanghai also has zongzi, triangles of sticky glutinous rice filled with various items, wrapped in a leaf and steamed. Six versions are available, from pork to sweet versions such as red bean, which you dip in a small cup of sugar. Bags of frozen dumplings are available to take home and steam at your convenience, as are zongzi and baos.
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We covered this particular food court fairly recently with the now departed King of Mackerel and Shrimp. Two new restaurants have opened just in the last few days, and tenants seem in a perpetual state of flux — the only constants being a steak house and Little Shanghai. That alone says tons about their xiao long bao and sheng jian bao.
Little Shanghai Restaurant, Pacific Plaza Food Court,18457 Colima Road Rowland Heights; (626) 964-8838.