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Chinese Cuisine

4 Great Shen Jian Baos (aka Pan-Fried Buns) in the SGV

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Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Shang Ming Restaurant, San Gabriel - JIM THURMAN
  • Jim Thurman
  • Shang Ming Restaurant, San Gabriel
If you've spent any time in the San Gabriel Valley, you're familiar with xiao long baos, the tiny pork or pork and crab stuffed dumplings that have achieved cult status in the last few years. Today, we're taking a look at another Shanghainese bun, variously named shen jian bao or sheng jian bao. (Yes, technically a bao is a bread; but XLB are mostly referred to as dumplings, and these baos are more bun-like, so we're calling them buns. Semantics being what they are.)

Filled with pork broth and a ground pork, as are XLBs, shen jian baos are pan-fried instead of steamed. Sesame seeds encrust the caramelized surface, giving them their distinctive look -- and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and chopped spring onions on top makes these extraordinarily pretty as well as tasty. Shen jian baos can be found at most Shanghainese places in the SGV, but here are four notable versions.

click to enlarge Shang Ming Restaurant, San Gabriel - JIM THURMAN
  • Jim Thurman
  • Shang Ming Restaurant, San Gabriel
4. Shang Ming Restaurant

Located in a plaza known for its xiao long baos, Shang Ming took over a space known for previous late night Shanghainese eateries. They've continued the tradition, being open until 3 a.m. The shen jian baos here -- #135 on the menu, translated into English as cabbage with pork fried buns -- are nothing fancy, but nicely done with some cabbage mixed in with the ground meat. If it's Shanghainese food you're craving after midnight, this is the place. 301 W. Valley Blvd., Suite 110, San Gabriel; 626-282-5953.

click to enlarge Emperor Noodles, San Gabriel - JIM THURMAN
  • Jim Thurman
  • Emperor Noodles, San Gabriel
3. Emperor Noodles

Located across the street from the strip mall housing Golden Deli, Emperor Noodles features a small menu of Shanghainese dishes, including what is translated into English here as a pan-fried pork bun. The bao itself is a larger and doughier and the filling -- though well seasoned -- gets somewhat lost. But with a nicely browned exterior, these are both quite tasty and very well-priced. Served four to an order for $4.99. 800 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel; 626-281-2777.

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