We’re going to do something different here: We’re going to tell you about a restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley that isn’t a new Sichuan-style place or even a new restaurant at all. Shanghai Dumpling House opened in Monrovia in 2012 and relocated to its current location in San Gabriel’s Hilton Plaza the following year. And it still has one of the best Nanxiang-style pork soup dumplings around.
As the name implies, Shanghai Dumpling House is a dumpling and noodle place featuring Shanghainese-style dishes. You’ll see a menu of 80 items (double the amount from their Monrovia days), including noodle soups, appetizers and even a few hot pots. But it’s the Shanghai-style dim sum portion of the menu, which makes up one-quarter of the selections, that should demand your attention.
Like at most Shanghai restaurants, there are rice balls in fermented rice soup (tang yuan), the small glutinous rice balls filled with sesame paste and served in a hot, clear broth. The chewy-textured Shanghai fried rice cake (niangao) is a stir-fry of glutinous rice that's pounded, rolled and sliced, then mixed with Chinese cabbage and chicken in a brown sauce. Of course, there is also xiao long bao, those Chinese soup dumplings (also called XLBs) that have an almost cultish following among L.A. food lovers.
The xiao long bao are the highlight at Shanghai Dumpling House, both for their skins and their fillings. XLB skin has been known to stoke vigorous debates, and the ones here are considered Nanxiang-style (after the suburb near Shanghai where they originated from), meaning they have thinner skins than most.
In addition to a wonderfully soupy pork version and your common pork-and-crab and pork-and-shrimp varieties, Shanghai Dumpling House also has two variations not commonly seen: spicy pork and salted egg yolk and pork. In the latter, the saltiness of the egg yolk blends with the pork meatball in a dumpling so juicy that one slip while taking a bite might result in a squirt up one’s nose or across the table (not that we've ever experienced such a mishap ourselves).
The xiao long bao are supple and remarkably well constructed. Be sure to ask for shredded ginger with your order, too, so you can have the proper accompaniment for the black vinegar on the table. And at $6.95 for a basket of pork xiao long bao, these different dumplings are a great deal too.
Shanghai Dumpling House: 227 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel; (626) 282-1348