Lao Ban Zhai (老半斋)
600 Fu Zhou Road
A bunch of us headed to Lao Ban Zhai for lunch one day. It’s constantly crowded, and as I later learned, they actually sell out of their famous dumplings and rice. It’s a very no-nonsense kind of place – you hurriedly place your order after looking at the lit-up (Chinese only) menu up above, then head over to the counter where they hand you your food – canteen style. Only then do you get to sit down in the restaurant and tuck in ;) The system works, because they really do get people in and out quickly – it’s all really efficient.
I just let everyone order for the table, since I didn’t have much of a clue what the menu said. They ordered well, I enjoyed all the food, with some big standouts. The Xiao Long Bao / 小笼包 (aka “small dragon dumplings”) was actually pretty good. Surprising because I’ve found that the Shanghainese xiao long bao are actually not that great – the skin tends to be quite thick and chewy, and there’s no luscious soup inside. But these were good, though nowhere near as good as Din Tai Fung’s!
Their sheng jian bao / 生煎包 (aka “healthy fried dumplings”, I think?) were AMAZING. I’ve had a few around Shanghai, and they’re average-to-poor. These, however, were superb. The fluffy bun exterior was warm and spongey, fried crisp on the bottom and sprinkled with shallots. Nestled inside was pork (just like “xiao long baos” have) and a burst of soup when you take a bite. It was so so so tasty!! I’ve been dreaming of them since and will go back this week for more :)~
The other star dish was their cai fan / 菜饭 (aka “vegetable rice”). It came glistening and moist, just begging to be chowed into. It’s basically white rice mixed in with shredded vegetables, and cooked in a ton of beef fat. Sounds unappetizing but it makes an AWESOME dish – full of flavour and so moist! Loved loved loved it.
Will go back this week, keep your fingers crossed they don’t sell out by the time we get there!
Lao (something something)
Xiao Long Bao
Delicious Sheng Jian Bao
Incredible Cai Fan
Dumpling soup, loved this one too!
Various meat and tofu dishes
Big bowl of noodles
Very happy with our selections ;)