Last weekend the girls and I tour a four hour Dumpling tour and cooking class. Our guide was an American woman who has lived in China for almost seven years. Her Mandarin was perfect. I'm always so impressed when someone has mastered such a difficult language. She told us to come hungry, and she was not kidding.
The tour took place in the French Concession area. We first went to a small stall run by a young married couple. They only make one kind of dumpling, a pan-fried guotie like a pot sticker, and they are always sold out by midday. Most dumplings in Shanghai are filled with pork, and then some with variations of vegetable, etc. If you don't want pork, you would have to let the guide know ahead of time, and she would select shops that have alternatives.
Next we had fantastic Xiaolongbao, Shanghai soup dumplings. The tiny shop had six tables and run by a married couple. While we were dining, the whole extended family (grandma, grandpa, grandson) sitting in the corner. It is really normal in China to see the whole family in the shop, just hanging out. The guide told us that many people will come to this restaurant and buy dumplings uncooked, then rush them home to steam them for dinner or freeze them. These were the best Xiaolongbao we've had, with a really flavorful broth inside.
We also stopped to have JianBing which is an egg crepe filled with scallions, crispy wonton and hoisin. Very common breakfast to eat on-the-go. Crunchy on the inside and hot & delicious! Then off to a street cafe to have steamed Jiaozi with celery and cabbage. This was around lunch time, and lots of workers were lined-up buying from other street vendors. All the workers were hot and sweaty from a morning of hard physical labor. They had these heaping platters of rice, vegetables and a little meat. They all were drinking big bottles of Suntory beers with their lunches. Ahh, that must be why we see so many people taking an afternoon siesta.
Now it was off to the cooking class. The cooking school is in a house in French Concession area. It looked like half the house was their residence and the other half was a glassed-in porch used for the class. The instructor spoke Mandarin and our tour guide translated.