Only judge a dumpling by its skin


When Stephen and I came to look at the apartment we now live in, I barely glanced at the tiny hole-in-the wall restaurant across the street. I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and thought something to the effect of, “Huh, dingy.” When we asked about the neighborhood, our future landlord mentioned that there was a place to get the best dumplings she’d eaten since she was last in Shanghai. It barely flickered through my mind that she was referring to the restaurant I’d seen before, that tiny establishment then called Shanghai Dumpling Shop.
After we’d moved in and explored, we realized that she could have meant no other place. Our first tentative foray into their menu ranks as one of our most treasured Bay Area surprises. The dumplings are indeed fantastic. So fantastic, some of the devotees like to keep them a secret. We can’t help but feel possessive of this neighborhood jewel, tucked into the Outer Richmond, far from Chinatown and yet so much closer to China itself.

The restaurant recently closed for a few days for a fresh coat of paint, a new sign, and a new name: Shanghai Dumpling King. The redecoration was minimal, you’d still never come for the ambience, but at last, it has a name that reflects the supremecy of the food. Tejal mentioned that very often, places with names like Queen of Suchandsuch or Whatever Palace are usually greasy dives of the least charming sort. This place is another welcome exception.
The dumplings and noodles are fresh and handmade, and possess such a delicate texture that they can ruin a girl for any other standard takeout potsticker. The Shanghai Steamed Dumpling is a masterpiece. Rather rare in the United States, it goes more frequently by the moniker soup dumpling. A fat pillow that must be eaten from a deep spoon, the first bite reveals a gush of hot broth and a savory pork meatball. Despite the messy slurping and ever-present danger of a scalded palate, they are revelation, rich with pork fat and wrapped in one of those marvelous handmade skins.
The fragrant and oniony Boiled Chive Dumpling is another favorite, as are the Spicy Wontons, floating in a chile oil bath. But really, anything starchy is a sure thing. My visting family has mourned the marvelous noodles ever since they went back to Tennessee. The meat and seafood dishes are hit or miss and feature a number of authentic items, like Cow Stomach and Fish Head Casserole, and Pork Esophagus with Rice Vermicelli, that I haven’t been brave enough to try.
I’ve eaten my fair share of dim sum, and rarely have they been as lovingly prepared as those at Shanghai Dumpling King, and even more rarely have then been so affordable. At just $4.25 for a order of most varities, it easy to order more than you can eat and taste a bit of everything. Most of it will be delicious; this is one restaurant where the sign doesn’t lie.

Posted in Dining Around, Food
10 comments on “Only judge a dumpling by its skin
  1. tejal says:

    mmm. I really want to go eat there with you before I leave–never had a soup dumpling before!

  2. Martha says:

    Indeed. Some day later this week, do you want to come up, eat dumplings and watch Pride and Prejudice?

  3. tejal says:

    oooh! That sounds so good! I’ll call you tonight.

  4. Smruti says:

    hey, the Outer Richmond is a measly 10 minute drive from my digs…what’s the address of the restaurant? mmmm, dumplings:)

  5. Martha says:

    Oops, I meant to put the address in the post. It’s 3319 Balboa (between 34th and 35th).

  6. Smruti says:

    thanks, can’t wait to go check it out:)

  7. martha'smom says:

    Nathan and I have been craving the noodles and dumplings since we ate there in Dec. There is nothing in middle TN that even comes close. And we have tried every place around that serves dumplings and noodles. Guess I’ll have to wait until I come to visit before I’ll have that particular craving fufilled.

  8. daria says:

    I wonder when you are going to add new restaurant reviews in SF. I have never met you but you seem like my people. I have a list of yummy places you can try.

  9. Martha says:

    For whatever reason, restaurant reviews are the hardest things to write. I think it’s because it reminds us of the actual, serious writing in which we were trained, and we have hard time throwing them up in the casual, bloggy way we do everything else. But I promise, I’m working on it. Just posted a review of Aziza, in fact.

  10. daria says:

    I wrote a little food zine with restaurant reviews that I have been meaning to post on my blog. Lately I enjoy reading meandering food writing rather than plain old restaurant reviews. I guess the trouble is that restaurant reviews feel formulaic to me and I’d rather tell a story and not focus on things like table service. Thanks for keeping me posted.

Leave a Reply