Every dumpling lover, and there are many of us out there, should know a great local dumpling shop. A place devoted to the art of crafting plump little dumplings from dawn to dusk, where there is always a pot on the boil ready to cook a freshly-made batch at any time. A simple, warm and inviting shop no bigger than a single room, with tiny formica tables and plastic stools, and wisping tendrils of steam coming from the front door, where you can stop in anytime for your favourite kind of dumpling - pork and chinese cabbage breakfast dumplings, fragrant chive flower and shrimp afternoon dumplings, late night beef dumplings.
The Manchurian Dumpling Shop is my local dumpling joint, sitting at the end of a long narrow lane near my house, a secret pedestrian walkway between Nanchang Lu and Fuxing Lu. It doesn't look like much, with a single round sign outside bearing just two characters: 饺子，jiaozi or dumplings.
For months when I first moved back to Nanchang Lu
I thought The Manchurian was a wholesale dumpling shop, because every time I walked past customers were purchasing entire silver trays, as big as tabletops, full of freshly made dumplings.
Turns out I was wrong about that - The Manchurian is a regular dumpling shop where anyone can eat in or take away freshly made dumplings to cook at home, but with dumplings so good that for many customers, buying less than one hundred dumplings at a time is just a false economy. A dozen or so to eat now, the rest in the freezer for later.
The Manchurian belongs to a hard-working husband and wife, helped out by the husband's aunt. Like so many small business owners in Shanghai they work seven days a work, long, long days, and live above the shop.
When you enter the tiny space, you walk right into its dumpling-making heart with both women wrapping dumplings at one end of a long steel bench while the husband rolls round white circles of dumpling wrappers by hand at the other. The women move fast, scooping the shrimp, pork and vegetable filling into the centre of a dough circle, and pressing it expertly closed between both thumbs and forefingers to make a beautiful ruffled edge, a dough frill. Each one joins rows of fat white dumplings in a silver tray.
Steam billows from the tiny back kitchen where a batch of dumplings is cooking for the couple sitting in the miniature 'mezzanine', a low space stolen from above the kitchen, thus lowering the kitchen ceiling by several feet.
The Manchurian's menu runs to five items, with a space reserved for seasonal specialties. The 'Fine Handmade Dumplings' are sold by the liang 两, a traditional Chinese measure of weight equivalent to 50g. The menu states 'one liang is five dumplings'. Or, if you're a regular customer, occasionally six.
You can choose from:
Shepherd's purse (a leafy green vegetable) with meat and shelled fresh shrimp dumplings jicai rou xiaren jiaozi 荠菜肉虾仁饺子 6 yuan/liang (less than a dollar)
Beef dumplings niurou jiaozi 牛肉饺子 6 yuan/liang
Fragrant flowered chives and egg dumplings jiucai jidan jiaozi 韭菜鸡蛋饺子 6 yuan/liang
Chinese cabbage and pork dumplings baicai rou jiaozi 白菜肉饺子 5 yuan/liang
Fragrant flowered chives and pork dumplings jiucai rou jiaozi 韭菜肉饺子 5 yuan/liang
My favourites are the simplest - chinese cabbage and pork dumplings, boiled for a few minutes and eaten straight away dipped in strong Shanxi vinegar mixed with lajiao chili paste.
Aaahh. Dumplings. I find a liang of dumplings makes most problems disappear. You?
The Manchurian Dumpling Shop
Dongbei Manzu Jiaozi
Lane 1252, Fuxing Zhong Lu, Xuhui District Shanghai
Close to the Fuxing Lu lane entrance
Open seven days +86 21 64669197
Labels: chinese food, dumplings, Shanghai