Saturday, October 21, 2006

Shanghai Blues

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
#02-53 Parco Bugis Junction. Tel: 6835 7577

My wife N and I were actually heading for Madam Saigon at Liang Seah Street but as they close in between lunch and dinner, we ended up here in Bugis Junction. Preferring to have something light, Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant was our choice, as not only they were opened, we could get a nice window seat too!

This restaurant hails from the original famous Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao Restaurant at Yu Yuan Gardens in Shanghai. We first saw it there during the winter of 2004 but couldn’t get in as the place was overcrowded. The branch here in Bugis Junction has been around for about a year but N and I had never got the chance to step in till now.

Similar to the original restaurant in Shanghai, Xiao Long Bao of different grades and stuffing were its specialties as well as the Da tang bao, which is a broth filled pastry that comes complete with a drinking straw. Taking it as a late lunch early dinner kind of idea, we opted for two bowls of house made la mian with different variants, Seafood Spring Rolls, Cold Poached Chicken in Red Rice Wine Lees, Breaded Prawn Balls with Crab Roe as well as the must have Xiao Long Bao.

Food arrived pretty quick and with the Cold Poached Chicken taking the lead. It was pretty similar to Drunken Chicken with a nice infusion of the red wine lees giving it its characteristic wine flavour notes to the bland chicken. Served very cold, it was a pleasant refreshing flavour although I felt it could do better with a sprig or two of coriander and some finely sliced spring onions for garnish and a more enjoyable overall taste.
Arriving in as a group were the selected side dishes and Xiao Long Bao. These little wheat dough steamed buns are filled with a juicy filling that its best to appreciate it by first making a small bite on the pastry skin and sucking out the meat juices. Thereafter you dip it into the ginger and black vinegar dip before finishing it off at one go. Just remember to let the buns cool down a little before eating to avoid getting scalded by the steaming hot meat juices. The Seafood Spring Rolls were more like Samosas as they were each folded in a triangular shape. Expecting the standard run of the house type, we were pleasantly surprised by the unique filling combination of seafood, tofu and carrots. Some diced mushrooms were also added for texture and flavour.

The breaded prawn ball with crab roe and a juicy filling was done very well and eaten with the standard fermented bean sweet chili sauce, it was just great. The coating of breadcrumb cubes around the prawn ball provided a nice crisp to the juicy interior that was enriched with a small amount of crab roe. My wife N mentions that this dish reminds her of her favourite Almond Prawn Ball from Yan Palace Restaurant while I find a more similar resemblance to the Sotong Balls from the Old Kheng Luck Restaurant at Upper East Coast Road in the Seventies.

We had mixed feelings about the two noodles. Mine was Sliced Pork with Pickled Vegetables and La Mian in a Clear Broth 榨菜肉丝面while N had a Braised Pork Ribs with La Mian红烧排骨面. While the broth in N’s bowl tasted richer and a little creamy, her pork ribs were a let down. One would have expected the meat on the ribs to be falling off the bone tenderness after so many hours of simmering. Rather the meat was dry and tough, tasted more like Bak Kua (Chinese BBQ Dried Pork Slice). Even though the ribs may have been cook in a separate recipe, which I thought so since the colours between the ribs and the broth is so different, I would have at least expected the tenderness to be there. N gave up after 3 bites wishing she had ordered something else.

My noodles were better and the toppings of sliced pork with pickled vegetables were fairly generous. On a fair note, both the noodles were good on bite despite some disappointments with the pork ribs earlier. I was told before that to master of making hand pulled noodles, the ultimate is to get an all-even thickness of the noodles with the right exertion of force from your shoulder and arm muscles.

For desserts, we took on a Sweetened Fermented Rice with Wolfberries and Dumplings. It was pleasantly fragrant with winey notes from the fermented rice with nice chewy glutinous rice balls.

Overall this place is good if you want a quick bite and for resting your feet after all the shopping but I would think of specially coming down here just for the food. After all there are a few Din Tai Feng restaurants around and many other smaller outfits run by mainland Chinese serving such fare, which is just as good if not better.


Anonymous said...

Dear Chef Yong,

There's another eatery called NanXiang XiaoLongBao, it's located at Tiong Bahru, near the market & next to 7-11. It's much better than the 1 at Bugis Junction. The shop is small but the food is good & cheap. My favourites being xiaolong bao, shengjian bao, Shanghai nian gao & the hot & spicy soup. The Guihua tea that they serve is very fragrant too. Do try it.


Anonymous said...

hi Chef Yong,

had tried the nanxiang xiaolong bao both in shanghai and bugis, singapore. Honestly both were disappointing. i remembered queuing for more than 45mins for the baos and end up buying a few "baskets" (:P the kiasu syndrome)
i felt that the tang baos in shanghai were better though. The one i had was behind YuYuan gardens. vaguely remember they were selling for 4 for 2rmb!!!!