Where to Find the Best Sheng Jian Bao In Los Angeles

Pork fried buns at Go Go Cafe | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Sheng jian bao, Shanghai-style buns that are far less renowned than xiao long bao, each contain a ground pork patty, though you’ll occasionally find seafood or vegetable variations. These pan-fried wonders are typically studded with sesame seeds, with crispy bottoms, supple tops, and definitely have the potential to scald your tongue. Thicker skins that other dumplings or potstickers allow SJB to contain gelatinized stock that turns to steaming soup when cooking, though that element is only occasionally utilized in L.A.

The filling is normally pretty rich, so a lot of people like to incorporate tangy vinegar (and sometimes vinegar mixed with soy sauce). Either dip in the sauce or bite a hole in the SJB wall and pour the sauces directly into the core before powering through the rest. Chasing each sheng jian bao with sips of hot jasmine tea also helps cut the richness.

Keep in mind that Shanghai-style restaurants list sheng jian bao under menu translations like “pan-fried pork buns” or “pan fried bao.” Now indulge in 10 of L.A.’s best options.

Sheng jian bao at China Red | Photo by Joshua Lurie

China Red

Carol Xu Zhang shook up L.A.’s dim sum scene with the 2013 arrival of China Red, which plugs in the color red whenever possible and favors checklists over cart service. It’s not all that often that you’ll find sheng jian bao on a dim sum menu, but China Red sells Pan Fried Pork Bun ($3.38) in trios. L.A. has juicier versions, but the dough is soft, the bases crispy, and the pork and soup savory instead of sweet. China Red’s sheng jian bao feature white sesame at the base and black sesame up top for texture’s sake.

Pan fried bao at Dumpling House | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Dumpling House

This dough peddler resides right down Baldwin Avenue from Santa Anita Park and China Red. The space features glass on two sides, red signs, and minimal embellishment. Dumpling House is a reliable place to get Shanghai style dumplings and noodles. Pan Fried Bao ($6.20) take the form of six unadorned pork buns that are fairly juicy, with seared bottoms that provide pleasant but not pronounced textural contrast.

Pork fried buns at Go Go Cafe | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Go Go Cafe

Arcadia is a sheng jian bao hotbed, and Go Go Café is yet another restaurant in the city that’s strong on the dish. Chef Eva Jheng hails from Tianjin City, not far from Beijing, and her partner oversees a small dining room decorated with lucky cats, a Napa cabbage statue, and model ship. Pork Fried Buns ($7.49) involve six airy buns with crispy sesame bases, black sesame on top, airy bun, and rosy leek-flecked pork core with minimal juice. Go Go Cafe also sells a seafood version of fried buns for an extra 50 cents.

Pan fried bun with pork, egg and shrimp at JTYH | Photo by Joshua Lurie

JTYH Heavy Noodle II

This knife-cut noodle specialist resurfaced in Rosemead after years of “Heavy Noodling” in Monterey Park and officially still goes by Shanxi Dao Xiao Mian. Chef Shi Peng serves serious Pan Fried Bun with Pork, Egg & Shrimp ($7.55 for 5, $9.55 for 10) with fluffy structures, batter skirts, and little residual juice, but big flavor. JTYH also creates versions of sheng jian bao with either pork or leeks with glass noodles and egg.

Shanghai Small Pan Fried Pork Bao at Kang Kang Food Court | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Kang Kang

This Alhambra institution from John Ye has spawned branches in Monterey Park and Temple City. The original Kang Kang Court location is in a double decker strip mall with cafeteria-style display case and a mural of the Yangtze River’s towering rock formations. Signs read: “Caution! The temperature of all food & soup is very high.” That adage holds true for their standout Shanghai Small Pan Fried Pork Bao ($7.57) eight buns with crisp, chewy bases and a sprinkling of black sesame and scallions. Bite a hole and be prepared for a rush of steaming soup.

Pan fried pork bun at Little Shanghai | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Little Shanghai

Little Shanghai has been part of Pacific Plaza food court since 2010, featuring yellow walls, red lanterns, wood tables and photo menus. Their Pan Fried Pork Bun ($5.50) is especially good. An order of eight buns features crispy bases, black and white sesame seeds up top, along with clipped scallions. Buns spurt delectable juice with each bite.

Fried pork buns at Mama Lu's Dumpling House | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Mama Lu's Dumpling House

Mama Lu’s is a popular café with two locations right near each other in Monterey Park. The original location on Garvey houses wood booths with wavy red and brown backs, a white 3D wall, and faux brick. The occasional Yanni concert plays on TV. Fried Pork Buns ($6.50) feature six buns with cakey texture that are browned on the top and bottom and contain sweet pork patties flecked with scallions and cabbage.

Pan fried dumpling at Mei Long Village | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Mei Long

This San Gabriel institution from Frances Lu Fang Guo is located on ground floor of Prospect Plaza. The dining room houses wood tables, yellow clothed rounds for larger groups, and walls sporting mirrors and watercolor paintings. Pan Fried Dumpling ($6.95) fry in peanut oil, yielding burnished bums and chewy walls. Each order comes garnished with scallions and with dish of vinegar and ginger.

Pan fried Shanghai style bun at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village

This elaborate Shanghai-style restaurant resides on the second floor of San Gabriel’s Life Plaza Center. The dining room showcases black and silver chairs, red walls, garish chandeliers, and old black and white photos of Shanghai. During dim sum hours, each order of Pan Fried Shanghai Style Bun ($2.98) involves three buns. Each fluffy bao features a crispy sesame-lined base, black sesame and scallions up top, and a bottle of black vinegar.