Melbourne's Best Snacks: A Little Joy's shengjianbao

Published on 14 September 2021

Photo: A Little Joy's shengjianbao (illustration: Beci Orpin)

Combining the yeasty paunch of the baozi with the secret soupy surprise of the xiaolongbao, the crisp-bottomed shengjianbao is the hybrid dumpling that does it all.

Most commonly filled with pork, prawns, vegetables, or a combination thereof, shengjianbao are topped with spring onion and sesame seeds and fried solid on the bottom – a technique that does as much for preventing soup loss as it does to create its signature two-tone texture.

But it’s all about the dough. They’re tricky to get right, says Sam Chen, owner of A Little Joy, because you need to know “what and how much flour raising agent to mix, and the max time and temperature you can expose the dough to air before it gets too fluffy”.

Though popular Chinese chain Yang’s landed up the road a couple of years ago, you won’t find better shengjianbao than at Chen’s four-seater hole-in-the-wall in the inauspicious Target Centre in the CBD. Just be prepared to wait a minute. “It normally takes about eight minutes to get a fresh serve,” Chen says. 

“Chinese people generally know about the process and are happy to wait, but we found that Western people generally fancy a quick bite.” 

A Little Joy, Target Centre, 222 Bourke St, Melbourne

By Frank Sweet

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