As my companion and I stopped at the Four Seasons Juice Bar for our weekly carrot-beet-ginger concoction, I noticed a woman at the Shanghai Gourmet counter scooping a multi-colored filling into rounds of dough and expertly crimping them into lovely dumplings.
“Did you see that?” I whispered to my companion, to which he responded with a shrug and a head shake. “She’s making dumplings by hand. A lot of the restaurants in Chinatown don’t even do that, I bet. Let’s go there.”
Truth be told, Shanghai Gourmet was not a place I was looking forward to on my quest to eat everywhere at the Reading Terminal Market. I eat a lot of Asian food–Vietnamese in South Philly, where I live, and various Chinese and South Asian options in Chinatown where my companion lives. But handmade dumplings! Surely this elevated Shanghai Gourmet over the strip mall Chinese restaurants of college Friday nights.
And it does, though the dumplings on the menu were certainly not the ones I saw being made (ordered: steamed chicken dumplings, which were simply filled with ground chicken and served with a slightly sweet soy sauce. seen: vibrant bowl of filling with vegetables and probably pork being lovingly if speedily ladled into dough. What happened to those dumplings?) but they were tasty. While we were surrounded by loud, obnoxious children refusing to eat their meals–note to self: why don’t children like to eat? why are they so stupid?–our food came out with the rapidity one expects from a pho joint. My companion had kung pao shrimp, while I tried the general tso’s bean curd, both specials.
Both were tasty, though approximately the temperature of lava, so be wary of your tongues, eaters! My tso was sweet and sticky, while also maintaining an appropriate level of spice, especially with copious additions of chili sauce, although the bean curd seemed a bit flaccid.
My companion’s shrimp was plentiful, also spicy and strewn with peanut halves.
Of particular note was the fact that as soon as the obnoxious families cleared out, the other seats at the counter were taken by workers from Reading Terminal Market vendors–an Amish lady barking orders about her meal and a man from DiNic’s who wanted his usual, with extra veggies and sauce. Such loyalty, as well as the genuinely lovely attitude of the man working the counter, makes Shanghai Gourmet a good choice for above-average Chinese. Plus, it’s cheap! Each entree was approximately $6, while an order of wonton soup to go was $1.50 (and led my companion to begin singing the NSFW lyrics to this based rap gem by Lil B: Swag! Lil B, like my blog!)
Recommended: kung pao shrimp, addictive steamed chicken dumplings.