Location: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Last year, I checked out Sang-ji Fried Bao and tried the scallion oil noodles and the sang-ji bao (fried soup-filled pork buns). I thought it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly mind-blowing.
Well, I just had the exact same meal at Zheng’s Juicy Fried Buns, and suddenly I’m appreciating Sang-ji Fried Bao so, so much more.
Here’s a one word review of the meal I just had: yikes.
I started with the scallion oil noodles, which tasted like plain instant noodles tossed in a whole bunch of soy sauce (and a buttload of oil); it was greasy and one-note salty with absolutely none of the sweet complexity you associate with this dish. The deeply caramelized scallions were present, but they couldn’t do much to fight the face-punch of saltiness from the noodles themselves. It doesn’t help that the undercooked instant noodles were a complete bummer to eat.
The pan-fried buns weren’t much better. The wrapper was thick, gummy and unpleasantly doughy, and the would-be crispy bottom was actually just dry, like a stale cracker. The soupy filling was completely bland (it needed a lot of vinegar to be even remotely edible), and the pork was surprisingly tough and flavourless.
Sang-ji Fried Bao is about two kilometres north of here, and trust me: that’s the one you want. There’s no comparison.
Location: 330 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
If you’re looking for a delicious and delightfully affordable meal, you could absolutely do worse than Shanghai Dim Sum. If you show up before 11:00 AM (and you should definitely do this) you can order off a special early morning menu that includes an order of four soup dumplings for 99 cents.
99 cents! Are they they best soup dumplings you’ll ever have? No, but they’re quite tasty, and for the price, they’re outstanding.
Everything else was quite good as well. We managed to try a generous amount of stuff (I was quite full by the end of the meal) — the total bill? About 30 bucks for three people. You can’t argue with that price.
The restaurant also has the distinction of serving what might be the garlickiest dish I’ve ever had. The boiled pork with garlic paste features tender slices of pork belly doused in a sauce that’s effectively pure, uncooked garlic. It was actually quite tasty, but that garlic taste lingered on my palate for a solid 24 hours.
Location: 1 Byng Avenue, North York
Sang-ji bao are basically like a traditional soup dumpling’s (a.k.a. xiao long bao) more rugged cousin. They’re pan fried, with a slightly thicker skin and a dark brown crust on the bottom. Soup dumplings are delicious, but if you want something a bit more hearty, sang-ji bao’s got your back.
And as you’d probably guess from the name, Sang-ji Fried Bao specializes in the stuff. I was pretty excited to try it.
We started with the scallion oil noodles, an absolutely delightful flavour-bomb of oily (but not overly greasy) noodles topped with peanuts and fried scallions. The peanuts offer a nice crunchy contrast to the chewy noodles, and the imposingly dark fried scallions are packed with flavour and immensely satisfying.
I liked this dish even more than the fried dumplings.
The sang-ji bao were certainly nothing to scoff at — they’re pleasingly porky and packed with scalding hot soup. The wrapper is a bit too thick, however, and the whole thing is a touch on the bland side.
Still, it’s got that satisfyingly crispy bottom, and the whole thing is tasty enough, even if it’s not the best version of these things that I’ve ever had.