As much as I like Shanghainese food, I was getting a little tired of alternating between Mei Long Village and Shanghai Xiao Chi every time I have a craving for it, so it came as pleasant news when I heard about Wang Jia Sha. The small restaurant is further east and north of where I usually go for my Chinese food fix, but it was worth the trip.
After we ordered, the waiter plopped down a little plate of pickled vegetables. I’m not sure if they pickled the vegetables in house or just combined the mixture in house, but it was appetizing. The salty-sour pickles reminded me more of something my Cantonese mom would serve, but hey, I’m not complaining.
A standard vegetarian Shanghainese dish is kou fu, which I almost always order whenever I’m at a new Shanghainese restaurant. Wang Jia Sha’s was pretty good. Like most dishes from the region, it was slightly sweet as well as savory. It also had none of the canned kou fu taste, so I assume and hope that this was made in house as well.
Xiao Long Bao is another usual I order. It was only okay at this restaurant. The filling didn’t stand out as excellent and the wrapper had some inconsistencies. I’m not a stickler for super-thin XLB wrapping, but this one was just too thick at the top. Being too thick up there makes it doughy because the wrapper can’t be cooked through all the way.
We also ordered some steamed vegetable buns. These were filled with mushrooms and jie cai, which I still can’t figure out the English name for. It’s the ubiquitous leafy green we see in a lot of Shanghainese dishes. The filling was decent and the bun part was light and delicate, but this isn’t somewhere I’d go specifically for buns.
Our stir fried string beans dish fared better. By just looking at it, I didn’t think they had cooked this at high enough heat. The skins were not as puckered or browned as other places made it, so I thought it was underdone, but one bite changed my mind. The beans had a nice, lingering smokey aftertaste to them even though they weren’t as stir fried as I’d prefer.
For my meat dish, I ordered the Shanghai short ribs. They look kind of like what you’d get from Panda Express, don’t they? Luckily, they’re about fifty times better. The bite-sized pieces of meat are first battered and deep fried, then stir fried in a sticky savory and sweet sauce. Don’t worry about the sauce being too sweet. It was a good balance. These were cooked perfectly so that the batter was still crispy while also being coated in sauce — not an easy feat.
Of course, we also ordered the stir fried nien gao with jie cai. These were disappointing. The nien gao (rice ovals) were too soft and mushy when they should have been soft and chewy. A Shanghainese restaurant should know how to make the perfect nien gao!
Although we should have called it quits by then, I was a glutton and it was the night of the Moon Festival so I ordered dessert: a small serving of jiu niang tan yuen which is a sweet fermented rice porridge with black sesame-filled rice balls (mochi). This came piping hot and delicious. It usually comes with egg stirred in, but I asked them to leave it out because of the BF. The porridge was more water than fermented rice, which was great because I don’t think either of us could have eaten more rice. The mochi balls were chewy, soft, and satisfying. What really stands out in this dish is inclusion of osmanthus flowers which lends a sweet, floral scent to the porridge without having it be cloyingly sweet.
Wang Jia Sha had some hits as well as misses. It’s good to have another Shanghainese place to go dine at and I’m planning on returning again maybe with more people so we can try more dishes. I’m glad that we ended up getting dessert because having such a delicious bowl of hot porridge to top off dinner certainly made me remember this place in a favorable light.
156 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776