At Shanghai Lane it’s all about the soup dumplings. There are other things on the small menu of this quick-serve restaurant in west Orlando’s Chinatown mall at Westside Crossing, but it’s the soup dumplings that have fascinated most of the people who come here.
Officially, they’re known as Nanxiang soup dumplings, and they look like any other pot sticker except that they are filled with broth. The fascination comes from a curiosity similar to anyone who has studied a ship model inside a bottle – how did they get that in there?
The trick is in the broth, which is made with pork skin and bones that produce an ample amount of collagen that the liquid becomes an aspic-y gelatin when cooled. A cube of gelatin is placed inside the dumpling dough along with a bit of ground pork, then the dough is pinched shut. When they’re steamed the gelatin returns to a liquid state. Magic.
When I picked up my order, the very friendly young man behind the counter admonished me to be careful because the dumplings and the soup therein were hot and that I should eat them right away. (The tables in the small dining area have hazard-style caution signs warning of hot broth ahead.)
He was right. Nanxiang dumplings are best when hot but they also present a challenge to eat. You don’t want to pop the whole thing into your mouth because there will be pain. So it’s best to pick up a dumpling and nibble a small hole and begin to slurp out the broth. If you discover the soup has cooled sufficiently, by all means pop the whole thing in.
Ironically, there was more liquid inside the Shanghai pan-fried pork buns. And when I attempted to do that little nibble maneuver, juices poured out and down my hand. Messy, but the filling – pork again but mixed with scallions and ginger and myriad spices – was delicious and I liked the crisped dough the buns had from pan frying.
Curiously, there were few scallions in the Scallion Noodles dish, basically just a few well-frizzled pieces on top of the white noodles, which were tossed in a soylent sauce.
And the Fried Pork Cutlet was just that: a heavily breaded piece of pork sliced into fingers resembling fish sticks. A soy dipping sauce that accompanied wasn’t enough to liven the sticks.
So, as I said, it’s all about the soup dumplings here. And they’re worth trying if you’re in the neighborhood.
Shanghai Lane is at 5034 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando (map). It is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Monday. The phone number is 407-985-3684.