Since opening in 1945, Wang Jia Sha has developed a reputation for their shengjian bao (pan fried buns), qingtuan (sweet green rice balls), shrimp wontons, red bean pastries and shrimp noodles. In 2008, they were awarded a spot on China’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List for their technique and skills in dim sum- making.
Although everybody has their favourite qingtuan spot – Xing Hua Lou made the news in March when their queues prompted the police to enforce crowd control – Wang Jia Sha is exceedingly popular, with lines regularly forming around the block during Qingming, which is when the qingtuan are at their most sought after. And what started as a single-storey small business has now morphed into the huge multi-branch operation it is today.
Liu Chongliang, deputy general manager of Wang Jia Sha, seems unfazed by their popularity, telling us that during peak periods they can sell up to 180,000 of the small green treats. ‘During Qingming, the lines for our qingtuan went from the front door to the back door, and from the back door to the entrance of the metro station. No other stores sell as well as us. We made them 24 hours a day during that period.’ On a ‘normal’ day, it’s more likely they’ll sell around 30,000.
Following renovations at their main outlet on Nanjing Xi Lu in 2015, you can now head to the ground floor, which is set up like a ‘dumpling supermarket’ making it convenient for customers to grab food to go. As you navigate the busy counters, you’ll likely jostle with determined ayis battling their way to the front of the line.
Wang Jia Sha’s dumplings are handmade in the third-storey kitchen and Liu tells us that freshness and innovation are their key selling points. ‘At Wang Jia Sha, in comparison to our competitors, we strive for innovation in our products, to create new products. What we have, others do not. But what others have, we do better.’
For a (somewhat) quieter and (slightly) more refined dining experience, head to the second floor where you can sit and sample a host of simple but well prepared home-style dishes. Although not in English, the menu shows all the classics in picture form, and the servers are helpful and patient.
Key dishes From the ground floor, pick up six plump qingtuan filled with a sweet red bean filling for 24RMB, or the newer signature flavour of egg yolk and pork floss for 48RMB. These green dumplings are made using glutinous rice mixed with Chinese mugwort, which gives them delicate savoury notes. They’re also sticky and filling – one goes a long way. On the second floor, sit down and feast on rich crab xiaolongbao (精致蟹粉小笼, jingzhì xièfen xiaolóng) for 22RMB for four, slurp up some freshly-peeled small shrimp wontons in soup (现剥虾肉小馄饨, xiàn bo xi ròu xiao húntún, 15RMB), swirl some crispy shrimp noodles on your chopsticks (虾仁两面黄, xia rén liang miànhuáng, 38RMB) and chomp on sticky and crunchy seaweed rice cakes (苔条粢饭糕, tái tiáo ci fàngao, 9RMB for three).