Sang-Ji Fried Bao
Sang-Ji Fried Bao is named for what they specialize in and basically all they serve, Shanghainese-style pan-fried shengjian bao.
Sang-ji is apparently the slang term for the stuffed soup buns in Shanghai, where the owners of the spot formerly home to Big Beef Bowl are from.
It’s part of a string of miniscule restaurants along Byng with very little seating to speak of, though wooden stools and benches in here read Shanghai and there’s a full view of the steamy kitchen where bao are traditionally prepared.
Sang-Ji Bao ($6.99 for a typical four-piece order, sometimes known as a “tael”) are freshly made to order every time, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
Similar to a pork soup dumpling, they’re stuffed with a mix of pork and chunks of gelatinized pork broth plus their own secret ingredients.
Bao are made from scratch, and that includes the dough: yeast, starter and lard with a special mix of flours.
The magic of these bao lies in the cooking, in a frying pan with oil so the bottom where the knot of the dough is gets crispy and brown. Then a lid is placed over top of the bao so the top gets steamed and soft, the broth melting inside.
This is responsible for the signature contrast of these bao between crispy bottom, soft top and hot liquid interior. They also develop a slightly square shape due to being packed into the pan, and are finished off in the usual fashion with sesame and green onion.
Extremely hot at first, they’re eaten very specifically: dip in your personal mix of vinegar and hot chili oil, then holding it in a spoon, bite a hole in the skin and suck out the hot soup. Then eat the rest of the warm, comforting, crispy and crunchy, yet soft and juicy bao.
Dry Noodle with Scallion Oil and Peanuts ($7.99) is made with noodles that are brought in from outside, but are served with a deeply complex and onion-y oil of scallion confit.
Finished simply with crunchy peanuts, this dish is basic but soothing.
Bite-Size Wonton Soup ($7.99) is made with a broth based on the scallion confit, but with ginger, garlic and spices as well that lend a rich flavour to the soup.
Mini wontons filled with ground pork have a lovely texture.
The folks that work here, and that used to work together at Big Beef Bowl where this bao was originally served, all know each other from working at Lee back in the day. You can now find Big Beef Bowl at New Kennedy Square, but thankfully these deliciously craveable bao are still here.