Sin and Dumplings

Exploring the Richmond's riches during a tempting film series

I also love the Beijing-style boiled chive dumplings -- well, I have a weakness for chives, and these are garlic chives, even better, combined with minced pork. And the Shanghai-style crispy salt pan cake, stuffed with shredded cabbage and yellow onions, which you can compare and contrast with its version of the more familiar green-onion pancakes: both slightly greasy and utterly delicious. In addition to dumplings, the menu offers an array of more familiar Chinese items, as well as a number of claypot braises, but they aren't the reason to come here. The only dish I've tried that I like as much as the signature dumplings is the lion's head meatballs, three big, fat pork meatballs in a slightly sticky sauce, a fluffier, crunchier (with diced celery and water chestnuts) version of the minced pork stuffing used in many other preparations here. (I had big, fat pork polpette much like these a few weeks ago in Friuli, on a visit to Italy; another borrowing by Marco Polo? Only kidding.)

It seems that the restaurant has recently changed hands and is now owned by one of its former cooks. On my last visit, the soup dumplings were as supple and tasty as ever, as were an order of round, pan-fried pork buns topped with sesame seeds and green onions, and crescent-shaped pot stickers, whose stuffing contained aromatic greens. I tried a couple of Shanghainese specialties that I used to drive out to Southern California's famous Lake Spring restaurant for: deep-fried thread bread, a crusty, many-layered, faintly sweet roll, which is perfect with the soy-braised pork rump, a massive hunk of meat topped with melting fat. You lift the cap of fat off and underneath find what seems like several pounds of moist, star anise-scented pig ready to fall into shreds at your touch.

I noted with sadness that the place now shuts down for a few hours between lunch and dinner, when it used to be open straight through. I'm sorry to hear it, because the late afternoon was my favorite time for a dumpling orgy. But right now I'm looking forward to frequenting the Shanghai Dumpling Shop, one of San Francisco's great dives, before (or after) Torch Singer (Claudette Colbert as an unwed mother and unrepentant wild girl -- almost to the end) and Kick In (the incandescent Clara Bow in a noirish movie long thought lost) on Nov. 14. Or perhaps with White Woman (Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton and S/M in the jungle) on Nov. 17.

Shanghai Dumpling Shop is bare bones, but 
its magic is right there in its name.
James Sanders
Shanghai Dumpling Shop is bare bones, but its magic is right there in its name.

Location Info


Shanghai Dumpling King

3319 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA 94121

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Richmond (Outer)


Shanghai steamed dumplings 10 for $4.95

Boiled chive dumplings 10 for $4.25

Shanghai crispy salt pan cake $4.25

Lion's head meatballs $6.95

Fried pork buns 8 for $4.25

Thread bread $1.95

Braised pork rump $12.95


Open for lunch Monday and Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner Wednesday through Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesday.

No reservations

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: fairly easy

Muni: 2, 31, 38

Noise level: low to moderate

3319 Balboa (at 34th Ave.)

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In fact, there may be many more opportunities for dumplings in my future. I hear the Balboa is thinking of doing a French film noir series.

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