Conspicuous Consumption, Ningbo Edition: the Case of the Gold Dust Dumpling

The price of gold is currently hovering around a record US$1400/oz, leaving the sensible investor with, as I count them, three options:

  1. Buy it.
  2. Run from it.
  3. Eat it.

Per the last option, I direct my readers to the Shang Palace Restaurant at the Shangri-la Hotel in Ningbo, China where, per chef’s instructions I suppose, shrimp dumplings are served with a light garnishment of 24k gold leaf.

Now, I may be a rube, but I’m no simpleton, and so I’m well-aware that edible gold leaf has been used to decorate desserts and cocktails for years, now. But adding gold leaf to dumplings strikes me as something a little different. Desserts and cocktails, after all, are already luxury edibles, whereas dumplings – shrimp or not – are staples of sorts. Seven floors down and around the corner from my Shanghai apartment dumplings like those above (minus the gold leaf) are available for RMB 20 (US$3) for 12 (given, pricey by China standards). In American terms we’re talking the relative equivalent of sprinkling a mushroom cheeseburger with 24k gold leaf (though I guess it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody was doing that before the housing bubble burst). [UPDATE! In fact, they were: in comment six, below, my friend Karen McGrane points me to proof that at least one New York chef was serving a mushroom cheeseburger sprinkled with gold leaf around the time of the housing crash.]

If I were an Old Testament prophet, a Calvinist, or a New York Times columnist (“when the revolution comes …”), I’d have more to say about this. But I’m not, so I’ll end this post by pointing to a delightful 2005 Q&A regarding edible gold that ran in the Washington Post. Worth a read.

[End note: I was a guest at the meal at which those dumplings were served, and didn’t have a chance to learn their cost. Still, I must admit, the commodities reporter in me was tempted to scrape the gold off mine, and into an envelope, in anticipation of US$1500/oz.]


  1. gold leaf is about 4.5 kuai an 80 x 80 mm sheet from the factory in nanjing. on fuzhou road in art shops, 12 kuai. best tasting is thai gold leaf. 🙂

  2. I used to eat gold dust sushi in the late 80s in Tokyo. It was no that rare to see it back then…

  3. I had the gold leaf shrimp dumpling at Shang Palace in Shenzhen in 2009. It was 98 Yuan for all the dim sum, but they only serve it once.

  4. At least your host only ordered you gold sprinkled dumplings. We had to eat sea cucumbers!

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