Xiaolongbao, also known as Chinese soup dumplings, are among the most perfect morsels of food ever created by man. This tempting dessert is arguably the most well-known dish to originate from China’s Jiangnan province. Soup dumplings, commonly referred to as “Shanghai Soup Dumplings,” are a must-try for anyone visiting Shanghai or exploring Chinese cuisine.
We have some good news for you if you have never tried xiaolongbao and there are no genuine Chinese restaurants in your area. Homemade soup dumplings are easy to make!
What are soup dumplings?
Steamed dumplings filled with seasoned pork and hot, flavorful soup, known variously as Chinese soup dumplings, Shanghai soup dumplings, xiaolongbao, tang bao, and the hilariously translated “soupy buns” on some menus.
Every one of these dumplings has been folded and pleated several times. (The renowned soup dumpling restaurant Din Tai Fung is on record as saying that 18 folds are optimal.) Once the delicate dumplings have finished steaming, they are dipped in a mixture of Chinese black vinegar and julienned ginger for a tangy, spicy, and savory bite.
Traditional soup dumplings are filled with ground pork, but some variations include crab. In recent renditions, you might find seafood, vegetarian, or other meat alternatives.
Soup Dumplings: HOW DO THEY WORK?
That, my dears, is the question that cannot be answered.
Making collagen- and gelatin-rich pork aspic from pork skin and neck bones is the trick to packing a Chinese soup dumpling with liquid. You can fold the aspic, which is basically a solidified soup, into the filling.
Steamed, the gelatinous aspic transforms back into a liquid, resulting in the hot soup rivers that can be slurped out of the dumpling’s sides.
For the Aspic:
- ½ pound of pork skin (cut into 1-inch strips)
- 1 pound of pork neck bones
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1 scallion (cut into 3 pieces)
- 1 tablespoon of shaoxing wine
For the Dough:
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons of warm water (90 ml)
For the Filling:
- 1 pound of ground pork (70% lean 30% fat)
- 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 1 heaping cup of aspic (diced into ½-inch pieces)
- 3 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons of shaoxing wine
- 3 teaspoons of light soy sauce
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 3/4 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of ground white-pepper
- Chinese black vinegar
- fresh julienned ginger
- The pork skin and pork bones should be placed in a small pot and covered with cold water. Once boiling, remove the bones and skin and rinse them under cold running water. This process eliminates any contaminants. You have to give the pot a quick rinse and then return all the contents. Pour the wine, scallion, ginger, and 4 cups of water into a pot. Boil, then simmer. Leave covered and simmer for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, remove the soup from the heat, let it cool, and then strain it into a serving bowl. When the liquid has cooled to room temperature, cover it and place it in the fridge for at least one more night.
- The flour and warm water should be added to the bowl one tablespoon at a time. Involve yourself with the dough for about fifteen to twenty minutes. There should be no rough spots in the dough.
- Put a cloth over it and let it sit for half an hour.
- Put the pork you plan to use in the food processor. You should pulse the pork for 30-60 seconds or until you have a paste consistency. Throw everything but the aspic into a mixing bowl with the pork.
- Stir the ingredients together and beat them for about 2 minutes to ensure a smooth consistency. The pork should look like a fluffy paste, and all the ingredients should be thoroughly mixed. Refrain from overmixing after adding the diced aspic. Wrap the filling in plastic and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to make the dumplings.
- To make assembling the buns easier, you can put the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes if you’re ready to do so now.
- Roll the dough into an inch-wide cigar on a floured surface. Divide the dough into pieces that are about 11 grams in weight (the dough chunks should be a size resembling that of gnocchi). Each section should be rolled out into a disc with a diameter of between 3 and 3 1/4 inches. A damp cloth can be used to store items.
- Get your bamboo steamer all set. Use a cheesecloth, napa cabbage leaves, or beautiful bamboo steamer discs (available in some Chinese restaurant supply stores; before using, brush the discs with oil) to line the inside.
- When everything else is ready, remove the filling. Each bun must be prepared separately. Put a heaping tablespoonful of filling in the center of a dumpling skin. The optimal number of pleats is between 12 and 20, but any number in between will do. Be sure the lid is sealed correctly. The filling should be frozen for 15 minutes if it becomes too soft to work with.
- Separate the buns by about 2 inches and place them in the steamer basket.
- Bring water to a boil in a metal wok or steamer. To steam food in a wok, fill it halfway with water so that the base of the bamboo steamer is submerged when you set it in the wok. Wait to fill it up too high, though, or the water might reach the dumplings inside.
- Once the water boils, place the bamboo steamer inside the wok or steamer pot, cover it with the bamboo steamer lid, and steam for 8 minutes over high heat. Take the bamboo steamer out of the boiling water right away.
- All right, so there is a right way to eat these dumplings. Soy sauce has no business on the table now, so please put it away. Black vinegar from China is what you’re looking for. Place a little bit in a round dish or bowl and sprinkle some very thin ginger matchsticks on top.
- Chopsticks and a Chinese soup spoon (a fork would mutilate the noodles, and the soup would spill all over the table) are the tools you’ll need to eat this dish. It would be a tragedy on par with those written by Shakespeare.
- Peel the xiaolongbao slowly from the steamer basket and dip it into the vinegar. Place the dumpling gently on the soupspoon and make a small hole in the skin of the bun. Go ahead and slurp the soup out of the bun (Carefully. Extreme heat). Then, with the help of some additional vinegar, eat it all in one gulp.