Here is my first attempt at making soup dumplings, AKA Xiao Long Bao. They are also known as soupy dumplings, soupy little dumplings, or juicy little dumplings as I found out by reading a Chinese cook book that we have had in our kitchen for years and having something click. XLB right under my nose! And so many translated names it makes your eyes cross!
After having xiao long bao last weekend with my YehYeh, I decided I would give them a try. I have looked into making them for a while now, but finally got motivated to make them. It would be time consuming, but why not?
I hope you all don’t mind another photo essay recipe!
Boil 20 C water. Add whole chicken, 1/2 onion, ginger, and bring back up to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook 1 1/2 hours.
Take out the chicken and vegetables and simmer the stock until it reduces by one half. Let it cool off overnight.
I had a little over 9 cups of chicken stock at the end of the day and mixed it with 2 boxes (8 packets) of unflavored gelatin. Immediately after mixing I realized that I just made 9 cups of chicken jello. Oh crap. I should have just made half. Stick in the fridge and let it gelatinize for around 5-6 hours.
Once the gelatin sets, let’s start to flavor our meat. Grate up 1 inch of ginger; mince 3-4 scallions; finely mince 4-5 leaves of napa cabbage, salted for around 30 minutes and drained (salad spinners are great for this). Actually, do the cabbage first, and everything else while it’s salting and draining.
Stick those ingredients in a bowl with your ground pork (I got mine at Roma Meats in Latham, NY) along with 2 T dry vermouth, ½ t MSG, 1 T soy sauce and 4 T water.
Get ta’ mixing! I tend to mush the meat less if I mix by hand. You could be all fancy and use a spoon or spatula.
Final product of mixed meat and seasonings. Chinese meatloaf. Kind of like my basic meaty filling for dumplings, with the addition of water (it helped incorporate things tremendously) and soy sauce (the book called for it).
To make the dough: combine 2.5 C flour with ½ C boiling water. Mix well, then add ¼ C cold water and 1 T fat (I used bacon fat). Knead until it is a nice and glossy dough, then let it sit 20 minutes to rest.
Place some filling in the center. To pleat, simply start folding some of the top over on itself, kind of like folding a paper fan. I’d get fired from a soup dumpling factory in a jiffy! These might look a little rough, but they held their shape so I was happy! I probably wouldn’t have bothered pleating, except there was something in the back of my mind saying ‘Yeah, but what if the whole recipe hinges on this? That would stink to mess the entire thing up ‘cause you were half-assing on the folding’.
Sadly, my second round was too thin, so even though I added more cubes of gelatin all of the precious soup escaped! This clearly is something to be tweaked with. I think I’ll try thicker skins and a few more cubes of gelatin next time.
Can you see a little bit of brothy soup in this picture? It was so hard to get a shot of these soup dumplings since they tasted pretty good and were very hot. You can kind of see the liquid on the bottom and towards the left.
What also helped make them tempting was recreating the black vinegar dipping sauce that accompanied the XLB in the city. It is also very easy – black vinegar, extra special dark soy sauce, and matchstick slices of peeled ginger.
While my first batch wasn’t perfect, they were good enough to merit trying again.