Sunday, February 13, 2011

Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) - Pretty Good For A First Try!

Soup dumplings (a.k.a. Xiao Long Bao) are a type of steamed buns from eastern China area. Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) literally means "small bamboo steamer buns".  Soup Dumplings have thinner dough compared to regular buns. And most importantly, they have soup inside. 

This is my first try of making soup dumplings. The dough is a bit too thick. But all in all, the dumplings are pretty darn good!

Pork Soup Dumplings
Serves 10 - 15 
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 1 hr (gelatin) + 10 mins (dumplings)

1) Prepare the gelatin 
You may have already asked: "How do they inject the soup into the dumplings?" Here is the secret - the stock is put in the fridge, so it forms gelatin. The gelatin is then wrapped inside of the dough, together with the meat filling.

- 1 lb chicken feet (or 2 lb pork hock)
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1 scallion, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- Boil 6 cups of water. Add in all the ingredients, cook on high heat until boil. Simmer for 1 hr. Strain the soup, discard solids and keep the stock. Add 1 tsp of salt, and boil the stock on high heat for another 10 mins. Store in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Finely dice the gelatin cube when you are ready to make the dumplings.

2) Prepare the dough
- 4 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 cup hot water
Mix the water with flour. Knead the dough until smooth. Let the dough rest for 15-20mins. Roll into a long and slim dough. Divide the dough into 1-tbsp size balls. Roll out the ball till very thin.

3)Meat filling
1 lb ground pork
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp of finely minced ginger
- 4 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
Mix all the ingredients. Slowly pour some cold water in the meat and mix in one direction. Add more water, mix. Repeat this step until the stuffing has a softer consistency. The total added water is about 1 cup.

4) Wrap the dumplings
- Place the rolled-out dough on one palm, scoop some meat filling and gelatin on the dough.
- Have a bowl of cold water on the side. Use the finger to lightly damp the edge of the 
dough with cold water (to help bind the dough together).
- Use the thumb and index finger to pleat and bind the dough. The right thumb is on top of the dough, and the right index finger is on the back of the dough. Use those two fingers to fold and pinch the dough to make small pleats. Fold the dough for 360 degrees, then twist and bind the pleats all together.

5) Steam dumplings
- Line the bamboo steamer with lettuce or Napa cabbage leaves (or you can use cheese cloth). Place the dumplings on top the leaves. 
- Steam on high heat for 10-12 mins.
- Serve with dark vinegar and shredded ginger.


**How to eat a soup dumpling?
- Carefully use the chopsticks to pick up the dumpling from the steamer. To be safe, use a soup spoon as well.
- Bite a small hole on the dough, drink up all the soup in the dumpling first (HOT!). (OK, you may use the spoon to catch the broth. Don't waste the soup!)
- Dip the dumpling in the vinegar and finish it. (nom nom nom)

** I'm lazy and I want to eat out. Where should I go for soup dumplings? 
- My all-time favorite place is Nanxiang in Shanghai. It is the most famous place to go for Xiao Long Bao in China. Customers stand in line for hours - those dumplings are worth the wait. 
- In Manhattan, my favorite so far is the Mini soup buns with pork and crab meat from China Fun.  

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