Foolproof!: Easy to make Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)

The holy grail of foods, that one thing foodies will travel thousands of miles to eat, you bet, yes they are that good. Here’s the thing though, here in Seattle, I have tried a few iterations and I have yet to get any actual SOUP in my soup dumplings. So this was my first big challenge. Must keep soup in dumpling. Second important thing: Must make taste good.

Now, I will admit that bringing soup dumplings TO a party was a bad move. Next time, you have party come to soup dumplings. I thought I’d keep them fresh by laying them on leaves of cabbage, as should be done when cooking them, then driving across town. They sucked. Luckily Brett and I made about 200 more the next night with leftovers and are still enjoying them out of the freezer. When cooking them immediately we were keeping soup about five out of six dumplings (sadly a better ratio than Joe’s Shanghai in New York City when we were there). After freezing, its more like half. More on that later. First thing you do–Make the soup. Very easy, do it the night before.

Soup for dumplings

Take a big stock pot, and toss in: a bunch of chicken feet, pork feet, and pork belly. I used one package each from my local chinese market, I think it was about a pound of each, maybe a little more. Unimportant. Cost about 6 bucks total. Added in shiaoxing wine, a glug or two, slices of ginger (a quarter knob or so), garlic (like 4 cloves) and a pile of chives. Fill up the rest of the way with water and put it up to a boil. Then turn it down and let it simmer for a bit. I left mine for 2 hours. If I had a bigger pot, I think I would have gone longer. But alas. If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolley car. Whoa! Back on topic. So stick this in a tall thin container and you’ll have an easy time skimming the fat. Put it in the fridge for about an hour, then take it out, skim the fat and pour into a low flat container. This way it will be easy to chop up later. A lot of recipes I saw had you add gelatin or agar agar to make this more jellied. I saw no need, it jellied up extremely well just with all the feet (where do you think the gelatin comes from in the first place?). Fish your pork belly out at the end and shove greedily down your gullet smothered in hot sauce for an extra bonus in making soup dumplings.

Ok, now its the next day.

Soup Dumpling Filling

This is the filling. I used a pound of ground pork (the fattiest kind), about 7 large shrimp, a pile of chives (chopped), ginger, garlic, both minced, a couple of glugs of shiaoxing wine, a load of soy sauce and a bit of sugar. To taste taste your mix, through a bit in to the water of your steamer like a meat ball. I checked mine for taste and ended up adding more soy sauce. There are no amounts, because guess what, it doesn’t matter! Just make it taste good.

the dough for soup dumplings

The dough. I made two doughs. The first one SUCKED. Yup, all caps. It was sticky and it burst open, leaking soup all over the place. Luckily the reason I finished this was that after a good cry, I got over it and found a new dough, thanks to Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen. Basically I used about 2 cups of flour, 3/4 a cup of boiling water. Mix with a chopstick, then add 1/4 cup cold water plus a tablespoon of oil. Then knead, just beating the living shit out of it for about 10 minutes. Use lots of flour. After ten minutes, you will know it is ready when your hands hurt because the dough is so tough. Perfect. Rest it for 30 minutes. In this time, get your stuff ready:

1) steamer: Blanch cabbage in steamer water and lay over bamboo steamer. 

2) Mise en place. I found the best was to have the dough and board in front of me, the soup mix to one side, the filling to another, each with their own spoon. Lastly, a sheet of parchment paper off to the side, for finished dumplings. Keep flour near by for rolling.

Okay, now you are ready to go. My method is NOT the right way. But you know what, I want freakin’ soup dumplings, and this managed to get me some very soupy dumplings. Delicious soupy dumplings.

Chop off a bit of dough and roll it like you made a snake with clay when you are little. Cut off about a soup spoon size of dough (start big, get smaller as you get better) use TONS of flour. That was when I got good, when I stopped worrying how much flour I added. Roll the piece out, moving it constantly, into a circle. I would roll, flip, roll, flip to get enough flour all over it. You want the thickest part to be the center, thinner on the edges is best. But I never mastered that, and mine worked fine. Put your thumb and forefinger into an o, so that you are looking down on a circle, then drape the dough over that. Using a small, even amount of the filling and the soup, put them in the center of your circle of dough. Now squeeze your dough closed with your ‘o’ fingers. It ain’t traditional, but it sure works! It doesn’t need to seal, just be good enough that it stays closed.

Here, my friends, is what my first couple looked like. After a bit, I was too messy to photograph. But it works, it is delicious, and you should not be afraid to try it yourself.

You can now freeze them (lay individually, with none touching on a piece of parchment paper, on a baking sheet) and cook later, or even better, cook immediately by tossing on to cabbage leaves in steamer. The dough will start to look a bit translucent as it cooks, you should be ready then. About 5-8 minutes.



8 Responses

  1. they were so good!

  2. Were these the same ones you brought to the food blogger event? They were great, I was so impressed that you were able to bring them and serve them warm.

  3. I hate to break it to you but Joe’s is one of the best places in the city. Perhaps if you lived here you would know that. Good luck with your amateur dumplings.

  4. Well, Bill, whether or not you consider Joe’s the best in the city (I don’t), doesn’t change the fact that when we ate there, 8 of our 12 dumplings were burst before we ate them, thus why I said “a better ratio than Joe’s” of surviving dumplings. I also recommend getting thyself to New Yeah Shanghai for some far superior dumplings.

  5. […] I made another attempt at the foodie icon of xiao long bao. While my pleating skills are coming along, and having a small wooden dowel for a rolling pin […]

  6. Had these in Beijing and Taiwan and can’t wait to make them for my culinary classmates! I have been researching them for a while now. How much water was added when you made the soup/stock?

  7. never mind I saw my answer 🙂

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