A detour into xiao long bao

At some point, I will go back to making macarons, but before I do, I’d like to try something easier: xiao long bao, also known as Shanghai soup dumplings. It’s very simple: you roll out a perfectly round, delicate dumpling wrapper and fill it with a ground pork that has been mixed with a gelatinized broth so that, when you steam it, the gelatin melts and you have a pork meatball nestled in a hot spoonful of soup, all held inside a tender-yet-firm wrapper that you bite to slurp out the soup before popping the rest of it into your mouth.

I’m kidding, of course: they are a total nightmare to make.

I don't know why I included yeast in the photo; there isn't any in the recipe.

I don’t know why I included yeast in the photo; there isn’t any in the recipe.

In most of the recipes, you make the broth the traditional way, with water, chicken bones, pigs feet, pork belly, etc. that gets cooked down and gels naturally. Too much of a hassle. This recipe, on the other hand, just requires canned chicken broth, salt, sugar, and gelatin sheets, which is easier, so that’s what I’m going to use.

The first thing I discovered about this recipe is that 100g of bao flour combined with a cup of water makes a very sticky dough, so I had to add more flour until the dough had a proper consistency. The second thing I learned is that two sheets of gelatin aren’t enough to make the broth gel fully, so I had to add two more.

So much for the easier recipe being the better one. Eventually, however, the broth gelled, and I made the filling. The wrappers, of course, remained the challenge. The first three were too thick, and getting the folds right so that they looked nice was beyond me.

20160514_smackaron_006 20160514_smackaron_010
20160514_smackaron_015 20160514_smackaron_017

Nonetheless, the things that I took out of the steamer after putting them in to cook were, in fact, soup dumplings, with soup inside. Not very much soup, but some.

20160515_smackaron_026 20160514_smackaron_024

The next few wrappers were thinner, although some of them were too thin, and they broke. (You can be too thin.)  The ones that held together through the filling and cooking process had the right mouth feel, however, even if there wasn’t much soup in the dumpling.  In short, I kind of “get it,” so I’d say these were a qualified success. I need a better recipe and more practice, but the potential is there.


About cohn17

Photographer and baker of macarons.
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1 Response to A detour into xiao long bao

  1. nortfaire@comcast.net says:

    Maybe 3 sheets of gelatin instead of 4?

    Or, since the dumplings are served in soup, add a little more soup to the spoon before biting into the dumpling? Simplistic, yes, but so am I.

    Very pleased that you have moved on to this new taste treat. One tires of sweet stuff, but I could eat Chinese all day every day. And if you can even approximate those delicious dumplings we had in New Jersey lo, these many years ago, I will be a happy camper to forego the grilled lamb and tzatziki sauce and just eat soup at home while I am there.


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