Chinese Recipe: Shanghai-Style Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)
Adapted from the cookbook A World of Dumplings by Brian Yarvin. These dumplings are extremely popular and delicious, native to the city of Shanghai. What makes them so unique is the “burst” of soup in each dumpling. Aspic, or a gelatin prepared from meat stock and other ingredients, is the key to this feature of the dumpling.
Chinese Wheat-Flour Dumpling Wrappers Recipe:
3 cups all-purpose flour plus extra flour for the work surface
1 cup boiling water
Put the flour in a large bowl, adding the boiling water. Use a wooden spoon to get the mixture well blended. If the dough is dry and cracking, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until it’s moist and springy. If the dough is sticky, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it’s smooth. When the mixture has cooled a bit, knead it for about 7 minutes or until a poke with a finger causes it to bounce back like a soft pillow. Cover the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, use your thumb to poke a hole in the center. Gradually enlarge the hole until it looks like a large bagel. Using a sort of hand-over-hand technique, squeeze the dough until it forms a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter.
To make the dumpling wrappers, slice the dough into pieces about 3/4 inch long, and roll each piece into a ball. On a floured work surface, roll out the ball into a thin disk about 3 inches in diameter. A piece of parchment paper between the dough and the rolling pin will make things a bit easier.
Store the formed wrappers between sheets of parchment or waxed paper so that they don’t dry out. If you won’t be working with them within a few minutes, refrigerate them.
Use in any recipe that calls for them.
Makes about 50 wrappers.
Soup for Shanghai-Style Dumplings (Gelatin)
6 cups water
1/2 pound bone-in chicken thighs
6 cubes (1 inch squares) of boneless pork loin, about 4 ounces
1/3 cup Chinese ham or country ham, cut in 1/2 inch cubes, about 4 ounces
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped frseh ginger
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine
1 packet unflavored gelatin powder (instead of traditional pigskin to solidify the soup)
Combine the water, chicken, pork loin, ham, scallions, ginger, rice wine, and salt in a large pot. Place the pot over high heat, and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the soup simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes or until only about one-third of the original liquid remains. Strain out the solids.
Put the warm soup in a nonmetallic container and sprinkle the gelatin powder on the surface. Let it stand for 10 minutes or until the gelatin has absorbed some liquid and no longer appears powdery. Give the soup a good stir so that the gelatin dissolves, cover the container, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Filling for Shanghai-Style Soup Dumplings
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushroom caps cut into 1/4 pieces
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese red wine
Pour the boiling water over the shiitake pieces, and let them stand for 15 minutes. Drain.
Combine the drained mushrooms, ground pork, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and rice wine in a large bowl, and mix well until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Refrigerate until you’re ready for the next step.
Makes filling for about 25 dumplings.
Filling, Forming, and Cooking Shanghai-Style Soup Dumplings
Chinese wheat-flour dumpling wrappers
Napa cabbage to line the steamer baskets
Spoon 1 teaspoon of the filling and 1/2 teaspoon of soup gelatin in the center of a wrapper, and close by pinching the edges. For the most part, tradition holds that you must use 16 pinches, but other traditionalists may say that 18 is correct. Make sure dumplings are well-sealed or else soup will all wind up at the bottom of the cooking pot.
Line a steamer tray with napa cabbage leaves, and carefully place the filled dumplings on them. Make sure the dumplings don’t touch either each other or hte edges of the pot. Steam over medium heat for 15 minutes (remember, this is pork and has to be completely cooked) and serve immediately. NOTE: Provide big spoons and chopsticks so that the dumplings can be carefully lifted from the steamer trays.