These little juicy pieces of dumplings can scorch your tongue if you are not careful. But the pain is all worth it because it is not everyday you get to eat yummy rich broth trickling down a carefully crimped dumpling with a very tasty morsel of filling. Xiao Loong Bao, Siu Loong Pao, or known as Shanghai Soup dumpling is a culinary experience that has created a gastronomical frenzy amongst the Chinese outside, well, China. And crazy me, being Chinese and a passionate foodie, I_had_to_try_to_make_my_own.
**heads up: this recipe requires at least 1 day of preparation ahead of time – mostly because I made my own aspic.
I had my little soup dumpling back in Malaysia for the first time with my parents at Dragon-I restaurant in Cititel Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. I was intrigued by the concept of having a dumpling filled with a rich Shandong broth, that can easily cause 2nd degree burns to your tongue and squirt on your favorite blouse. But the trick is to eat it slowly and not popping it directly into your mouth; i.e. first by breaking the dumpling skin and sipping the broth before eating it with ginger and vinegar dipping sauce.
If you love wanton dumplings or gyozas, you are going to love this even more because the filling is essentially the same but steamed with a piece of aspic, slowly melting into a nice pool of broth contained in a crimpled dumpling skin. And here is my attempt at making xiao loong bao because I just had to – the verdict was a good bursting dumpling that is flavorful 🙂
For the skin:
1 cup all purpose flour (but if you have high gluten flour, please use that)
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup water, more for dusting
Combine all the ingredients together and knead until the surface of the dough becomes really smooth. This will take about 10 minutes of kneading. Let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes before using.
*I would suggest using a high gluten flour because it holds better than the normal all purpose flour but it was all that I had and it worked just as well.
350grams pork loin, minced
2 tbsp of ginger, grated, with juice
2 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tsp of sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
6 tbsp of water
1 stalk of green onions (or scallions, or spring onions depending on which country you’re from)
a pinch of pepper
1/2 tsp of salt
1/3 cup of aspic (recipe below)
Aspic (prepare ahead of time):
I used low salt chicken broth for this because I did not have the time to boil 1kg of pork bones and cured Jin Hua ham to make the broth. But if you have the time to boil pork bones for 3hours or more, do it because you will be well rewarded. You won’t need to use any congealing agent if you do this because the pork bones and cartilege creates its own gelatin when you cool it in the fridge overnight.
1 cup low salt chicken broth
2 teaspoon of agar powder/gelatinMethod:
Bring chicken broth to a boil and add agar/gelatin powder. Stir until the powder is dissolved and let it set firm in the fridge. Once set, chop the aspic up and set aside to combine with the filling.
Get your steamer ready and line it with some chinese cabbage leaves.
Roll the dough out into a snake, approximately 1 inch thick and cut it into sections, about 1 inch in length.
Take a piece of the dough, roll it into a ball and flatten with a roller until it is about 2.5 inches in diameter.
Take a teaspoon full of the filling and fill it into the dumpling skin you’ve just created and crimp the skin upwards to create a little ball. Traditionally, in Shanghai, xiao loong baos have to be crimped 18 times to create 18 pleats because it is suppose to resemble a chrysanthemum flower. At this point, with my extremely undextered fingers, I could only do 8 or 9 pleats. My aim was to get the dumpling to close properly so the precious broth do not run out during the steaming process. Take a look at this video here on how to pleat xiao loong bao properly.
Repeat steps until all dough is used up.
Do it like a pro by first nibbling a hole on the dumpling to release all it’s juicy goodness and sip it. Then eat up the rest as civilly as you possibly can with a nice dipping of fresh ginger and vinegar sauce. 🙂
Eating Xiao Loong Bao is not exactly about finesse, all that slurping and chewing on the dumpling skin with potential spillage is accounted for from experience and skill. It is a lot of work making approximately 20 dumplings, but was it worth it? Definitely.
I reckon it would taste even better if I made proper aspic with that Shandong broth by boiling pork bones and cured ham myself but the chicken broth did give the dumplings a certain lightness where you feel like you could eat 10 dumplings and not feel overwhelmed. I am especially proud that the skin held itself very well during the steaming process and only one dumpling lost its juices to a chopstick casualty!