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  • Writer's pictureKonky's Creative Kitchen

小笼包/Xiao Long Bao: Chinese Soup Dumplings

Nanxiang, Shanghai, China is the birthplace of what everyone has fallen in love with: soup dumplings! This beloved dish is over 150 years old. Traditionally, this is made with either minced pork or crab, some vegetables, and includes aspic. This unusual ingredient is something that everyone has seen but may not have known the culinary term to describe it. These dumplings incorporate aspic; a rich meat stock that has been cooked down into a concentrated fluid that is later refrigerated, and allowed to set up into a jelly the next day. When reheated, the jelly reverts to its liquid form. The rich collagen development gives the aspic the ability to firm up.

NIGHT BEFORE: roast off some chicken, pork, beef, and/or a combination of bones in the oven for no longer than 45 minutes to an hour. Dump the bones and pan drippings into a pot and add fresh water. Bring this to a boil and immediately reduce the heat until a gentle boil is achieved. This will need to be cooked down for a few hours to get concentrated. A good rule is 50% reduction. Once done, strain everything out. Discard the solids once they have been cooled down. Run your stock through a fine mesh strainer, lined with cheesecloth or a tea towel. Once strained, pour off about a quart's worth of the stock into a small food storage container. Once the temperature has cooled off, cover, and store in the fridge. In the morning, this should be nice and jelled up. The rest of the stock can be stored in freezer-safe containers with lids for immediate use, or frozen for up to three months for best flavor.

When creating a dumpling mixture, everything in the added recipe must be small, if not, finely minced. Because we are using aspic, the area that bears importance is keeping the mixture cold. That is why you must do the aspic the night before.

The how-to video can be found on my Youtube channel.

steamed Chinese dumplings in a bamboo steamer
Steamed xiao long bao


1lb (453g) Ground pork* (80/20)

3/4-1 Quart Aspic, finely chopped (use your judgment)

4oz Napa Cabbage, finely chopped

1 Scallion bunch, finely chopped 3oz Tamari

2oz Garlic, pureed

2oz Ginger, pureed

1oz Oyster Sauce 1oz Shaoxing Wine 1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

White pepper, pinch

1 QT Water

40-50 Dumpling wrappers - or make your dumpling dough with 200g AP flour with 100g hot water. Form a dough, roll it out, and use a 3" round cutter for wrappers

1.) Prep all of your dumpling ingredients (except the aspic) into one mixing bowl. Be mindful that this requires minced and/or pureed mise en place. Mix this aggressively to develop myosin: small fibrous protein strands in the meat mixture. If you still see the ground pork looking like it came out of the package, you did not mix it enough. Keep mixing until smooth, similar to a paste.

2.) On a cutting board, release the aspic from the container. With a fork or a knife, begin chopping this down into small bits. You have to work fast for this to maintain integrity. It should only take a couple of minutes. Once done, immediately add this to your meat mixture and begin incorporating this. Do NOT mash this. Mix the aspic into the meat mixture evenly. Cover and return this to the fridge for approximately 30 minutes to get this cold again.

3.) Set up a large pan on the stove, and add your quart of water. There needs to be enough room for this to gently boil for simmering.

4.) Take your bamboo steamer trays, and line them with either small parchment papers or line each tray with cabbage leaves. Bring the prepped trays to your work area.

5.) Take your bowl of dumpling mix out and bring to your work area. Set up your shot glass of water, grab a fork, and begin prepping your dumplings.

FOLDING DIRECTIONS: 1.) You will lightly wet the frame of the dumpling skin with water. This will moisten the cornstarch on the dumpling skin and help act like a "glue" for when you are forming the dumpling.

2.) Apply about 1 TB/1 1/2 TB of dumpling filling to the middle of the dumpling skin. Do not spread the filling.

3.) Watch the video for the folding technique performed. You will gently pinch a small area of the edge of the dumpling wrapper. Begin the next pleat and pinch again directly on top of the area you began on your thumb. You will gently continue to pleat and pinch the perimeter of the dumpling wrapper. It will start to take a rippled shape.

4.) As you come to the end of pleating and pinching, you may need to simply just pinch and gently twist the dough to seal it. You do NOT have to seal it completely. If leaving a whole at the very top is easier, by all means, make it easy on yourself. This is a very difficult technique to master.

captured stills of folding xiao long bao process
Steps on folding xiao long bao

5.) After you have filled and folded your dumplings, begin placing them on the covered bamboo trays. Leave a little room in between as these will stretch once they start steaming. Each tray will nest on top of each other. Once each tray is filled with dumplings, place the cover directly on top. Bring your bamboo steamer to the pan on the stove.

6.) Turn the stovetop on to bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to allow a gentle boil. Carefully place your filled bamboo steamer into the pan. Set your timer for approximately 10 minutes. WARNING: You are at high risk for steam burns. Please be careful.

Carefully remove the dumplings from the bamboo trays and plate this up! Check out the rest of my website for dumpling sauce recipes that will go perfectly with this!

Xiao Long Bao - Soup Dumplings
Xiao Long Bao

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