The year was 2011, a grey blustery day – experiencing a sudden craving for soup dumplings, five unknowing madcaps decided to take on the challenge of making the famed ‘xiao long bao’, thinking – “how hard could it possibly be?”.
Go the crazees..
The engineering of these dainty, pleated pillows consists of fine dough-skins encased around juicy nuggets of pork and scalding, aromatic broth. A gustatory gala for the senses.
Inspired by a recipe from Steamy Kitchen, we plowed straight into the mammoth task with much ignorant gusto. At first glance, we were a touch daunted by the sheer amount of ingredients needed for this recipe; but it worked out to be a fairly economical meal, with some ingredients used repeatedly throughout the recipe.
In all honesty, making these yummy gems is a time-consuming job (with many pockets of waiting time in between), but undoubtedly gratifying. I highly recommend making an occasion out of it. Think “pizza-making party”, but…Asian.
So, round-up a couple of mates, pull out the Pictionary from the garage and pass round a few beers – and let the dumpling delirium begin!
RECIPE (makes approximately 40 dumplings)
2 litres water
1 kg chicken bones (hacked into big chunks)
Smoked pork hoc (1 small bone) OR 100g ham offcuts
300g pork skin and/or fat
3 cloves garlic, peeled & bruised with the back of a knife
1 inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
2 stalks spring onions (roughly chopped)
2 tbsp Shao Tsing Chinese cooking wine
*1 tbsp agar-agar powder or unflavoured gelatin powder
500g pork mince
120g prawn meat (shelled and minced finely)
3 stalks spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp Shao Tsing Chinese cooking wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil
400g all-purpose flour
3/4 cups hot boiling water
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp cooking oil
1/2 cup black vinegar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp shaved ginger
1 tbsp sambal/chilli sauce
1/2 head Chinese Cabbage
1. Place all of the ‘Jellied Soup’ ingredients in a large stock pot, but HOLD OFF the gelatine/agar-agar (we’ll use this later).
2. Bring this up to a boil – at which, reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 2 hours *(alternatively – cook the stock for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker)
3. Skim the surface periodically
Whilst that is simmering away, get your dough going.
4. Place the flour in a mixing bowl with the hot water. Mix with a fork till a rough dough forms.
5. Add in the cold water and cooking oil and mix till combined.
6. Tip out the dough onto a clean countertop and knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and resembles a baby’s bottom (wink*). Cover and allow to rest for at least 1/2 hour.
If the stock hasn’t finished its 2 hour simmer – you can start on the ‘meat filling’.
7. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients for the ‘Meat Filling” together in a large bowl. Store covered in the fridge.
8. Mix together all the ingredients for the ‘Dipping Sauce’ and store covered in the fridge. Feel free to alter the spiciness to your liking.
8. After its 2 hour simmer, skim the fat and scum off the surface of the stock. Strain the stock into a heatproof bowl (discard bones & aromats).
9. Measure out 4 cups of broth and pour this back into the pot (you can do as you wish with the excess).
10. Just as it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and whisk in the agar-agar/gelatin powder. When all of the powder has dissolved, pour the mix into a baking dish/wide container (it doesn’t matter what dish you use, as long as the soup comes up to about 1.5cm high).
11. Chill in the fridge till set (or speed-up the setting process up by placing in the freezer). Be sure to place on a level surface.
12. When the jellied stock has set, run a knife through it length ways and width ways to create 1.5 x 1.5 cm squares. Run your fingers through the jelly to separate from the base of the dish.
13. Take out 2 cups of jelly and add it to the ‘meat filling’. Smoosh it into the mince till evenly combined.
14. Shape your dough into small balls (roughly the size of a gumball). *Ensure you dough is always covered with cling wrap or a dishcloth.
15. With a dusting of flour, roll out the balls of dough with a small rolling pin. Remember to turn the dough as you’re rolling in order to get a circle instead of an oval. Roll to a 2mm thickness. (remember to keep dusting the countertop with flour to prevent dough from sticking)
16. To form a dumpling, smoosh a cube of ‘jellied soup’ on a rolled out dough circle. Place a ball of meat filling on top of that. Now with your fairy-fingers, start at one edge of the dough and work your way around, gradually gathering the edges together in small folds (nip-nip-nip as you go along). Squeeze & twist the tip gently at the top. Place on a heavily dusted tray.
17. Line you steamer with a layer of cabbage leaves and place dumplings on top, leaving sufficient gaps between each dumpling.
18. Using a toothpick, gently prod the centre of each dumpling tip (this will allow the steam to escape whilst cooking – preventing the dumplings from bursting mid-way in the steamer).
19. Steam (covered) over hot boiling water for precisely 12 minutes. Eat immediately.
Preparation time: 6 hours (with a whole-lotta Monopoly in between)
Life span of cooked dumplings: Nil
End result: A raving success (with a few dumpling casualties).