Archive | May, 2011

The Great ‘Xiao Long Bao’ Experiment

30 May

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)

Jellied Soup:

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

Meat Filling

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

Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup black vinegar

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp shaved ginger

1 tbsp sambal/chilli sauce

To steam

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’.

(meat filling)

7. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients for the ‘Meat Filling” together in a large bowl. Store covered in the fridge.

(dipping sauce)

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.

(jellied soup)

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).


Defrost yourselves: ‘Go-in Hotpot Train’

15 May

So the days have been incredibly wet, mighty cold, and rather “ick”. Noses have run amuck (this writer’s included), with many feeling quite literally “under the weather”.Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is officially hotpot season.

It is during such  times that places like Go-in Hotpot Train receive resounding praise. This dime-sized eatery is best defined as a mash-up between a sushi bar and a hotpot restaurant because it is, essentially,  just that. Picking up where ‘Sushi Train’ left off, the ingenious entrepreneurs of Go-in Hotpot decided to preserve the restaurant’s abandoned conveyor belt  and create a novel hotpot sensation, where diners select their own hotpot ingredients as they travel up and around on a moving belt. Ah, the resourcefulness of the human mind.

Saddled up to the counter, spying morsels of passing ingredients like a predator eyeing its prey – is a visual treat in itself. The meal kicks off with each diner ordering their preferred soup base, each with his/her own individual pot. Meats and seafood are denied the trip down the runway (for health/hygiene reasons, understandably) and are ordered off the menu. But with everything else, it was open season!

Various tofu, fungi, meats and veggies quickly found their way into our bubbling laksa broths. Of particular fancy were the homemade “balls” (i.e. fish, pork etc.). On the contrary, the round knobs of what appeared to be deep-fried buns were rather difficult to down. These factory-dehydrated buns received their ceremonial boiling (as instructed by the wait staff), after which they resembled hot-sloppy socks with a plasticky taint. We quickly moved on to more favourable commodities, like the sheafs of stiff glass noodles that softened to a translucent goodness upon immersion in piping hot soup.

All in all, it made for a simple, cheery evening. Warmed, satiated, and filled with our year’s worth of MSG, we left fairly satisfied with our $15pp  meal.

The restaurant brims with a hungry host on most evenings, and as they don’t take reservations, try to get there early to avoid being left out in the cold. Perfect for that mid-week catchup whilst all is wet, windy and wild; heed the call of this restaurant’s name and simply.. Go-in.

Go-in Hotpot Train
Ph: 8212 1858

Treasured Relic – The Apothecary 1878

2 May

Whilst this kinky European-inspired wine bar did not originate out of the 1800’s (contrary to what its name may imply), the Apothecary 1878 has undisputedly stood the test of time, drawing a legion of faithful patrons to its shadowed corners since its opening in the year 2002.

The restaurant is the namesake of the 133-year old pharmacy cabinets that line the darkened walls of the Apothecary’s front bar. These aged, mahogany cabinets bear and boast rows of decorative antique wine bottles with many dating back to yonkers of an age. The setting bursts with character, quirky without being too kitsch; chandeliers drooping lazily overhead whilst bums rest on velvet sofas and dark Thonet chairs.

Wander along the narrow stairs tucked away from the main bar area, and you’ll discover nooks and crannies for various activities of wining, dining, and celebrating. The uppermost chamber is a private function room, bold red walls and gold ornaments reminiscent of an old-Victorian cigar room, whilst the lowest level features a dining space for more intimate soirées.

The main draw of the venue is its wine selection, and with a list showcasing pages upon pages of local and international fare, the Apothecary’s wine offering is sure to please both “New” and “Old World” drinkers.

The food – quintessentially Adelaide (or so this writer labels it). Uncomplicated. Satisfying. Not too stuck up its arse to the point of pretension, yet managing to stave off the usual humdrum of standard-fare. Diners can have a pick of ‘starters’ or ‘shared’ dishes to nibble alongside their wines. We commenced our feasting with apple cured salmon served with crisp fennel sheafs and parmesan (excellent with a dry white), and baked chevre with eggplant and almond sauce, which was meltingly warm with the toasted almonds giving a rich nutty kick (those who dislike goat’s cheese however, might wrinkle their noses). The pork and veal meatballs cooked in a heavy tomato was, whilst tasty, not altogether ground-breaking.

Potter Prawn & Caperberries

On the flip side, our table demolished every speck of the potted prawn with caper berries and toast, the sweet pureed flesh driving one diner to wipe out the inner crevices of the pot with her pinkie (classy..).   Relishing in sheer umami-ness was the brined and chargrilled chicken thighs, smoky from its joust with flames and served atop smooth, garlicky skordalia. Two lip-smacking thumbs up.

Mains of roasted eye fillet with bordelaise sauce was cooked to a rare-ish rosy pink (as desired) and pleasing in all its meaty glory. Its side of blue cheese spinach gratin however, almost overshone it – its musky heartiness promising a joy to those fond of the curd. The crepe-like cannelloni of chicken liver and rabbit was indeed – very “livery” with a sustained meaty creaminess that though I believe a few may question, was something I personally enjoyed.

The Wine Breakdown – The 2010 Tscharke ‘Girl Talk” Savagnin from the Barossa carried like blooms on mineral rock, a clean, dry palate of apple and citrus, which worked excellently with most entrees. Red was a 2007 Antinori ‘Peppoli” Sangiovese Merlot Syrah from Tuscany, full of ripe cassis and spice, a paradox of complexity and easy drinkability – a reasonable pairing to our various mains.

Service is efficient and fair. Things do however, get fairly hectic over the weekends, so I’d suggest a weekday drop in. Also, on the side note: The Apothecary dishes up tapas/supper for those seeking a late night snack or a beverage to wine down the day (pun intended).

A rose amongst the thorns of Hindley, this is one place to take out-of-towners to. Eat, drink and be merry.

Apothecary 1878 on Urbanspoon

Apothecary 1878
(08) 8212 9099
City Centre
118 Hindley St
Adelaide, 5000

%d bloggers like this: