Homemade Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)

Homemade soup dumplings dripping soup into a spoon

Soup dumplings are a childhood favorite that brings back fond memories of flavors and experiences. The thin, delicate wrappers filled with fragrant soup are a treat that lingers in our hearts. Today, we’re sharing an easier recipe for Xiao Long Bao, commonly known as soup dumplings, that allows you to recreate the restaurant-quality dish in your own kitchen using readily available ingredients.

What are Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)?

Xiao Long Bao, originating from Shanghai cuisine, is a type of steamed dumpling enjoyed throughout China. These dumplings are known for their paper-thin wrappers filled with a mild pork filling and a pocket of flavorful soup. They are typically served with a gingery vinegar dipping sauce. Whether as a snack, appetizer, or main course, Xiao Long Bao is a beloved dish that impresses guests and makes for a memorable dining experience.

Holding Xiao Long Bao with chopsticks

How to Infuse Soup into the Dumplings

Creating the soup-filled center of the dumplings requires making aspic, a congealed meat broth. Similar to homemade chicken or pork broth, the soup congeals into a gelatinous texture when chilled. For the soup dumplings, the gelatin is made even thicker, forming a jelly-like texture that can be easily incorporated into the dumplings. The gelatin melts during cooking, transforming into the soupy filling.

Traditional Approach

Traditionally, the meat gelatin is made using pork skin and trotters, simmered for hours to create a rich, flavorful broth. However, finding these ingredients in regular grocery stores outside of China can be challenging.

Further reading:  Easy Seasoned Pork Chops: Taking Your Meal to the Next Level

Our Approach

To provide a lighter and less greasy alternative, we opted for a chicken-based broth. By using chicken backs and necks and employing a roasting method, we developed a concentrated broth that provides intense flavor in less time.

How to Make Soup Dumplings

Prepare the Jelly Broth (Aspic)

  1. Add chicken backs to a Dutch oven or heavy pot.
  2. Top with aromatics.
  3. Roast covered until you obtain approximately 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
  4. Chill the broth in the refrigerator overnight until congealed, then remove the chicken fat from the top.
  5. Slice and dice the gelatin into small pieces.
  6. Store the jelly in the fridge until ready to use.

Note: The quantity of broth may vary depending on the pot and chicken backs used. We recommend weighing the gelatin and adjusting if necessary.

How to make the aspic (meat jelly) for soup dumplings

Prepare the Filling

  1. Make ginger water.
  2. Combine the ginger water and seasonings with ground pork.
  3. Beat until well absorbed and the mixture becomes springy.
  4. Add the chicken jelly and green onion.
  5. Mix well and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

How to make soup dumpling filling

Assemble the Soup Dumplings

  1. Slowly drizzle water into the dough and mix, starting with hot water and transitioning to cold water.
  2. Knead by hand until a dough is formed.
  3. Continue kneading on a table until the dough becomes smooth.
  4. Let the dough rest until it becomes even smoother and softer in texture.
  5. Roll the dough into a long log and cut it in half, working with one piece at a time.
  6. Divide the log into 10 equal pieces.
  7. Roll each piece into a thin wrapper.
  8. Add the filling.
  9. Wrap the dumplings, creating pleats.
  10. Leave a small opening at the top to allow steam to escape without bursting the dumplings.
  11. Steam a few dumplings at a time.
  12. Serve hot with a dipping sauce.
Further reading:  Juicy and Flavorful Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops

How to make soup dumplings step-by-step

Tips for Success

Dough Texture

The type of flour used, room humidity, and other factors can impact the dough’s water absorption rate. All-purpose flour from Asia typically has lower gluten content compared to the ones in the US. For this recipe, we tested using regular US all-purpose flour, which usually contains around 10% to 11% gluten. When making the dough, pay attention to the texture. It should be soft but not sticky, and after resting, it should be pliable and easy to roll out. Adjust the quantity of cold water based on your environment.

Ingredient Measurement

To achieve the best results, precise measurements are crucial for soup dumplings. We recommend using a kitchen scale rather than volumetric measurements.

Rolling Pin

For making dumplings and buns, a small Chinese rolling pin is highly recommended. Its size allows you to work with one small wrapper at a time and offers better maneuverability compared to larger rolling pins.

Bamboo Steamer

While a bamboo steamer is ideal for making soup dumplings and other steamed dim sum, a regular stainless steel steamer works as well. To prevent condensation from dripping onto the dumplings and potentially scorching the dough, place a clean kitchen towel over the pot before covering it with the lid.

Uncooked Xiao Long Bao in a bamboo steamer

How to Serve and Store

Serving

Soup dumplings are best enjoyed immediately while still hot. The longer they sit, the more the dough absorbs the soup, resulting in less juicy dumplings. They can be savored on their own or traditionally served with thin ginger strips soaked in Chinkiang vinegar, adding a tangy element to the dumplings.

To consume a soup dumpling, carefully lift it with chopsticks onto a soup spoon. There are two popular ways to enjoy them:

  1. Poke a hole in the skin, allowing the soup to run out. Then slurp up the soup before eating the dumpling with or without the dipping sauce.
  2. Slurp the soup directly from the dumpling, or eat the whole dumpling after it cools slightly. Be cautious not to burn your tongue if the dumplings are still steaming hot.
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Making Ahead

If you plan to prepare soup dumplings in advance, you can make the dough and filling, and wrap and cook the dumplings when you’re ready to serve. The wrapped dumplings can be refrigerated for up to an hour, but it’s recommended to cook them as soon as possible. The longer the raw dumplings sit, the drier the outer dough becomes and the soggier the inside gets.

Unfortunately, freezing the wrapped dumplings is not recommended. Commercial frozen soup dumplings contain chemical additives that stabilize the filling, allowing them to be frozen without compromising the soupy interior. However, replicating this at home is challenging without the use of such additives.

Eating soup dumplings with soup in the spoon

Final Thoughts

Making Xiao Long Bao at home requires time and effort. It’s typically considered a restaurant dish in China, where it’s readily available and affordable. However, outside of China, where access to authentic soup dumplings may be limited, making them at home becomes a luxury and an opportunity to enjoy this Shanghainese delicacy.

We hope this recipe helps you recreate the authentic taste of soup dumplings in your own kitchen. Precise measurements and attention to detail are key to achieving the best results. So gather your ingredients and embark on a culinary adventure to create these flavorful and satisfying dumplings.

Lilja Walter, a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team, collaborated closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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