I’m loving my days in the kitchen so much recently. Ever since I started doing the #Weekly_Canteen | #Cook_for_friends gig, I began exploring and revisiting some recipes and ideas that was long forgotten. Last week alone I tried a total of 15 recipes, among them a few I even did several times, as I wanted to perfect it to really meet My Orange Pot’s palate.
A few years back I visited a couple of friends who were living in Shanghai who introduced me to the curious local delicacy known as xiao long bao (often called “Shanghai Soup Dumplings”). It was very intriguing to look at something called “soup” dumpling, when it’s neither served with soup nor was is presented in a bowl of soup. But my friend explains that it’s because the soup is INSIDE the dumpling itself. Say what? Further to this, my friend shows me that this is why it is recommended to eat a xiao long bao with a spoon, and not chopsticks so you could truly enjoy the entire soupy sensation in the parcel of soup goodness.
I think China was so ahead of its time when xiao long bao was invented, as in the culinary world today, such technique is used heavily in molecular gastronomy. What you experience is beyond what you see. One example is when you have a glorious spoonful of cauliflower soup looking like three yellow marbles but it pops in your mouth the second they touch your tongue.
As with many other foods that I came to love, I made it my business to learn how to make it. You know in case the apocalypse happen and I couldn’t buy them anymore. More over with xiao long bao, after doing further investigation, I learnt that it was made with pork heavy products. I don’t eat pork or any of its counter-parts, so the only way to repeat the experience is by making it yourself!
And thus it began.
#NoPork Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings)
Adapted from “Asian Dumplings” by Andrea Nguyen
Tools: small saucepan, Ziploc container with lid
Total cook time: 10 minutes prep time, 30~40 minutes wait time
- 1-1/3 cups chicken stock (I dissolved 1 tsp chicken soup in hot water)
- 1 Tbsp packed chopped smoked duck or other smoked turkey/chicken – anything smoky
- 1 scallion (white and green parts), cut into 5 cm lengths and smash with the broad end of a knife
- 3 of 100-yen (500-rupiah/ quarter-size) slices ginger (get the watery Chinese ginger slices if you can), smashed with the broad side of a knife
- 2 tsp agar-agar powder
- Combine everything from stock down to ginger slices in a small saucepan. On medium heat, bring to a boil and cook uncovered for about 8-10 minutes. Watch it and turn off the heat if the soup has reduced by half.
- Strain the stock, discarding the solids and set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes
- Return the stock to the saucepan and sprinkle the agar-agar powder. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the agar-agar powder is dissolved. After the stock comes to a boil turn off the heat. Pour it into a flat container (I have used a Ziploc container, or a loaf pan) that can help the soup cool quickly spread out. Refrigerate for 20~40 minutes.**
- Peel the gelled soup and chop it finely.
**Note: I often make the soup a day in advanced, so I normally only chop it right before mixing it with the other fillings. If you use a Ziploc container, this solves the storing issue – just put the lid on!)
Tools: food processor, a small bowl
Total cook time: 5-10 minutes prep time, 1-hour wait time
Makes 32 wrappers
- 3/4 cup bread flour
- 6 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 7 Tbsp just-boiled water (bring water to a rolling boil and then use it once the bubbles subside)
- 1-1/2 tsp canola oil
- Combine the two flours in the food processor bowl.
- Measure the water in a small bowl then add oil
- Run the food processor, then pour in the water-oil mixture through the feeding tube. You’ll get a crumb like warm dough. Add water by ½ tsp, if needed. (Or you can mix the flour then the water oil into it by hand)
- Gather dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 2-4 minutes (or 5-7 minutes by hand) until the dough is smooth and a tad elastic. You can check by pressing your finger into the dough, it should bounce back fairly quickly and with a shallow indentation
- Place dough ball in a Ziploc plastic bag and seal well (expelling the air as you seal the bag). Let rest in room temperature for 1 hour before making it into wrappers
After wait time is over and you have finished making the filling and sauce:
- Remove the dough from the bag; the dough will be sticky. On a lightly floured surface gently shape the dough into a ball. Cut in half and replace one half back in the plastic bag, seal well.
- Roll the other half into a 25~30 cm log, cut into even 16 pieces. Put 8 pieces under a clean kitchen towel to prevent drying. Work with the remaining 8 and roll them into about 6.5~7 cm circles. Try to make a belly of 2.5 cm where it’s thicker than the rest of the circle. This will help the end product in making sure the soup doesn’t leak out during the steaming process.**
- Continue the process to the remaining dough in series of 8.
**Note: This process is quickly done with a tortilla press to start and then roll out with a small wooden pin (I got mine from 100-yen shop), but you can certainly make do without the tortilla press.
Filling and Sauce
Tools: mini-chopper, mixing bowl, wooden spoon/spatula
Total time: 5~10 minutes prep time, 30 minutes wait time
- Chubby 5 cm piece fresh ginger (I prefer the Chinese watery kind), peeled
- (A) Thinly slice1.5 cm piece of ginger
- (B) Cut the remaining 3.5 cm piece of ginger into fine shreds
- 1 scallion (white and green parts), chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
- 1-1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- Optional: 1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1-1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 250 grams ground chicken or smoked duck that has been diced finely or a combination between the two. If you ground the chicken yourself include the skin, all recipes always recommend the meat to be the fatty kind.
- ¼ cup Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar or ponzu sauce (I usually alternate between balsamic vinegar or ponzu sauce)
For the filling:
- In a mini chopper put the sliced ginger (A), scallion, salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine/dry sherry (if using) and sesame oil. Process until creamy and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the chicken/duck and use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine.
- Add the chopped gelled soup and continue mixing until well blended and firm.
- Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes to develop flavour
For the dipping sauce:
- Divide the fine shredded ginger (B) and vinegar/ponzu sauce into two communal bowls
- If the vinegar is too tart, add a bit of water. Set aside
Assembling, cooking, serving and eating the dumplings
Tools: steamer basket, baking sheet, parchment paper, cabbage leaves/steaming cloth/cheese cloth, soupspoons
- Before assembling the dumplings, line steamer basket with steaming cloth/or you could also use cabbage leaves or parchment paper. Also prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- To assemble the dumplings, hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop about 2.5 tsp of filling with a small spoon and position in the center of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a mound and keeping about 1.25~2 cm inch of wrapper clear on all sides. Use the thumb of the hand cradling the dumpling to push down the filling and keep it in place while the fingers of the other hand pull up the dough edge and pleat and pinch the rim together to form a closed satchel. Make sure to pinch and twist the dough at the end to completely close. The finished dumpling will look very pregnant. (Note for first timer: if you see a tear in your wrapper, make sure to pinch it close. Don’t worry this happens all the time, but we just need to make sure that the tear is corrected, otherwise the soup WILL leak in the steaming process)
- If steaming right away, place each finished dumpling in the steamer basket, sealed side up, space them 2 cm apart and 2.5 cm away from the edge. If you are unable to steam all the dumplings at once (as is what happened to me often), place the waiting ones on the prepared baking sheet with a good 1.25 space between them. Loosely cover the finished dumplings with a dry kitchen towel/plastic wrap as you form and fill wrappers from the remaining dough
- To cook the dumplings, steam them over boiling water for 6-8 minutes. The dumplings should have puffed up and become somewhat translucent. Remove dumplings from steaming basket (or if you use small steamer tray, you can put it on a serving plate).
- Serve the dumplings immediately with the sauce. To eat, pick up a dumpling with chopsticks and place it in a soupspoon. Either bite or poke a small hole at the top with a chopstick. Carefully slurp out the hot soup inside of pour it into the spoon and sip it from there. Finish off the dumpling by eating it straight or dunking it in the dipping sauce or spoon a bit of sauce onto the dumpling or into the hole.
- ENJOY! Bon Appetit! Zhù nín hǎo wèikǒu!