Xiao long bao

Do you ever think about how your food is made when you eat out? Sometimes I do, but sometimes I just eat (devour) and enjoy what is being served. Dumplings are one of those items I just eat. I have had different dumplings since I was little and never really given them more thought, even when I make the ones I know. It becomes a routine. This changed a little while ago, when I watched a TV program about a place in Taiwan that was famous for their Xiao long bao, broth filled dumplings. I have eaten them before, but never thought about the complexity of their making untill it was explained on TV.

These broth and meat filled dumplings, these are time-consuming to make, there are no easy shortcuts if you want good results. Yes, you can use store-bought wonton or gyoza wrappers, but it will not be the same. But if you would like to give it a go, here is a recipe, just make sure you put aside a couple of days for this. What I mean is that this is not something you can make in the spur of the moment, there are some waiting time. The first day you have to mix the dough for the wrappers and make the jelly broth or aspic for the filling. It is this jelly that will turn back into a lovely broth when the dumplings are steamed. Soup that bursts out of the dumplings as you bite into them.

This recipe makes about 60 dumplings.

Aspic, jelly soup

Did I mention that there are no shortcuts, sorry I did cheat a bit. I used  gelatine, to make the aspic rather than cooking bone and pork rind to make jelly. Okay, I did cheat  a lot.

2 liters of water
1/2 pound pork belly or fatty cut of pork
1 inch piece of peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
2 stalks spring onions, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves smashed with side of your knife
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
6 sheets unflavored gelatin, (you can use agar agar, but I do not know how much to use, besides the agar agar acts a bit different)
salt and pepper to taste.

Dough

400 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 cups boiling hot water
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon cooking oil

Filling

400 grams ground pork
200 grams shrimp shelled, deveined and minced finely
3 stalks green onion finely chopped
1 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon  salt
1/4 teaspoon  pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

FOR THE ASPIC (soup gelatin)
  1. In a medium-sized pot, place all of the ingredients except the gelatin/agar agar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes uncovered. You can remove the impurity at this point or wait and strain when it is finished. I usually wait until the end.  I strain the broth by using a fine meshed strainer with two layers of clean cloth like a folded tea towel.

  2. Pour the broth into a clean pot and let it simmer until it is reduced to about half a liter.

  3. Turn heat off and stir in the pr-soaked sheets of gelatin or agar agar(follow the instruction on the packet). Whisk until it is dissolved. Pour broth into a dish. Refrigerate until set, about 3-4 hours.

  4. When the gelatin is set, use a fork to criss-cross the gelatin to break into very small, 1/4″ pieces. Alternatively, you can carefully cut into small cubes.

FOR THE FILLING
  1. In a large bowl, combine and mix all of the ingredients, including the aspic. Stir to incorporate it evenly throughout the filling. Refrigerate until ready to use.

FOR THE DOUGH
  1. Put about 90% of the flour in a large bowl. Pour about a third of the hot water in the flour. Use a wooden spoon and stir vigorously. Add more and  more of the hot water while stirring. Keep stirring vigorously until the dough begins to form. Then add the cold water and oil. Keep stirring vigorously. Stop when you can’t stir anymore.

  2. Dust counter with the remainder of the flour. Place dough on the floured  surface, and use your hands to knead the dough for 8 -10 minutes, until it becomes soft,,smooth and bounces back slowly when poked with your finger, it should feel like fresh play doh

  3. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Take one piece (cover the remaining 3 pieces with plastic wrap) and roll it into a long sausage, about 1″ diameter. Cut dough into 15 pieces. Work one piece of dough at a time, keep the remaining covered with plastic wrap.

  5. Roll a piece of the dough between your palms to get a nice, round, smooth ball. Using a rolling-pin, roll it out flat to about 4″ round circle.

    You may need more flour as you are rolling the dough, keep the counter dusted and a small pile of flour nearby for easy access.

  6. Fill with 1 tablespoon of filling, pinch and pleat all the way around. and give the top a twist. Repeat with the rest until you have made all the dumplings. Make sure that you cover any dough that you aren’t currently using and cover the dumplings with a towel to prevent drying.

    MiniMes production of dumplings, for a 10-year-old I think she did a good job..
STEAMING THE DUMPLINGS
  1. Place the dumplings on pieces of lettuce leaves in a bamboo steamer, leaving 1 1/2″ space between each dumpling. Steam for about 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your dough. Serve them hot in the bamboo steamer.

For dipping sauce scroll down.

MiniMe even colored some with food coloring
DIPPING SAUCE
2-3 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup black vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Fresh finely chopped chili to your liking
  1. Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl with the ginger. Serve it with Xiao Long Bao dumplings

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