Xiao Long Bao – Shanghai Steamed Soup Dumplings

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Xiao Long Bao Dumplings

Inspired by Bon Appetit’s May issue featuring Xiao Long Bao and deliciously elegant Kuidaore, I decided to try making XLB for the first time. If you’ve never had XLB before, its one of those foods that you absolutely must try in your lifetime. Inside the dumpling are little pockets of gelatinized broth made from chicken, pork and cured ham. When you steam the dumpling, the broth gelatin melts. If you would like to be seduced, read on. If you aren’t in a spot where you can comfortably moan out loud (like at work, or at school, or if your kids are running around), I suggest that you close this site, come back another time with a glass of wine – you really can’t skip the foreplay.

Beginning of Foreplay

Aromatic chicken, pork bone and cured ham broth set & cut into shimmering ribbons of translucent gelatin:

Broth Gelatin

Cut into cubes they look like jewels:

Xiao Long Bao Broth Gelatin

Are you hungry yet? The little dumplings are begging to be nestled between your lips.

Xiaolongbao

See the steam? The sun was just starting to come down as we began our feast. Do you see the spicy Sriracha “Rooster Cock Sauce” seducing you from behind?

Dumplings in Steamer

This is the end of Foreplay

Don’t be shy, I’ll hold your hand and walk you through it.

Pick up one of those wooden soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks. Gently lay down one of those tender, juicy dumpings so that it drapes seductively in your spoon. Glide the warm wooden spoon towards your mouth, let your lips lightly brush against the nipple of the dumpling. Slowly move down and take a little nibble on on of the folds of the skin. Let the wisps of steam escape out and caress your upper lip and the tip of your nose. Surrender to the aromatic symphony of the filling tickling your senses. Ok, now go ahead, slowly bite into it. An explosion of rich, steaming, hot juice oozes into the groove of your tongue, dribbling down the side of your chin, and you try to catch any escaping broth with your spoon. No, don’t just stop at one…go ahead, take another one.

Don’t you feel deliciously alive?!

This is the end of Orgasm

===CUE IN HUMOROUS ANECDOTE TO EASE THE UNCOMFORTABLE MOMENT OF ‘WHO TALKS FIRST’===

While I typically specialize in easy, fast Asian recipes – this is not fast and easy. So I’ll give you fair warning that this does take time to make. It took about half a day to prepare the soup, chill & set with agar-agar, prep the filling, make & knead the dough, cut out dough circles, wrap, and steam. Whew. I know you’re saying, “those damn dumplings better taste mighty fine.” And oh, yes they did (you have my permission to skip to the beginning of this post to have another go at it or to see the picture of our Sunset Soup Sdumpling Supper. but please do come back because it took 2 hours and 3 glasses of wine to figure out how to use the slide show thingy below. maybe the wine had something to do with it taking 2 hours, but who knows)

Notes on Hot Water Dough:

Since I had never made XLB before, another call to Mom…and no, she didn’t advise me to get a can of Pews-bewry dough. The combination of using hot water and cold water was perfect and is one of the secrets -the boiling hot water partially cooks the dough & forms gluten better, resulting in a soft, stretchy, pliable and very easy to work with and do multiple pleats. The dough rolled beautifully, but it was still very strong and held the filling without breaking. When you add the hot water, take a pair of chopsticks and use that to stir vigorously to get the gluten going. How vigorous? Well, the best way to describe is to show the dough who’s boss and slap the dough around!

After a couple of minutes of all that slapping, add the cold water, stir more. Dump it out on your floured surface and knead. Magically, the dough changes and becomes so soft and springy. Simply put, the dough is giving in to you. Tired of being slapped. Yes, you’re the boss.

My mom initially told me 300g of all purpose flour, however, I found that not to be enough and kept adding more flour as I went along. In the recipe, I’m going to estimate that it is 400g. However, I’ll talk a little about how I know when to add more flour below.

Notes on Kneading:

When I am making anything that involves flour and kneading, I always use 90% measurement of flour than what the recipe calls for initially. The reason is that I can always add more flour if needed – its very simple to do that and very simple to knead the additional flour in by hand. However, if you have too much flour, it is very difficult to add more water to the dough. I also measure out the flour by weight, not by cups, as everyone measures a little different and ingredients may settle in the measuring cup a little different. So I initially use 90% of the flour and reserve the remaining 10% on my counter to incorporate bit by bit as I knead. This ensures that I never use too much flour. Your counter should be floured, so that the dough doesn’t stick to the counter. While you are kneading, if the dough is very sticky, add 1T of flour at a time. Sprinkle some on top of the dough, some on the counter – and knead to incorporate the new flour thoroughly. It feels right when its slightly tacky, but not sticky. The dough should come together beautifully in a nice, smooth, round ball. Let it rest (you’d be tired too if you were slapped around). When you poke it with your finger, the dough should slowly ease back into position.

The Pleating:

Master XLB pleaters pleat lightening fast. And, they pleat the dumplings with one hand. I just don’t have that kind of talent and I didn’t count how many pleats there were. Each dumpling was a little different based on how well I managed to get my fat fingers out of the way on the last fold. For me to explain how I did this in words, I’d probably need a couple of cocktails in hand. Here’s a series of images to show you instead!

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A confession about the oh-so-perfect cubes that were pictured in the Foreplay section. I started out with perfect cubes – trying to imitate the method Kuidore used. I should have known that for me, someone who compulsively has to touch and mess up the columns of flawlessly folded t-shirts at The Gap, it was just too perfect for me. So, instead, I took a fork and ran it quickly through the gelatin cubes to break it up into smaller pieces and mixed that directly into my pork/shrimp filling.

Another note about the recipe in Bon Appetit: Anita Lo’s filling recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of sugar, which I think is too much. Maybe she meant 3 tsp? I don’t want to doubt the recipe from Anita, whom I really respect. Well, anyways, it tasted great with 2 tsp. The filling shouldn’t be too sweet. Its a savory dish.  Anita’s version of using pre-made won-ton wrappers is great if you’re in hurry, but since I’m going to take the time and energy to make the broth and the filling, why not just take a little more time and love to make your own wrapper too? Using won-ton skins really would be such a waste on this dish! I guess its like making a delicate, home-made chocolate souffle and then squirting Hershey’s chocolate syrup on top of it. Yeah, you could….but why?  Also, most won-ton skins are too thin to make XLB – I can’t imagine how well it would work. Regarding the round 3″ cookie cutter used to cut out the dough rounds: I didn’t have one. So I took a small can of bamboo shoots, opened both sides of it and used the can as my cookie cutter. Since I have one of those nifty Oxo no-sharp edges can openers, it was pretty easy and no cut fingers.

Don’t worry, the bamboo shoots didn’t go to waste, they went into a batch of My Mom’s Famous Egg Rolls Chinese Egg Rolls .

 

Print

Xiao Long Bao Recipe

Servings: Prep Time: Cook Time:
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Ingredients:

Directions:

The Soup
2 quarts of water
2 pounds chicken bones (wings/back/neck)
2 ounces of Virginia Smithfield ham (or cured Chinese ham if you can get it), cut into 4 pieces
1/2 pound of pork skin & fat (you can ask your butcher for this, he'll most likely just give it to you. you could also use pork belly, or just a fatty cut of pork)
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced into 4-5 ginger "coins"
2 green onions, cut into 3" pieces
2 large garlic cloves, smashed with side of your knife
2 teaspoons of Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)

The Broth Gelatin

1 tablespoon powdered Agar Agar or 1 tablespoon of unflavored gelatin

Place 4 cups of the broth back in the pot, turn on the heat. When just about to boil again, turn heat off and add the agar-agar or gelatin. Whisk for 2 minutes until all powder is dissolved. Pour broth into an 8x8 baking dish (size really doesn't matter. if you have a few plastic containers, use those instead. remember how you used to make jello?) Refrigerate until set, about 3-4 hours. (I stuck mine in the freezer after the first hour because I got impatient...it only took 2 hours for mine to set)

The Filling
1 lb ground pork
1/4 lb shrimp, shelled, deveined and minced finely
3 stalks green onion, finely minced
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use rasp grater)
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix all ingredients. Remember the broth gelatin above? When the broth gelatin is set, run a fork through it, with criss-cross motion, to break up into very small 1/4" pieces. Take about 1 1/2 cups of the broth gelatin and add that to the filling mixture. Stir to incorporate evenly throughout. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mom's Hot Water Dough
(makes about 40 dumplings)

400 grams of all-purpose flour (but please re-read the part above re: dough)
3/4 cups boiling hot water
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon cooking oil

Put 90% of the flour in a large bowl. Pour about a third of the hot water in the flour. Use a pair of chopsticks to stir vigorously. Add more hot water. Stir more. Add the last bit of the water and stir vigorously until the dough begins to form. Add the cold water and oil. Keep stirring vigorously with chopsticks. Stop when you can't stir anymore.

Dust counter with the remainder 40 grams of flour. Place dough on floured surface, use your hands to knead the dough for 8 -10 minutes, until it becomes soft, smooth and bounces back slowly when you poke with your finger. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Take one piece (cover the remaining 3 pieces with plastic wrap) and roll it into a long log, about 1-1/4" diameter. Using pastry scraper or knife, cut dough into pieces about the size of a golf ball. Roll one of the balls between your palms to get a nice, round, smooth ball. Using a rolling pin, roll it out flat. Use 3" cookie cutter or improvise with my ghetto version of a cutter to cut out the dough circle. **Note, you may need more flour as your are rolling out your dough. I always keep the counter dusted and a small pile of flour nearby so I can quickly nudge some over if I need it.

Fill with 1 tablespoon of filling, pinch pleat by following the slideshow above. Repeat with rest. Make sure that you cover any dough that you aren't currently using and cover the dumplings with a towel to prevent drying.

The Dipping Sauce (Combine and refrigerate)
2 tablespoons of sambal (hot chili & garlic sauce)
1/2 cup black vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon of shaved ginger

How to shave ginger: Take a big knob - about 2 inches long.Remove skin. Use your sharp paring knife to get a flat surface on one of the long sides. With a vegetable peeler, cut thin strips along the long side of the ginger. Use knife to further cut the strips into super-thin slices. This way, you get the full flavor of ginger in your sauce + the crunch of the little strips of ginger as you eat without tough, fibrous pieces of ginger.

The Steaming
1 head of Napa cabbage, leaves separated

Fill steamer with 1 layer of Napa cabbage leaves. Steam over medium heat for 2 minutes to warm up the steamer and to soften cabbage. Place dumplings on the cabbage leaves, leaving 1 1/2" space between each dumpling. Steam for 12 minutes. Serve in bamboo steamer. Eat orgasmically.

Comments 173

  1. simcooks

    I am all WET… with salivation. It’s quite a bit of work to reach the Big O (I meant Oomph! – what were you thinking?) but I am sure it was well worth the effort. I can see your face all flushed with joy.

  2. Amy

    I was totally just seduced… at work no less! ;D Xiao long bao is probably one of my top 5 favorite things in the world. Oh soooo good. When I go back to Shanghai I eat it for breakfast everyday. My relatives always ask “Xiao long bao again?!” and I just say “yup!” then proceed to slurp up all the yummy goodness. Sheng jian bao is really good too.

    This is a great post and recipe! I’ve always wanted to make these at home so I’ll have to try it out when I have time. Thanks!

  3. SteamyKitchen

    Simcooks – I KNOW!! what was I thinking? It normally doesn’t take half a day to get the big O!!!

    Amy- I’m going to Shanghai in October – can’t wait to order XLB for breakfast!!!!

  4. Mario

    new to site, really enjoy ure detailed approach and awesome photos to boot.

    becoming a big fan of the site, keep up the great cooking =)

  5. SteamyKitchen

    Hey Mario – thanks for reading…I’m having fun with the food photography and learning more as I go along. Its been a fun ride the past 3 months!

  6. tigerfish

    I’m looking for a straw ! To suck out every bit of the XLB juice.
    I salute you in making your own XLB. They are sure worth your every effort :D
    Some more! Some more! The XLM, I mean ;p LOL!

  7. Rasa Malaysia

    Here is the million dollar question…some Xiao Long Bao restaurants make that little circle thingy at the center of all the pleats? How do they do it?

  8. SteamyKitchen

    Tigerfish-nothing beats X-rated XLB!

    PassionateEater-I just spent an hour at Kirk’s site – love it!

    RM- I tried making those pleats and came to the conclusion that the restaurants hired little gremlins with little tiny hands in the back of the kitchen. If I figure it out or find myself a gremlin on minimum wage I’ll put up a video.

  9. Ady

    Wonderfull Jaden, I’ve no words to speak about, this is the most beautiful post I have seen recently.
    Now I fell like to try to do XLB, thank you bye bye

  10. Un-Swiss Miss

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve been really missing the xiao long bao recently (my mom call the ones with soup in it “tang bao”) and since it’s hard to get here, I have to make them myself. Now I can!

  11. Linda

    i have been searching for a good dumpling dough recipe for months now! thanks for this! can’t wait to try it!!!

  12. eliza

    i just found your blog DMBLGIT gallery and i love what you’re making here! i definitely will come back and read some more…

  13. SteamyKitchen

    UnSwiss Miss- you’re website is hilarious – made my day!

    Linda-let me know how yours turn out!

    Eliza-DMBLGIT is so addictive! I can spend hours browsing through pics and people’s sites!

  14. GuyJ

    I tried to make steamed buns before but the recipe i saw said that yeast should be used, however they turned out far too thick!

  15. SteamyKitchen

    GuyJ-Yeah, there is definitely no yeast in dumpling dough. Actually, there is no yeast in Chinese Cha Sui Bao dough either (the light fluffy steamed buns with bbq pork stuffing)

  16. GuyJ

    Thats probably why mine tasted more like bread!. Im having another go this weekend.

  17. eatdrinknbmerry

    Hi jaden, awesome posting. finally someone puts up a video on how to roll these little guys. nice job, i’ve tried to make my own dumplings from scratch and ended up looking like a ghost with all the flour i had to use haha.

  18. SteamyKitchen

    EatDrink-Thank you. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, just very time consuming, but totally worth every minute.

  19. Pingback: Chinese Steamed Fish « Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen

  20. Lee Ping Chong

    Dear Jaden,

    I have just updated my link to your new URL. Your Xiao Long Bao is beautiful. Same comment as before, who says beautiful woman can’t cook.

    I use pork stock and after a night in the refrigerator it becomes thick like gelatin. I thought using a little Agar Agar is brilliant because I am not fast in wrapping and the nice stock might melt before I finish wrapping.

  21. Pingback: Xiao Long Bao - Shanghai Steamed Soup Dumplings « Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen

  22. trikeratops

    !!!! i was thinking of these when i was surfing around your site…. they look sooo good, and it’s been forever since i’ve had one… if only :P

  23. Joey

    i tried making xiao long pao last weekend.. the dough doesnt come out as it shld be.. disappointed.. the texture don’t taste like XLB.. as i steam the XLB and the agar-agar starts to melt, the dough doesnt seem to be able to hold the soup inside.. instead of inside it leak out.. haiii.. :(

    glad that i saw you recipes.. cant wait to try it..

  24. Chris

    Thank you sooooo much. I have been looking over shanghai soup dumplings after watchin Tony Bourdain chowin down on em, and this is by far the best looking recipe. Goin to the store tonight to gather ingredients….can’t wait to try em! wish me luck!

  25. Missing SF

    OMG, give me more! (keeping with the orgasm theme) This is my FAVORITE type of Dim Sum!! Did I tell you that I love you?

  26. Lucy

    just wanna say your site and posts are truly inspiring! especially this xlb entry omg i feel like giving this a shot but not sure if i’m cut out for it. always wondered how they filled the xlb with soup, now i know. anyway read your chinese steamed fish recipe and coincidentally just a coupla days ago my mom had mentioned that someone who used to work in a chinese restaurant kitchen gave her the exact same tip to make the sauce. thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes and info!

  27. Margie

    do you know if the dumplings can be made and frozen (prior to steaming?)

  28. katy

    Jaden — I should have guessed you would have this (amazing) recipe up. I was in Shanghai this summer and LOVED these to death — all the dumplings I ate in China were sooooooo many million times better than anything I’d ever eaten in the US.

    Quick question though (related to dumplings generally but not to xiao long bao), and I have been wondering about this ever since I got back. The very best dumplings I had were veggie dumplings wrapped in a thick, almost clear dumpling skin, which wasn’t like anything I’d ever had before, but was incredibly delicious. It was thick, but transparent enough to make out the colors of what was inside the dumplings. What was it? Do you have any idea? My guess is that it was made with a special type of flour, or some flour substitute, any guesses?

  29. Margie

    I love your blog. I tried to make the dumplings – however I failed miserably with the dough – it came out sticky and glutenous, also too thick – any suggestions on how to correct. Do you ever teach a dim sum class in NH or can you suggest a class – especially if it has soup dumplings as one of the items taught.

  30. SteamyKitchen

    Hi Margie,

    I don’t know of any Asian classes in NH. You might want to look up “cooking school” in your area!

    re: your dough – it’s hard to tell what went wrong without seeing and touching it. If you go into an Asian market, you can find premixed flour for dumplings. You might want to try that!

    Jaden

  31. TONY

    Jaden,

    I would love to have you feed me…me feed you Xiao Long Bao in your steamy kitchen to orgasm any time!
    Just found tour site though Simply Recipes(www.www.elise.com)

  32. Ric

    I have a question about the gelatin in the soup. In Kuidore’s post, she adamant that no plain gelatin be used, and that all thickening should come from the pork rind. All the other recipes I’ve found go either with only pork rind, or only added gelatin, but you have opted for both. Why is that? Were you afraid that you wouldn’t get enough thickening from just the rind? Why not use more? I’d love to hear your comments.

    Oh, and to katy and lunarennui- It’s wheat starch, not rice flour. This is a common misconception (I had it for years) and even appears in print (a reporter for the LA Times gets taken to task here http://la.foodblogging.com/2007/07/04/the-kitchen-overrated-dim-sum/ in the “Miscellaneous Side Notes” section.

  33. SteamyKitchen

    Hey Ric,

    I found that the pork rind by itself didn’t gelatinize the soup enough to be able to cut into cubes. However…since I ended up ditching the cubing in the end, it would have worked just fine. Next time I’ll just use the pork rind – and use a small spoon to scoop the soft gelatin soup and mix with the meat.

    Let me know if you make XLB and your methods!

    Jaden

  34. Karen

    I feel the need for a cigarette after reading that… and I don’t smoke! I’m fanning myself here and wondering if one of the few places that sell XLB in San Diego is currently open. Wow. Just… whooo… wow.

  35. Ric

    Jaden-

    Thank you for your encouragement; we did indeed make XLB, and Din Tai Fung’s vegetarian dumplings, and some potstickers, and Har Gao too, as part of our 6th annual dumpling fest (oh, and winter melon soup, fried beans, and green tea souffle). I’ve written a detailed description of everything at http://cardhead.livejournal.com/14086.html I hope you (and anyone else) get a chance to read it, because you were such a big help.

    Thanks,
    ric

  36. chris

    I am fascinated with the making of hand made noodles and, more importantly, love to eating them all up.

    so recently I went to shanghai and managed to arrange a private hand pulled noodle making class in shanghai. It was great, and now i am able to make them.

    The only problem was the lesson did not include how to make the dough which, obviously, is an integral part of the noodle making process

    I would be ever so grateful if you had a noodle dough recipe, i have tried everything – I know it required lye water.

    Chris
    Melbourne, Australia

  37. polly + dieter

    we LOVE dim sum. but we don’t know where to get it in the area. we were first introduced to it in san francisco where we ate it voraciously. is there a place in tampa to find good dim sum? this dumpling looks delicious.

  38. Tiggerbat

    I can’t even tell you how long I have been searching for exactly this recipe!
    SOOOO awesome!
    Great food porn, too. Love the photos. Keep it up!

  39. Pingback: ~iMoM~ » Tagged: 8 Random Things About My Kids

  40. angela

    Hi! Ever since I saw these on Anthony Bourdain’s trip to Shanghai I’ve always wanted to get my hands on a good recipe because in my near future it doesnt seem I’ll be doing that kind of traveling. But, I also saw a soup dumpling that took up one whole bamboo steamer section. Making one huge dumpling which was only ate with a straw. It looked amazing. Could I do that with this recipe but just make the dough ball bigger? And if so how much bigger. I guessing it’ll just have to be a trial and error thing. You should try it !

  41. Mel

    Hi, I would like to ask is it possible to steam the ‘xiao long bao’ on a steamer instead of a bamboo steamer? As i dont have one, or MUST i own one??

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