Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Xiao Long Bao

I have an obsession. An addiction to dumplings of all kinds. I mainly center that devotion to dumplings of the Asian persuasion, but I am an equal opportunity dumpling lover. Those who know me best, know this well. I'm proud to say I have received many gifts inspired by my dumpling obsession.

Showing off one of my favorite shirts while visiting Mexican Donald Duck at Epcot

One of my closest friends has gifted not only an amazing tee shirt with an illustration of a bun, and some very true words (see above), but she also recently got me an amazing framed illustration of a trio of bao wearing towels and hanging out in their steamer basket, much like one would detox in a steam room. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, and I'm so proud to have it now hanging in my kitchen!

Inspired by my new gift, I thought I would share a bit of my recent adventures making xiao long bao, or Shanghai soup dumplings. These are definitely one of my favorite varieties of dumplings, featuring ground pork and seasonings encased with hot broth in a perfectly pleated wrapper. They are a bit more challenging to make than other dumplings, and require additional steps.

Before steaming

One of the biggest differences with a filling for soup dumplings as opposed to a standard pork filling is the gelatinized broth. Rather than make a highly gelatinous stock from scratch, the recipe I used from Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings takes chicken broth and enriches it with flavor from ham, ginger, and scallion, and then uses powdered gelatin to help it set.

Once cooled, this meat jello is chopped up and then folded into the ground pork mixture, containing more ginger, scallion, rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, and seasonings.

Nguyen's xiao long bao are a bit smaller than some other recipes I have, but I decided to go with it. I like having small bites of these brothy dumplings, but larger ones are great as well. I'm sure you can adjust the size of your dumplings according to your preference.

Before steaming

After steaming

In retrospect, I probably should have chopped up the meat jello more finely to make it easier to tuck into the small dumpling wrappers. Although there was broth inside each dumpling, it was a bit less than I had hoped for, perhaps only about a teaspoon or so at the most. Maybe even less.

Draining the "soup" into the spoon

These dumplings were very juicy, but I would have liked it to be a bit more obvious that they were "soup" dumplings with more prominence in the soup to meat ratio. I also think my wrappers were slightly too thick and didn't get quite enough stretch to envelope all the filling properly. User error strikes again.

I ended up with only using about half the filling for the amount of dough called for in the original recipe so I made another batch of xiao long bao with another batch of dough and the remaining filling. Several other recipes I have found (like the version from Hey There, Dumpling!) uses the same amount of meat in the filling, but basically double the amount of dough, and makes much larger dumplings.

I may try that version out next time to see if the dough/filling ratio seems to suit me better, since in my experience I had way more filling than I had dough based on Nguyen's recipe (once again, not faulting her recipe, but perhaps my own execution a bit). I also imagine the larger size would be easier to manipulate and pleat, so we will give it a shot.

I'm not sharing the recipe for this xiao long bao myself, although you can find it here (with slight adaptations using grams instead of ounces and such), but I figure since it didn't work perfectly for me in terms of the dough to filling ratio, I will continue my xiao long bao adventures until I find a recipe I can execute better to yield more reliable results for the home cook.


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