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Shanghai Soup Dumplings

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Yes, Virginia, there is Jello in Chinese cooking. You say you don’t believe it, but indeed, it’s true.

Are you having visions of quivering rings of Astro-turf-colored sugar topped with glistening slices of Peking duck? (Actually, I found this photo on Flickr, it might be worse: duck hearts in gelatin.)

You of biting sarcasm and suspicious mind, hear me out.

The Chinese, with their many-thousand-year history, have figured out a thing or two. The compass, paper, gunpowder, and now my personal favorite, how to get the soup inside a soup dumpling without puncturing the dumpling wrap.


jenn - xiao long bao

The soup is ingeniously inserted into the dumpling in solid form (yes, the gelatin) and when steamed, it melts into broth. I am determined to find other applications for this technique. Anyone have ideas?

For those of you who have never had a soup dumpling, or xiao long bao, it is a delicate, steamed dumpling with a ground pork filling surrounded by a savory broth. To eat it, put it in a deep spoon, drizzle it with tangy vinegar and slurp it down. Or, if it’s cooled enough to handle, grab one with your fingers, dip into the sauce and pop into your mouth, all in one motion.

Since Dan had said that everything he had made from Andrea Nguyen’s book, Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More had been delicious (and I had never made soup dumplings), I decided not to tamper much with her recipe. He was right and she is fantastic – these are really good. I think all of us at Perfectly Edible are big fans. Ms. Nguyen has a blog, check it out. jenn - xiao long bao mix

I quadrupled the following recipe and had enough for a party as well as 50 or so for the freezer (freeze them uncooked).

Shanghai Soup Dumplings
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More
- makes about 30 small dumplings-

1 1/3 c. chicken stock
1T salty, smoky ham chopped
1 whole scallion, cut into 2-inch lengths and lightly smashed with broad side of knife
3 quarter-sized slices ginger, smashed w/ knife
1 ½ t unflavored gelatin

Generous 2-inch piece ginger
1 scallion, chopped
scant ½ t salt
1/8 t pepper
1 ½ t sugar
1 t soy sauce
1T rice wine or sherry
1 ½ t sesame oil
½ lb. ground pork

Dipping sauce
Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
Finely diced ginger

Package of Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers (round, thin, white)

To make the soup: Combine everything but the gelatin in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered for 8 min or until stock has reduced by half (you should have a generous 2/3 cup). Cool a bit and then strain.

With the stock is still slightly warm, put back in saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Heat on medium-high heat, whisking until dissolved. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat. Pour into 8×8” Pyrex or other ceramic/glass shallow dish to make a thin layer. Cool on the counter, then cover with saran and refrigerate until set.

To make filling: Add to a mini-food processor thinly sliced ginger, scallion, salt, pepper, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Pulse until you have a paste. Scrape out into a bowl and add the ground pork. Mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 min. I made all of this a day ahead of time, so I didn’t combine the broth gelatin and pork until just before making the dumplings. When ready to make the dumplings, cut the gelatin into quarters and use a spatula to peel out of the dish. Mmmm, chicken broth Jello. Chop into small pieces and mix into the pork mixture.

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To assemble: This will take some practice. Probably by your 10th dumpling you will get the hang of it. I was lucky to have a friend (Chinese? No, Jewish) show me what the heck to do. We used a little bit of water to help the dumpling wrappers stick closed.

So, hold a dumpling wrapper in one hand, put in about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center. Dip a finger in some water and swipe it around the edge of the wrapper, around the filling. With the same hand, pinch the edges of the wrapper around the filling so that it starts to look like a cupcake wrapper (accordion-like).  With the same hand, gather together all the little accordion edges and try to twist gently into a “knot” at the top. You won’t have much dough to spare, so use your “holding” hand to help stretch the dough just a little bit. Squeeze the top-knot together so it sticks.

To cook: Put a steamer insert over a pot of boiling water. Put a piece of parchment paper or leaves from a napa cabbage on the bottom of the steamer. Place dumplings on top, cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

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