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Steamed Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao): A Taste of Shanghai’s Delicacy

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Steamed dumplings, known as Xiao Long Bao in Mandarin, are a cherished specialty originating from Shanghai, China. These delicate dumplings are prized for their thin, translucent skin and savory broth-filled interior, making them a favorite among dumpling enthusiasts worldwide. Although traditionally enjoyed in restaurants, mastering the art of making Xiao Long Bao at home allows you to savor their fresh, homemade goodness any time. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to prepare and cook these delightful steamed dumplings.

Ingredients

For the Dumpling Dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water (approximately)
  • Pinch of salt

For the Filling:

  • 300g (10 oz) ground pork (preferably with a good ratio of fat)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken or pork broth

For the Broth (Gelatinous Stock):

  • Reserved broth from the filling (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon gelatin (optional, for extra gelatinous texture)

For Serving:

  • Chinese black vinegar
  • Fresh ginger, finely julienned

Instructions

1. Prepare the Dumpling Dough

  1. Mix Dough: In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and salt. Gradually add water while stirring with a fork or chopsticks until the mixture forms a shaggy dough.
  2. Knead: Transfer the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

2. Prepare the Filling

  1. Mix Filling: In another bowl, mix together ground pork, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, minced ginger, minced garlic, chopped spring onions, sugar, white pepper, salt, cornstarch, and chicken or pork broth. Stir vigorously in one direction until the mixture is well combined and slightly sticky.
  2. Chill Filling: Cover and refrigerate the filling for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

3. Form and Fill the Dumplings

  1. Roll Dough: Roll out the rested dough on a floured surface into a long log shape. Cut the log into small pieces, about 1-inch in diameter.
  2. Shape Dough: Flatten each piece with your palm into a small circle. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a thin, round wrapper, approximately 3 inches in diameter and thicker in the center than the edges.
  3. Fill Dumplings: Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Fold the edges of the wrapper up and pleat around the filling, twisting to seal the top. Ensure there are no air pockets.

4. Steam the Dumplings

  1. Prepare Steamer: Line a bamboo steamer or metal steamer basket with parchment paper or cabbage leaves to prevent sticking.
  2. Steam Dumplings: Arrange the dumplings in the steamer basket, leaving space between each dumpling to expand during cooking. Steam over boiling water for 10-12 minutes until the wrappers are translucent and cooked through.

5. Serve

  1. Serve Hot: Carefully transfer the steamed dumplings to a serving plate or individual plates.
  2. Enjoy with Dipping Sauce: Serve Xiao Long Bao hot with Chinese black vinegar and finely julienned ginger on the side for dipping.

Tips for Success

  1. Dough Consistency: Ensure the dough is kneaded thoroughly to achieve elasticity, which helps in rolling out thin wrappers without tearing.
  2. Filling Preparation: Refrigerating the filling helps in firming up the mixture, making it easier to handle during wrapping.
  3. Pleating Technique: Mastering the art of pleating takes practice. Start with simple pleats and gradually increase as you become more comfortable.
  4. Steamer Setup: Make sure the steamer is properly set up with enough water, and maintain a steady steam throughout the cooking process.
  5. Gelatinous Broth (Optional): To achieve a more authentic Xiao Long Bao experience, consider adding gelatin to the broth mixture for a richer, more flavorful filling.

Variations

  • Vegetarian Option: Substitute the pork filling with finely chopped mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables for a vegetarian version.
  • Seafood Variation: Replace pork with minced shrimp or a combination of shrimp and pork for a seafood twist.
  • Spicy Xiao Long Bao: Add a teaspoon of chili oil or Sichuan peppercorns to the filling for a spicy kick.

Conclusion

Steamed dumplings, specifically Xiao Long Bao, offer a delightful culinary experience with their delicate wrappers and savory broth-filled center. By following this detailed recipe, you can recreate the authentic taste of Shanghai’s famous dumplings in the comfort of your own kitchen. Serve these steamed dumplings hot with dipping sauce for a satisfying meal or appetizer that will impress friends and family alike with your homemade culinary skills. Enjoy the rich flavors and delicate textures of Xiao Long Bao, a true taste of Chinese culinary heritage.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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