If you ever heard of the restaurant Din Tai Fung, you are familiar with Xiao Long Bao, Shanghai soup dumplings. This famous international restaurant is famous for serving delicate pork dumplings that are filled with a savory broth. You bite into these little wonders and out comes a hot flavorful soup. Pour out the soup first then dip the dumplings into a vinegar and ginger dipping sauce. Drooling yet? Although these dumplings are most popular at Din Tai Fung, they are available at few other Chinese restaurants; no matter what establishment you get them from, they will be delicious, I guarantee it. Determined to replicate Xiao Long Bao myself, I did some research and made my own version at home. The dumpling's reputation for being tedious and difficult to make was very much true; however, with detailed steps and instructions, you can successfully make your own batch at home!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Okay so I'll admit, my Shanghai soup dumplings were not perfect. The dough was not as thin as it should have been, but learn from my mistakes and you can make yours come out perfectly!
While researching recipes for these dumplings, I found that almost all used gelatin as the thickener. I doubt that was the traditional way to prepare the broth, so I went with another recipe that used pork skin - all natural! If you cannot find pork skin, purchase pork belly and remove the skin on top.
When preparing the broth, you want the most flavorful soup you can get. Ham and chicken bones are often used to add savory quality.
After the broth cooks for several hours, strain and let it chill in the refrigerator. The pork skin adds a natural thickener to the broth and allows it to become like jello!
Now here come's the difficult part, the dough. You can always purchase dumpling wrappers but if you went to the trouble of making the soup, why not go all the way?
The secret to the perfect dough is using a combination of hot and cold water. The hot water partially cooks the dough, reacting with the gluten, resulting in a pliable dough. If the dough needs more flour, add 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency. Knead until the dough is smooth and soft.
While the dough rests, prepare the filling. Cook a small portion of the filling as a flavor-tester, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. You want a balanced flavor of sweet and salty, with the pork and shrimp shining through.
Now back to the dough. To get consistent sizes, weigh the dough into 20 even portions. Each portion will be about the size of a quarter, or even slightly smaller. Continue to dust the counter as you roll out each portion to prevent the dough from sticking. You want the dough to be as thin as you can get it. Even when you think you can't go thinner, continue rolling it out, trust me.
Start with slightly less than 1 tbsp filling, adding more as you get more comfortable pleating the dumplings.
Pinch the pleated top, gathering the edges to seal to the dumpling.
I made the mistake of not softening the cabbage before placing the dumplings on top. Softening the cabbage makes it much easier to not only place the dumplings on top but from removing them from the cabbage after cooked.
To serve, simply put thinly sliced ginger in a dipping sauce and pour black vinegar on top. Bite into that Shanghai soup dumpling, drink the soup and eat up! After all that hard work, it's easy to appreciate these dumplings even more.
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.