Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Soup Dumplings)

New word of the day: aspic [as-pik]– noun, a savory jelly usually made with meat or fish stock and gelatin.

Of course, when you say it, it sounds like the action of relieving an itch in your butt crack. Anyways, aspic is the secret ingredient for making xiao long bao, or steamed soup dumplings. Because aspic is solid, you can easily wrap it in a dumpling along with the meat filling, and when you steam it, the aspic melts and becomes the hot, gushing soup that squirts out of the bun and burns your tongue.

You can make your own aspic by either making fresh stock and boiling it down and chilling it so that it solidifies or dissolving unflavored gelatin (like Knox) in chicken broth and chilling it. I found out that if I chilled the leftover braising liquid from making my mom's beer duck (sorry, it's a classified recipe now, but you can probably find it on-line somewhere else) it solidifies into an aspic. And since I had made some beer duck the night before and Liv and Ruth were making fresh dumpling skins, I figured we should try to make some xiao long bao as well!

First, to make the homemade dumpling skins, all you need is flour and hot water. Ruth doesn't really use measurements and mostly goes by feel, but I found this recipe on the chowhound forums that works pretty well.

Homemade dumpling skins

Homemade Dumpling Skins
(adapted from here)
makes 56 skins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
4 tablespoons cold water
Flour for dusting

Pour boiling water into the flour, quickly stir with a fork or chopstick, mix well, then add the cold water. Mix and knead into a soft dough about 5 minutes.

Cover with damp cloth or paper towel. Set aside and rest for 20 minutes.

Knead the dough for 1 minute and divide into 4 quarters. Roll one quarter into a long snake and pinch into about 1 inch lengths.

Dough waiting to be rolled

Dust flour on work surface. Roll each piece into a circle of about a 3 inch diameter.

Homemade dumpling skin

You'll want to make the edges a little thinner than the center, and for xiao long bao, you definitely want the edges very thin since you'll be doing a lot of pleating. The great thing about making your own skin for wrapping dumplings is that it's much stretchier than the kind you buy so you don't need to worry as much about overfilling. Also, you don't need to add that ring of water around the edge to make the dough stick. In fact, if you get the dough wet (from the filling or whatnot), it doesn't stick as well. If that happens, just set it aside and work on the next one. When it dries out a bit you can try pinching it again to make it stick.

Now back to making xiao long bao. Actually, this is a very un-traditional version since I was just using my mom's pork and cabbage dumpling filling and beer duck aspic. A more traditional xiao long bao filling wouldn't have the napa cabbage or bean thread vermicelli in it and maybe would have shrimp or crab meat in it instead. But I wasn't about to make a separate filling or aspic for this experiment so tough cookies.

Xiao long bao

Joy's Untraditional Xiao Long Bao
makes however many you want

Leftover braising sauce from Mama Huang's Beer Duck, chilled overnight to form an aspic
Pork and cabbage dumpling filling
Homemade dumpling skins (recipe above)
2 large napa cabbage leaves per steamer tray, washed
Ginger, peeled and julienned
Black vinegar

Take a dumpling skin, spoon some dumpling filling into it and spread it out to form a thin layer.

Add a 1/2 teaspoon of aspic. Add a little more dumpling filling on top.

Gather one edge of the dumpling skin and start pleating all the way around, twisting at the end to seal. (Here's a video of Ruth showing us how to do this, with Liv reminding us how to pronounce the gelatinous soup.)

Place two napa cabbage leaves on the bottom of each steamer tray, cutting off the white stem if necessary to fit.

Wrapped xiao long bao

Place the wrapped dumplings on the leaves and steam for 10 minutes.

Steamed xiao long bao

Serve with a dipping sauce of julienned ginger and black vinegar.

Ginger and black vinegar

I didn't really notice the addition of the cabbage and vermicelli in the filling that much because the duck aspic melts into this wonderful broth that almost overwhelms everything else. In fact, I wish the pork filling I used wasn't seasoned because the duck aspic was more than enough seasoning by itself. Just remember to be careful biting into the soup dumplings because the soup may be really, really hot!


  1. this looks so good! it makes me want dim sum... and i bet it tastes so much better than the frozen kind

  2. Is the skin soft? I tried making them earlier but mine turned out tough after steaming. Was wondering what went wrong.

  3. The skin should definitely stay soft, especially after steaming. Are you sure you had enough water at the bottom of your steamer? The only thing I can think of is that maybe the skins dried out if you didn't have enough water....

  4. Yes. Water was definitely enough.

    I think I must have taken some wrong steps in the recipe I made them from. I will try yours and let you know how they turn out.:)

  5. Hi Joy,
    I've been looking for soup dumplings everywhere in Paris and then came across your blog. I wasn't sure how to squeeze the soup in there but thanks to you I now know. And the dough was PERFECT!!! Loved the post!!!

  6. OH GOD!!! GORGEOUS!!! My hübby loves these!! Can't wait to make them for him!!!! :) xoxox <3Üdo

  7. Xiao Long Baos are god's gift to man hahaha. so juicy...soooo goood! hahaha...i made a parody music video all about pork baos that you can watch here http://www.cutebutdeadly.net/bao

  8. This will be a great receipe for my 2 kids..I love cooking eversince I was a child and can't wait to try this at home

  9. I love your instructional videos. Watching this has given me the confidence to try and make xiao long bao myself.

  10. I made my first attempt at soup dumplings last night, before I found your blog. Bad timing! All the soup seemed to have cooked out, not leaked out...(no holes) but possibly steamed out. When I lifted the steamer lid, they were beautiful and quite puffy with air. But the instant they started to cool, they sort of shrink wrapped themselves down tight. Any ideas on how to prevent this? Should I twist more to try to prevent this? Thnaks for your help.

  11. I'm so happy to have found your blog--I'm an American being introduced to Chinese culture by Taiwanese friends, and xiaolongbao are just about my favorite of all the foods they've shared with me. I would love to shock them by making authentic ones for them! One question: can you give any advice on what a more traditional filling would be? i.e. could you point me to a recipe? Thanks!

  12. @Laurel - maybe try using more filling and wrapping the dough tighter around the filling so that there's less air inside?

    @Brian - This seems as good of a recipe as any: http://steamykitchen.com/88-xiao-long-bao-shanghai-steamed-soup-dumplings.html

  13. I made this the other night for myself and my roommate! It tasted really good, but unfortunately, a lot of them broke while they were steaming. I think that they stuck to the cabbage. Do you have any suggestions for that situation? Thanks so much for your awesome blog, I love it!

  14. Xiao Long Bao skins are similar to how I make the dough for my gyoza. ^^ I think I'll make a vegan version next week.

  15. This is a really great guide, mine were fantastic thanks to your help - 谢谢! Andy

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