Homemade Xiaolongbao - 小笼包
Homemade Xiaolongbao – 小笼包

 The Chinese Soup Dumpling Secret

If you have ever tried any of the Chinese delicacies generally known as ‘soup-dumplings’ or their (often) larger, and well-known cousins, Xiaolongbao, you have probably enjoyed the way that the steaming, liquid content squirts in your mouth when you bite into them. Quite possibly, it also occurred to you to wonder how on earth the cook gets the delicious broth into the dumplings in the first place…

Not long ago, when I featured the technique for making a Basic Chinese Pork Stock, I hinted at this ancient Chinese secret. If you haven’t guessed the answer yet, read on…


The Secret Revealed

The makings for Chinese Soup Dumplings
The makings for Chinese Soup Dumplings

Here are the ‘makings’ for a typical soup dumpling filling…

In the bowl, I have a pretty standard mixture of ground pork, chopped scallion, minced ginger and a little salt and pepper.

Next, moving clockwise, you can see a cup of a good, homemade pork stock that is so rich with leached dissolved protein that it has formed a stiff gel after being cooled.

This stock was made by the traditional method of cooking down pork with lots of skin, tendon, and bone, but you can also produce a similar effect by jellying a simpler broth using gelatin or agar-agar. I rather suspect that, nowadays, that is the way it is done in a lot of restaurants and in most commercially produced dumplings.

Finally, at the bottom left, you can see that a little of the gelled stock has been cubes. It is THIS, that is the simple little trick underlying the Celebrated Chinese Soup Dumpling Secret

Mixing the ‘Soup’ with the filling
Mixing the ‘Soup’ with the filling

In order to properly incorporate the stock cubes into the dumpling filling mixture, it is advisable to have the latter slightly chilled ahead of time. If you fail to do this, you may find that your ‘soup’ starts to form before you even have the dumplings assembled.

Folding the Xialongbao
Folding the Xialongbao

Assembling and wrapping the dumplings is no more difficult than making ‘non-soup’ varieties. I have chosen the standard Xiaolongbao fold here, but you are not limited to that, by any mans. You can try any dumpling shape that takes your fancy… although Shu Mai might not be wise 😊

The Finished Result

A Plate of freshly steamed Xialongbao
A Plate of freshly steamed Xialongbao

The secret to EATING soup-dumplings is to slide them onto a deep spoon and then puncture one side of the skin so that you can slurp the soup as it comes out… You need to be careful doing this as the broth can be super-hot when it squirts into your mouth! After that, you can eat the remaining skin and filling, dipping it into a sauce if you like.

Here is a plate I steamed and then finished off all by myself. I spooned a little chili oil and soy sauce over top of each before eating them, which is the way I usually do it.

If you look closely, you can see that the dumpling at the 9’oclock position has ripped, spilling its soup into the bowl. It happens sometimes…


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