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Holiday Soup Dumplings (XIAOLONGBAO)

Holiday Soup Dumplings (XIAOLONGBAO)

Chinese Soup Dumplings are perhaps the most perfect bite ever created. Brothy, rich, soft, and comforting, they're also the ultimate project for a chilly night with close friends. Roll up your sleeves, and come hungry, dumpling darlings!

If you cant find chicken backs to make the jelly broth, you can always use regular chicken broth, simmer 2 cups with spices for 30 minutes on low, soak 2 gelatin sheets in cold water, wring gently to remove excess water, then add to warm liquid, stirring until dissolved and let cool in your fridge. 

Ingredients

Jelly Broth
2.5 to 3 lbs (1.2 kg) chicken backs and necks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 ” (2.5 cm) ginger, sliced
4 green onions , chopped into 3” (8 cm) pieces
1 Tbsp Spicewalla Whole Peppercorn
Spicewalla Whole Star anise
Spicewalla Whole Green cardamom
1 Tbsp Spicewalla Indian coriander
Wrappers
120 g all purpose flour (2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
Pinch of salt
35 g hot water (2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon)
25 to 30 g cold water (about 2 tablespoons)
Filling
1 Tbsp grated ginger
8 oz ground chicken, or fatty ground pork 
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chingkang Vinegar
4 tsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp Spicewalla Ground white pepper
2 tsp Spicewalla Calabrian Chili
4 green onions or Garlic Chives , finely minced
Dipping sauce
Chinkiang vinegar
ginger , very thinly sliced

Preparation

Prepare the jelly (1 day ahead)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Prepare a medium-sized (about 4 qt) dutch oven with a lid or a roasting pan that can be securely sealed with a lid or foil. Add the oil to the pan and place it in the oven to heat up, 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Once heated, carefully transfer the pan onto a trivet. Place the chicken back in the pan and spread the ginger and green onions on top of it. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover with the lid and return to the oven. Roast until you’ve collected a good amount of chicken broth in the bottom of the pot, 50 minutes or so.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to remove and discard the chicken backs.
  5. Lay a mesh strainer over a heat-proof bowl. Strain the chicken broth. Once cooled completely, transfer the chicken broth into a sealed container and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the wrappers (the day you cook)

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle the hot water over the flour while stirring with a pair of chopsticks (or a fork). Mix until the hot water is fully absorbed.
  2. Then slowly drizzle 25 g of cold water over the dry flour while mixing. Once the water is fully absorbed and the flour turns into dough flakes, start pressing with your hand to gather the dough together while mixing in as much dry flour as you can. If the dough is almost formed but there’s still dry flour left in the bowl, add the remaining 5 g water and keep kneading. Once done, it should form a semi-soft dough and no flour is left in the bowl.
  3. Transfer the dough onto a clean working surface and knead for 15 to 20 minutes, until the surface is smooth and the texture elastic. The dough should feel soft to the touch and not stick to your hands.
  4. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 45 minutes.
  5. Storage: You can store the dough at this point if you decide to assemble the dumpling later. The dough can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.

Prepare the filling (the day you cook)

  1. Add the grated ginger into a small bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot water. Let sit while preparing other ingredients.
  2. The chicken broth you made the day before should have become congealed with a layer of fat on top. Scrape off the fat and reserve it in a small bowl.
  3. Slice the chicken gelatin into thin strips, then further into small cubes. Coarsely mince it into bits.
  4. Measure the chopped gelatin. If it’s less than 4.4 oz (120 g), add a few spoonfuls of the chicken fat until it reaches 4.4 oz (120 g). You can discard or reserve the remaining chicken fat for future use. Store the gelatin in the fridge while not using it.
  5. Add the ground pork into a medium-sized bowl. Add the ginger water, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, salt, sugar and white pepper. Beat with a spatula until the liquid is fully absorbed and the filling becomes sticky and bouncy, 5 minutes or so.
  6.  
  7. Add the chopped chicken jelly and green onions. Mix until incorporated.
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use. The filling can be stored in the fridge for a couple of hours, but I do not recommend storing it for too much longer, because the liquid will start to seep out.

Forming the buns

  1. Line a steamer rack with napa cabbage leaves or prepare some square parchment paper for steaming the dumplings.
  2. Place the rested dough onto a clean working surface. Roll it into a long log, about 1” (2.5 cm) in diameter. Cut the log in half, wrap one half with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge while working on the other half.
  3. Roll out the log a bit more. Divide it into two equal pieces, then further cut them into 10 pieces in total. Cover them with a few layers of wet paper towels to prevent drying out.
  4. Work on the buns one at a time. Shape one piece of dough with your fingers so it is a round piece, then flatten it with your palm. Use a small rolling pin to roll out the wrapper, spinning the dough after rolling a few times. Roll until the wrapper is very thin, about 4 1/2” (11 cm) in diameter. (*Footnote 3)
  5. Place 22 g (about 1 tablespoon) of the filling onto the center of the wrapper. Fold and pinch the edges of the wrapper to create pleats (see the wrapping process in action in my cooking video). When you are about to seal the pleats, leave a small opening on the top of the dumplings (very important – *Footnote 4).
  6. Place the wrapped dumplings onto the napa cabbage or parchment paper. Cover loosely with a few layers of wet paper towels to prevent drying out. Work on the rest of the dumplings until you can fill the steamer rack – you should leave at least 2” (5 cm) between the dumplings.

Cooking the dumplings

  1. Prepare the dipping sauce by adding 1 tablespoon of Chinese vinegar and a few strips of ginger to each small sauce plate.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the steamer rack with a lid and place it over the boiling water. Steam over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the number of dumplings you cook at a time.
  3. Once done cooking, serve immediately with the dipping sauce.
  4. To eat the soup dumplings, hold a pair of chopsticks in one hand and a big spoon in the other. Carefully use the chopsticks to pick up the soup dumpling and place it into the spoon. If you’re skillful with chopsticks, you can also dip the dumpling into the dipping sauce. Otherwise, drizzle a tiny amount of sauce over the dumpling. Have a small bite of the dumplings to let the steam out and allow the soup to pool in the spoon. If you don’t mind hot food (it’s very hot!), you can also let the soup stay in the dumpling and eat it all in one bite (I do not recommend this method if you’re not familiar with soup dumplings).


 

  • I highly recommend using 30% fat ground pork for a tenderer and juicier result. Lean ground pork works as well but the meat will be a bit tougher once cooked.
  • A small rolling pin is highly recommended to work on these small delicate wrappers.
  • It’s important to roll the wrapper very thin, otherwise the dough will have a tough mouthfeel once cooked.
  • The small opening on the dumpling will allow the steam to release as you cook it, to prevent the dumpling skin from bursting.

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