The first time I had Chinese soup dumplings was at Joe’s Shanghai, located at 9 Pell Street in New York City. These delicious little dumplings had me at first bite. I was in love. Xiao Long Bao (or little dumplings in a basket), are dumplings filled with a solid meat aspic along with a pork filling. The aspic melts upon heating and voilà, you have a delicious savory soup inside the dumpling.
When I returned home to Maryland, I was in search of these dumplings and found something very close to Joe’s at a restaurant in Rockville called Bob’s Shanghai 66 (and definitely not to be confused with Bob’s Noodle 66). Bob’s Shanghai is located at 305 North Washington Street. If you are ever in the vicinity of these two restaurants (Joe's in NYC or Bob's in Rockville), I highly recommend you go and try the soup dumplings.
I have been bugging my girlfriends for some time to make them. I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy because their first response was, “why would we want to make them when we could go to Bob’s right here in Rockville and have dumplings made by professionals.” Of course I persisted, and a little over 2 years after I first tried them in NYC, my friends and I got together to make them.
Below is the recipe we used. Ours didn’t come out perfect - it took us three tries to get steamed dumplings with some delicious soup inside, but it was all well worth the effort. Our steamed soup dumplings were delicious.
For the jellied chicken stock:
- One 3-pound chicken, quartered
- 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, sliced 1 inch thick
- Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of fresh ginger
- 2 scallions, halved crosswise
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 quart water
- 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
For the dough:
- 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1-1/2 cups bread flour
- Boiling water
- Large pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
For the filling:
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- Boiling water
- 3/4 pound ground pork shoulder
- 1/4 cup Asian crab paste (optional; see Note)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons potato starch
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce, such as Healthy Boy (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 3 cups Jellied Stock (recipe above)
- Goji berries, for garnish (optional)
For the vinegar dipping sauce:
- 1/4 cup Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, julienned
Step 1: To make the chicken stock: In a large, deep pot, combine the chicken, pork, ginger, scallions, carrot, broth and water and bring to a boil.
Step 2: Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and, when it is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones.
Step 3: Return the bones to the pot and simmer over moderately low heat until the broth is very flavorful and reduced to 6 cups, about 1-1/2 hours longer.
Step 4: Strain the stock and skim the fat from the surface. Reserve the chicken meat and pork for another use.
Step 5: In a small bowl, combine the gelatin with 1/3 cup of cold water and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk the softened gelatin into 3 cups of the hot stock until melted. Reserve the remaining stock for another use.
Step 6: Pour the gelatinized stock into a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. The jellied stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Step 7: To make the dough: In a medium bowl, stir 1/2 cup of the the all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of the bread flour and 1/2 cup of boiling water until thoroughly combined. Turn the hot-water dough out onto a work surface and knead until fairly smooth, about 5 minutes.
Step 8: In a glass measuring cup, combine 2 cups of room-temperature water with the saffron and let stand for 5 minutes.
Step 9: In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, blend the remaining 4 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of bread flour with the salt. Add the saffron water and beat at medium speed until a smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes.
Step 10: Add the hot-water dough (made in step 7) and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 5 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it into a smooth ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
Step 11: To make the filling: In a small bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with boiling water and soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain, squeezing out any excess liquid; discard the stems.
Step 12: Finely chop the mushroom caps and transfer them to the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle.
Step 13: Add the ground pork, crab paste, chives, potato starch, sesame oil, dark and mushroom soy sauces, sugar, ginger, salt and white pepper. Beat at medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes.
Step 14: In a food processor, pulse the jellied chicken stock until finely chopped; beat into the pork mixture at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Step 15: To form and steam the dumplings: Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick rope.
Step 16: Pinch or cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces and roll them into balls. Then, using a small dowel, glass bottle or Chinese-style rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a thin 3 1/2-inch round, dusting with flour as necessary.
Step 17: Lightly dust the rounds with flour, transfer to a floured baking sheet and cover with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Repeat with the remaining dough. You should have 4 dozen rounds.
Step 18: Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper and dust lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough round at a time and keeping the rest covered, spoon a well-rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the round. Using your fingers, pinch and pleat the dough around the filling, leaving a tiny steam vent at the top; transfer to the baking sheet and top with a goji berry, if using. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Freeze uncooked dumplings on a baking sheet; seal in a plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Steam until cooked, 10 minutes.
Step 19: Fill a pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Arrange the dumplings in a bamboo steamer basket in batches, leaving at least 1 inch between them. Cover and steam over the boiling water until the dough is shiny and the filling is soupy, about 5 minutes. Serve right away while you steam the remaining dumplings.
Dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in NYC.
Dumplings at Bob's Shanghai 66 in Rockville.