While the dough is resting set up an assembly station. You will need a floured flat surface and a small rolling pin. Put the meat mix with a spoon on one side, the cabbage pieces—drained and dried—and a steamer basket on the other.
The Dipping Sauce
There are also differences in opinion as to which dipping sauce you should use with XLBs. Some recipes use only white vinegar, soy sauce and shredded ginger. Other recipes call for black vinegar, soy sauce and ginger. Still other recipes like to spice up the dipping sauce with sesame oil and chili. A sauce that includes chili is a Sichuan dipping sauce. Xiao long bao is a Shanghai dish and calls for a sauce without chili.
Rolling, Filling and Steaming the XLBs
You should not roll the individual wrappers into a flat disc. After rolling the disc to about 2½ inches, you roll out the edges more thinly—you want to end up with a slight hump in the center of the disk. The hump in the center becomes the bottom of the dumpling. If the edges were not thin, most of the dough would end up at the top, when you gather the edges together to seal the dumpling.
You place a heaping tablespoon of meat and soup cubes in the center of the of the dough disc. You might reserve some of the soup cubes to add to the scoop of filling if a particular dumpling seems a bit short on soup. You then gather a small fold along the edge and pinch it together. Continue folding and pinching until the dumpling is sealed. Ideally you should make 18 pinches to seal the dumpling—this is a lucky number in China.
When you steam any kind of dumpling they tend to stick to the steamer. You can use cheese cloth or parchment paper as a liner to prevent this. However, with those techniques you risk tearing the dumpling as you try to free it from the liner—for a soup dumpling this would be a very bad thing, leaking the soup back into the serving dish. Many xiao long bao recipes called for using pieces of cabbage to make it easy to remove the dumplings—an edible liner.
To steam the bao, you bring the water to a boil before putting on the steamer tray(s)—you may stack as many as four trays on top of each other. Steam the soup dumplings for 8-9 minutes. When you serve the dumplings, remove both the pot and steamer tray(s) to the table. The residual steam will keep them warm until you eat them.
Karl’s Xiao Long Bao (Finishing Off the XLBs)
The Dipping Sauce
¼ cup black vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, shredded
. This is a good time to prepare your dipping sauce, so that it will have time to meld.
Tip: Pour the dipping sauce into individual small bowls—one per person.
Note: Individual bowls of sauce reduces the amount of dripping and preserves your tablecloth.
. Lightly flour the board and divide the dough in half.
Tip: Re-wrap the other half in the plastic, so that it does not dry out.
Note: Here is a good video on rolling out the wrappers.
. Roll the dough into a snake, about an inch in diameter.
. Cut the dough snake into approximately ¾ inch pieces.
. Dust the pieces with flour and flatten them.
Tip: Cover the ones you are not rolling out with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
. Taking one piece at a time, roll it into a 3-4 inch round.
Tip: You roll the individual wrappers so that you end up with a slight hump in the center of the disk.
. Place about 1½ tablespoons of meat and soup cubes in the center of the of the round.
Tip: You want about ⅓ meat mixture and ⅔ soup cubes per dumpling.
Note: It is a good idea to reserve some of the soup cubes to add to lean dumplings. I did not do this and several of my XLBs came up “dry.”
. Gather up a small fold along the edge and pinch it together.
. Continue folding and pinching until the dumpling is sealed.
Tip: Here is a video of the proper folding technique.
Note: Ideally, you should make 18 pinches to seal the dumpling—this is a lucky number in China.
. Twist the folds at the top to completely seal the XLB.
. Place the dumpling on a piece of cabbage leaf and set it in the steamer basket.
. Continue rolling, filling, sealing and placing the buns in the steamer basket until it is full.
Tip: You do not want to crowd the basket. I put 15-16 buns per steamer tray and I used 3 trays.
. About 15 minutes before serving, set up you’re your steamer pot.
. Bring the water to a boil before putting on the steamer tray(s).
Tip: You may stack as many as four trays on top of each other.
. Steam the soup dumplings for 8-9 minutes.
. When you serve the dumplings put both the steamer pot and steamer tray(s) on the table.
Tip: The residual steam will keep them warm until you eat them.
. Enjoy immediately—while they are still hot—with the dipping sauce on the side.