Note: This recipes for Xiao Long Bao is very complex, basically an article—10 pages—rather than a post. Jan and daughter Miriam suggest that blog readers generally do not like such long posts. This recipe is actually four recipes in one, so I will post three of these as separate posts with an introductory and concluding post. For my readers who do not mind reading a long post, I will also post the entire article separately.
Note: Of particular interest—to anyone wishing to make Chinese dumplings—will be the discussion of the science of dumpling dough.
Xiao long bao (小笼包, literally “little-basket bun”) is the hot new food in San Jose this year—several restaurants have opened or recently started specializing in these Asian delights. XLBs—for short—is a kind of dim sum that falls somewhere between a steamed bun (baozi) and a dumpling (jiaozi). Both of these are usually filled with meat and/or vegetables. Boazi tend to be dry both inside and out. Jiaozi may be moister inside, but are frequently put into a soup. With xiao long bao the hot savory soup is actually already inside the bun with the filling. Son-in-law Chris has challenged me to learn to make this uniquely Shanghai dish.
Note: Although the Taiwanese claim it as their own.
This turned out to be a very complicated and time consuming recipe. It is not for the faint of heart, but the payoff is well worth it—it produces a spectacularly tasty treat. One way of making the production of them more enjoyable is to prepare all of the ingredients up to the point where you are ready to roll out and fill the wrappers. You then invite a group of friends to help you roll, fill, and eat the dumplings. A couple of glasses of wine, some good conversation, and you have a party.
I examined a lot of recipes online for clues to both ingredients and techniques for this dish. there was very little agreement on any aspect of making them. The basic recipe has four major parts—the soup, the filling, the wrappers, and the dipping sauce.
There are wrong ways and a right way to eat XLBs. Do not simply bite in to the bun. If it has been served properly—i.e. straight from the steamer—it will flood your mouth with scalding soup. You are also not supposed to put it in a bowl and pop it open to let the soup drain out. The correct way is to hold it in your Chinese spoon and nibble a hole in the wrapper. You then sip out the soup. You may then add some of the dipping sauce and—after the dumpling has cooled slightly—gobble it down.
Note: I made a napa cabbage and carrot salad as a side dish to this meal.
After Dinner Note: I made about nine dumplings per person. None of them survived to be leftovers.