Xiao Long Bao is one of the most famous Chinese steamed dumplings, but one of the most time-consuming to make from scratch.
Inside the dumpling are little pockets of gelatinized broth made from chicken, pork and cured ham. When you steam the dumpling, the broth gelatin melts. We’ll show you how to make authentic Xiao Long Bao, from scratch….from the broth to homemade wrappers.
But first, a little humor:
Beginning of Foreplay
Aromatic chicken, pork bone and cured ham broth set & cut into shimmering ribbons of translucent gelatin:
Cut into cubes they look like jewels:
Are you hungry yet? The little dumplings are begging to be nestled between your lips.
See the steam? The sun was just starting to come down as we began our feast. Do you see the spicy Sriracha “ Rooster Cock Sauce” seducing you from behind?
Don’t be shy, I’ll hold your hand and walk you through it.
Pick up one of those wooden soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks. Gently lay down one of those tender, juicy, dumping so that it drapes seductively in your spoon. Glide the warm wooden spoon towards your mouth, let your lips lightly brush against the nipple of the dumpling. Slowly move down and take a little nibble on on of the folds of the skin. Let the wisps of steam escape out and caress your upper lip and the tip of your nose. Surrender to the aromatic symphony of the filling tickling your senses. Ok, now go ahead, slowly bite into it. An explosion of rich, steaming, hot juice oozes into the groove of your tongue, dribbling down the side of your chin, and you try to catch any escaping broth with your spoon. No, don’t just stop at one…go ahead, take another one.
Don’t you feel deliciously alive?!
How to make Xiao Long Bao Recipe
While I typically specialize in easy, fast Asian recipes – this is not fast and easy. So I’ll give you fair warning that this does take time to make. It took about half a day to prepare the soup, chill & set with agar-agar, prep the filling, make & knead the dough, cut out dough circles, wrap, and steam.
Hot Water Dough for Xiao Long Bao
Dumpling wrappers made from scratch start with “hot water dough,” which is a combination of using just-boiled hot water and cold water.
The boiling hot water partially cooks the dough & forms gluten better, resulting in a soft, stretchy, pliable and very easy to work with and do multiple pleats. The dough rolled beautifully, but it was still very strong and held the filling without breaking. When you add the hot water, take a pair of chopsticks and use that to stir vigorously to get the gluten going. How vigorous? Well, the best way to describe is to show the dough who’s boss and slap the dough around!
After a couple of minutes of all that slapping, add the cold water, stir more.
Kneading Dough for Xiao Long Bao
When I am making anything that involves flour and kneading, I always use 90% measurement of flour than what the recipe calls for initially. The reason is that I can always add more flour if needed – its very simple to do that and very simple to knead the additional flour in by hand.
However, if you have too much flour, it is very difficult to add more water to the dough. I also measure out the flour by weight, not by cups, as everyone measures a little different and ingredients may settle in the measuring cup a little different.
So, I initially use 90% of the flour and reserve the remaining 10% on my counter to incorporate bit by bit as I knead. This ensures that I never use too much flour. Your counter should be floured, so that the dough doesn’t stick to the counter.
While you are kneading, if the dough is very sticky, add 1T of flour at a time. Sprinkle some on top of the dough, some on the counter – and knead to incorporate the new flour thoroughly. It feels right when its slightly tacky, but not sticky. The dough should come together beautifully in a nice, smooth, round ball. Let it rest (you’d be tired too if you were slapped around). When you poke it with your finger, the dough should slowly ease back into position.
Pleating Xiao Long Bao
Master Xiao Long Bao pleaters pleat lightening fast. And, they pleat the dumplings with one hand. I just don’t have that kind of talent!
Each dumpling was a little different based on how well I managed to get my fat fingers out of the way on the last fold.