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Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) --Cook-Off 26


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  • 1 month later...

Hi all

I'm new to the forums but recently posted the following pic of some XLB I made for dinner and the good folks in the China forum suggested I post the steps here.


Some qualifications: I'm a gweilo born in HK and raised in HK/China with Shanghainese and Cantonese nannies, so I learned anything I know about XLB by watching and being (reluctantly at the time) forced to help out; so I haven't really got exact measurements.

I will also pictorial these next time I make them as the folding in particular is very hard to explain without sounding slightly crazy (see "hanging pork sack" below!)

I'm also Australian, so, everything is in metric; I've converted where I can.

And apologies for the length! I particularly need to tinker further with the dough recipe as I'm still not convinced it's elastic enough..

There is nothing earth shatteringly new here, these are just the steps I follow; I know I'm talking to XLB aficionados!


• Chicken stock – wings, feet, chicken backs, ham

• Pork stock – the chicken stock, ginger, green onions, pork skin

• Filling – ground pork or chopped raw pork belly, green onions or chives, black pepper, a splash of rice vinegar, a splash of Shaohsing, sugar, salt

• Dough – 1 part hot water dough, 2 parts cold water dough (see below)

1. Make your chicken stock.

Homemade is really preferable to canned or bouillon powder but I suppose if you’re time constrained and HAVE to cut a XLB corner, this’d be the one. You’ll need about 2 litres (0.5 gallon).

I like to use a mix of wings, carcasses and chicken feet – the feet really add an unctuousness to the final product. And I throw in a bit of Chinese ham, or when that’s not on hand, some pancetta or prosciutto scraps I save in the freezer. Skim constantly and don’t overboil, so it stays clear.

2. Make your pork stock

I use about .5kg (1lb or so) of pork belly or shoulder, with skin, and set aside the meat from the belly for the filling, after an initial blanching. I also buddied up to my local Chinese butcher, who gives me long sheets of pork skin – that's me, Will Smile for Pork! About 30cm(15 inch) worth. You could use ground pork for the filling instead, just try to finagle more skin from somewhere.

If you can get a trotter, that’s fantastic to throw in too, as there is ALOT of collagen stickiness in them which is the main defining ingredient of a good XLB stock.

Submerge the pork belly (if using), extra pork skin, a big knob of ginger unpeeled and cut into slices, 4 or 5 green onions into the 2L of chicken stock and bring to just below the boil.

After 3 minutes, take the pork belly piece out and cut off the skin; set aside the meat and return the skin to the pot of stock.

Simmer on medium heat for about 2 hours. Then fish the skin/s out, chop finely or puree in a blender and return to the stock for another 20 mins.

Remove from heat, strain all but a half a cup into a shallow, oiled dish and let cool. When cool, put it in the fridge for 2 – 3 hours so it solidifies completely. Then turn out onto a board and chop into 1cm/0.5 inch cubes and return to the fridge.

3. Make wrapper dough.

I used to use a half hot water, half cold water dough recipe but have been tinkering and tinkering lately trying to get it more elastic, less gummy. And am more or less happy with 1 part hot water, 2 cold for now but this requires further experiment as it's not quite silken enough.

Hot water dough:

125gm plain flour (4.5oz)

1/8 tsp salt

75ml boiling water (2.5 fl oz)

Hot water dough: Combine flour and salt in bowl. Make a well in centre and pour in boiling water. Mix with fork or chopsticks, turn out onto lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes.

Cold water dough:

250gm plain flour (9 oz)

1/4 tsp salt

120 ml cold water (4 fl oz)

Do exactly the same for cold water dough, using the proportions above.

Knead both balls together and leave to rise for 2 – 3 hours. Punch down dough ball and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each into a long sausage shape and then cut or pinch off into 1.5cm (3/4 inch) pieces.

On a floured work surface, squash each piece lightly with the heel of your hand and roll out to about 9 cm (3.5in) in diameter – trying to get the edges thinner than the centre.

Repeat until you have a tower of wrappers.

4. Make filling

Chop remaining pork belly finely, or puree in food processor. Or get out your ground pork if using.

Mix in some finely chopped ginger, chopped green onion or garlic chives, 6 turns of black pepper grinder, a splash of Shaohsing, a splash of rice vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, a small splash of light soy sauce and the reserved ½ cup of stock to loosen it up.

Beat furiously with a pair of chopsticks until mushy, in one direction (eg clockwise), to keep the meat fibres together

5. Forming the XLB

This is the way I do it. Make an O with your thumb and forefinger; as if you were grasping a baton without the actual baton.

Lay a wrapper on top of the O with the slightly thicker base resting over the hole created by your thumb and forefinger.

Drop a heaped teaspoon of the pork mixture onto the O. Top with a cube of the jellied stock.

Let the pork sag slightly through the O so that the ring created by your fingers helps form the ball shape.

Still with the “sack” of pork hanging through the O (are these the weirdest instructions ever or what!!), use your other hand to start gathering the pleats around the neck. Fold a bit in, pinch, rotate, fold, pinch, etc. As you turn, start squeezing at the neck of the dumpling gently.

Some pinch IN for a pointy tip. I think this contributes to the sensation of thick uncooked doughiness at the apex, so I was taught to pinch in at the top but with a little above that, like the neck of an urn or a little navel. This also has the benefit of ‘catching’ any soup that evaporates in the steaming process and condensation then deposits those precious droplets back into the ‘navel’.

To wit:


This is where you’d generally put a dab of crab roe if you were using it, but it’s tricky and I’ve been known to use a pair of scissors to snip off any side of the navel I extrude too much…

It doesn’t really matter all that much, just convention I suppose. Whatever you decide to do, you shouldn’t be able to see the filling through the top.

Repeat until all done, laying each on a sheet of baking paper as you go. Either steam straight away or freeze on the sheet and then once fully frozen, baggy up for later use.

6. Steam the XLB

Line a bamboo steamer with baking paper and stab a number of slits through the slats with a sharp knife for steam vents. I prefer this to greasing the steamer or using cabbage as it's really the only way I've found that truly reduces the risk of the bottoms sticking and tearing and thus losing the soupy innards..

However, since 1 or 2 of them inevitably do, the baking paper allows one to pick it up carefully from the empty steamer, shape into a funnel and tip any collected soup back over the dumplings..hey, I'm a conservationist! :biggrin:

You can't really do this with cabbage as it's porous anyway so doesn't collect the dribblings, but is too hot and soft to handle in any case. Baking paper is non porous and surprisingly any escaped soup rests on it, rather than dripping back through the slits you created lining the steamer..do I sound obsessive? I think I sound obsessive..

Bring a pan of water to boil under the steamer and then steam XLB for 5 minutes (if fresh) or 15 minutes (from frozen).

Traditionally we ate these with a dipping sauce of shredded ginger mixed into some red vinegar, though I don’t do this anymore as I feel the vinegar obscures the taste of the sweet, sweet porkiness…


Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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Thanks so much for the nice description of the pleating process. I'm very adept at pleating potstickers, and I'm thinking that I'll do some pleating test-runs with marbles or something like that.

But, let's talk about the dough. Do you think that the cold water dough creates a more silken wrapper?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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rarerollingobject, thanks for the great descriptions, recipe, step-by-step instructions, etc.! great post. what a wonderful way to grow up! i went to hkis for one year 1986-87...had an australian friend there. i don't think she had the same nanny situation :cool: .

susan, my mom recently mentioned to me that when making dumpling wrappers, she's now doing the part boiling water, part cold water. but she doesn't make two separate doughs, just adds about 1/3 of the amount of the total water as cold water. this is just for general use dumplings, not xlb. and i've seen your potstickers. pretty amazing for a white girl :raz: . i only make three pleats per side...i think yours have about ten!

i still want to make xlb. i'm just too lazy.

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Thanks so much for the nice description of the pleating process.  I'm very adept at pleating potstickers, and I'm thinking that I'll do some pleating test-runs with marbles or something like that.

But, let's talk about the dough.  Do you think that the cold water dough creates a more silken wrapper?

Yes, I really do. I find the mix of hot and cold really gives it a springy lightness. It's not quite there yet but greatly improved on hot water dough alone.

I did find however that 75ml water in the hot to 150ml in the cold was a little too wet, hence there's a little less than double (at 120ml). I haven't found different flours contribute all that much though that may say more about Australian flours than anything else. Am considering experimenting with maybe a couple tsps of potato starch and a little lard in the dough in future; kinda fusing a traditional jiaozi wrapping with a few har gau properties. Heretical maybe, but I can eat my mistakes. :wink:

There IS a trick..I remember Amah would do something specific with the dough that involved a mix of hot and cold but not exactly what or what the proportions were...it's like remembering all a joke except the punchline! And she's long since passed away so I can't exactly ask.

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Thanks so much for the nice description of the pleating process.  I'm very adept at pleating potstickers, and I'm thinking that I'll do some pleating test-runs with marbles or something like that.

But, let's talk about the dough.  Do you think that the cold water dough creates a more silken wrapper?

yes, for this type of dumpling, it really needs hot and cold water.

I also add potato flour in additon to the flour to make the dough.


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  • 10 months later...

I had the impression that soup dumpling filling was stabilised with gelatin.

A super-quick Googling shows that some recipes specify gelatin, but others use agar. This recipe demo/experiment (from the blog of eGullet member mmm-yoso) happens to use agar. In the comments to the blog entry, you'll find a bit of discussion about gelatin vs. agar, and how much to use (mmm-yoso and his wife concluded that they could have gotten away with a good deal less agar than they used for this experiment).

Hope that helps some ...

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  • 1 year later...
Pam, I'm off to the library either this evening or tomorrow to look for cookbooks with recipes.  A quick perusal on line indicates that the dough calls for high gluten flour, which I can't seem to find.

Yes, I know it's 2+ years later, but for the sake of the archive ... King Arthur Flour makes a high gluten flour (Sir Galahad), beautiful for bagels and pizza as well as for soup dumpling wrappers. Likely your grocery won't carry it, although many do carry KAF All-Purpose (unbleached) and White Whole Wheat, so your grocer may be able to order it for you. I comes in 3 lb bags (can order on the website) and 100 lb commercial bakery bags if you REALLY like soup dumplings ... KAF Sir Galahad link



Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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  • 1 year later...

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