Like the new look?
I know, I know, what can I say, I’m a fickle woman. Not that I wasn’t happy with my previous design but I thought there was too much going on with the colors and the sidebars that they were diverting the focus away from the blog posts. I knew I wanted a design that would let the photography stand out and leave the readers more at ease when visiting the site. At first we, the designers and I, were simply going to switch to a 2 column blog and shrink the header. Soon, the project took on a life of its own and it was finally decided that an almost all-white background was what worked best in a blog with pictures. The good folks at Foliovision worked above and beyond to give me a design that “gets” me. I longed for a clean and streamlined look but at the same time I wanted romantic “girly” undertones. Now I got both, starting with the cute black and white graphic on the header and sidebar images to my fondness for the cursive font.
Ah, and true to my newly realized tagline “Tales of culinary obsessions”, which recipe did I immediately zero in on when I got Andrea Nguyen’s new dumpling book?
Not the more familiar Filipino lumpia or simple wonton, of course I had to go for the Xiaolongbao, otherwise known as Shanghai soup dumplings, and there was no question I was going to make my own wrappers too. I think I do have some level of masochista in me, don’t ya think?
Because the recipe is close to three pages long and painstakingly explained, I will preface it with my cooking notes rather than have it at the end.
I did not include the recipe for the Asian Chicken Stock, but I used a whole chicken, 4 quarts water, 1 large yellow onion (quartered), 3-inch piece fresh ginger (smashed) and 2 1/2 tsp. of salt. Bring the chicken, water and salt to a boil, add the onion and ginger and simmer for at least 2 1/2 hours. Skim away impurities. If the stock is not flavorful enough you can reduce it further. Strain and let cool and remove the fat that forms on top.
I used pork belly for this recipe and ground the meat using a recovered meat grinder from the attic.
I loved making the dumpling dough and I loved the way Ms. Nguyen demystified the pouring of boiling water to make the hot water dough which I always thought was a dangerous thing to do. In her book, she uses just-boiled water. After the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and wait for the bubbling to subside around 30-90 seconds and then pour the amount needed into a glass measuring cup. She stresses not to wait more than 2 minutes after the boiling to use the water.
I use glass measuring cups made by Anchor Hocking – as I had used them often for sugar syrups that are way above the boiling point of water (212 F).
I have long abandoned using food processors in making any kind of dough; I feel that they overwork the mixture. I didn’t want to use my fingers either when dealing with hot water so I used chopsticks and it does the job well in my opinion.
I used a tortilla press to flatten the dough. Rather than explain the process in detail (which the recipe already does), let me direct you to a video on Andrea Nguyen’s site. It explains how to maintain an even thickness throughout your dumpling and how to avoid the unusually thick layer you usually get where you pinch the ends together.
It was a bit challenging for me to fill the dumplings initially, but after the first few pieces, it got easier. Holding the wrapper on a cupped palm allows you to push the filling down while you form the pleats.
I used my huge metal steamer lined with pieces of Nappa cabbage to cook the Shanghai Soup dumplings; it took me around 7 minutes to cook them through. It is essential to eat these dumplings immediately otherwise the soup will get reabsorbed into the meat and you will not get that gush of broth when you first tear through the dumpling skin.
I’m not going to lie and say I can’t wait to make this again ‘coz it does take a lot of time to prepare, but the dough is fantastic – tasty and slightly chewy – it sure hell beats any store bought one. Of course, if I’m tasked to make 200 dumplings, then store-bought ones it is.
Shanghai Soup Dumplings
recipe from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza,spring rolls samosa and more (Ten Speed Press, 2009) by Andrea Nguyen
Generous 1 1/3 cups Chicken Stock
1 tbsp. packed chopped Virginia ham or other salty, smoky ham
1 scallion (white and green parts), cut into 2-inch lengths and lightly smashed with the broad side of a knife
3 quarter-size slices ginger, smashed with the broad side of a knife
1/2 tsp. agar-agar powder or 1 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
3 3/4 oz (3/4 cup) unbleached bread flour
2 oz (6 tbsp.) unbleached all-purpose flour
About 7 tbsp. just-boiled water
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
Filling and Sauce
Chubby 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 scallion (white and green parts), chopped
Scant 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. light (regular) soy sauce
1 tbs. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 pound fatty ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen
1/4 cup Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
To prepare the soup.
Combine the stock, ham, scallion, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the stock has reduced by half and you have a generous 2/3 cup. Strain the stock, discarding the solids and seet aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Return the stock to the saucepan and sprinkle in the agar-agar or gelatin; there is no need to soften the gelatin in the stock beforehand. Heat over medium high heat, stirring until the agar agar is dissolved. After the stock comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Pour it into an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or a shallow bowl to make a thin layer that will cool quickly and be easy to cut up. Refrigerate for 20 to 40 minutes, until the soup is completely cooled and hardened. Quarter it and then peel from the pan. Finely chop and set aside. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if you are preparing the soup in advance.
Make the dough.
Combine the two flours in the food processor or a bowl. Measure out the just-boiled water and add the oil. With the machine running, add the water and oil through the feed tube, or stir it in by hand, until you have a soft, warm dough. Add additional water by the 1/2 tsp., if needed. Gather the dough into a ball and transfer to a very lightly floured work surface. Knead processed dough for about 2 minutes and hand made dough for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and a tad elastic. Press your finger into the dough and it should bounce back fairly fast, but with a shallow indentation remaining. Place in a zip-top plastic bag and seal well, expelling excess air as you seal the bag. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour before using. (The dough can e refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before proceeding.)
To make the filling.
Thinly slice 1/2 inch of ginger and put it into an electric mini-chopper. Add the scallion, salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. Process until creamy and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, add the pork, and use spatula to combine. Add the gelled stock and continue mixing until well blended and firm. Cover and set aide for 30 minutes to develop the flavors. (Unlike other fillings, this one can break down if it sits overnight. If you prepared the gelled soup a day ahead, combine with the meat the day you make the dumplings.)
To make the dipping sauce.
Cut the remaining 1 1/2-inch piece of ginger into fine shreds. Divide the ginger and vinegar between two communal bowls. Taste, and if the vinegar is too tart, add a bit of water. Set aside.
To make the wrappers.
Remove the dough from the bag, turning the bag inside out if necessary; the dough will be sticky. On a very lightly floured surface, gently shape the dough into a ball. Cut it in half and place one of the halves in the plastic bag, sealing well.
Roll the other half to a 10 to 12-inch log. Cut into 16 pieces and roll them into balls, dusting with flour afterward to prevent sticking. Work on 8 dough balls at a time, keeping the others covered by a dry kitchen towel or inverted bowl to prevent drying. Shape each ball into a 2 1/2 inch circle, with a 1-inch diameter “belly” in the center; this helps to prevent the soup from leaking out and to keep a consistent thickness throughout. The finished outer rim shoud be thin enough for you to see the shadow of your fingers when you hold up the wrapper.
Before Assembling the dumplings.
Line the steamer trays and/or baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. (If you are making the dumplings in advance, or freezing them, lightly dust the parchment paper iwth flour to avoid sticking.) Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop up about 2 1/2 tsp. of filling with a bamboo dumpling spatula, dinner knife or fork and position in center of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a mound and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wrapper clear on all sides. This will seem like a lot of filling. Use the thumb of the hand cradling the dumpling to push down the filling and keep it in place while the fingers of the other hand pull up the dough edge and pleat and pinch the rim together to form a closed satchel, the only shape for these dumplings. Make sure to pinch and twist the dough at the end to completely close. The finished dumpling will look very pregnant.
If you are steaming right away, place each finished dumpling in a steamer tray, sealed side up, spacing them 3/4 inch apart, and 1 inch away from the edge if you are using a metal steamer. If you are unable to steam all the dumplings at once, or if you are going to steam them later, place the waiting ones on the prepared baking sheet with a good 1/2 inch between them.
Loosely cover the finished dumplings with a dry kitchen towel or plastic wrap as you form and fill wrappers from the remaining dough.
While these dumplings can be prepared in advance and frozen like the other dumplings in this chapter, they are their very best when steamed as soon as they are made. Freeze them on the baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer them to a zip-top plastic bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and keep them frozen for up to 1 month; partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before steaming.
To cook the dumplings.
Steam them over boiling water for 6 to 8 minutes. The dumplings should have puffed up and become somewhat translucent. Remove each tray and place it atop a serving plate.
Serve the dumplings immediately with the sauce. To eat, pick up a dumpling with chopsticks and place it in soup spoon; think of the spoon as a tiny bowl. Either bite or poke a small hole at the top with a chopstick. Carefully slurp out the hot soup inside or pour it into the spoon and sip it from there. Finish off the dumpling by eating it straight or dunking it first in the dipping sauce; to be more graceful, spoon a bit of sauce onto the dumpling or into the hole.