Many of you have jokingly asked “in China when you order take out, do they just call it food?” LOL. Well the other day I not only got to taste some authentic food, but learned how to make it too! It is incredibly easy (as long as you have the master chef looking over your shoulder and helping you every time you screw up!). This was reinforced when I went home and tried to make my own version which tasted good but looked nothing like the real thing.
So here is a little photo journal of my class learning how to make Xiao Long Bao. – said “sh + ow(like ow that hurt!) long bow” (like bow and arrow). They are basically fancy steamed dumplings with ground pork, some veg and soup inside. They are very typical of Shanghai and you can buy them everywhere on the street, like pretzels in NYC.
The dough is very simple, made with flour and water. I tried to substitute whole wheat flour when I made them at home. Although they tasted good, the texture was definitely tougher and there was so much less stretch to the dough that the pleating around the top was impossible to do, so we made them look more like ravioli folded over. Hey, it all ends up in the same place, right? So, my gluten free friends, keep this in mind if you give it a try with rice flour.
Here is the official recipe if you are feeling brave:
80 grams white flour
40cc cold water
100g minced meat
2g white pepper
4g rice wine
4g light soy sauce
4g green onion
4g minced fresh ginger
a dash of sesame oil
70g pork jelly (recipe to follow)
1. Put the flour in a mound on a board or the counter (having a scraper handy is a good idea) and make a well in the center that extends down to the board or counter. Then take your finger and make a moat around the well so you finish with two rings of flour.
2. Pour the water in the middle well and use your fingers to blend the flour and water. Use the scraper as necessary to collect all the bits. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Knead it for 5 minutes, folding and pressing with the heel of your hand. roll the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. Season the minced pork. In a mixing bowl add pork jelly and all other seasonings and mix well. Set aside.
4. Roll the dough out into an elongated rectangle with a rolling pin. Using your hands roll this up like a jelly roll. Then roll the jelly roll out like a snake. Stop when your ‘snake’ is about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Using your scraper or a knife cut the snake into 1 to 1.5 inch lengths. Set aside and cover with plastic wrap or cloth.
5. Take one section of your dough and flatten it out into a circle with the heel of your hand. Then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough towards the center but DO NOT go across the center. You want the dough to stay thicker in the middle. In the end you should have a circle of dough that fits roughly in the palm of your hand. It should be fairly thin except for the middle which should have a thicker area about the size of a dime.
6. Putting the circle of dough in your non-dominant hand, take a small teaspoon of filling and place over thicker area of dough. Place the thumb of the non-dominant hand over the filling. You will use this to tamp down the filling and to help stretch the dough over the top as you work your way around. With your dominant hand start accordion folding the dough, pinching it firmly together, and work your way around. Near the end you will have to remove your thumb and crimp the top closed.
7. Place in a steamer over boiling water for 10 minutes.
8. Serve with soy sauce or vinegar. (a dark salty vinegar is traditional).
I made some this way and made a veggie filling with the same seasonings but substituted a variety of minced, sautéed mushrooms for the meat. It was very yummy and worked well.
So the Pork Jelly part….I know you are all wondering….. It’s basically the stuff that you have in the pan after you make a pork roast, or the stuff that jells on the top of soup when you chill it and then re-liquifies when you heat the soup up. But here is the teacher’s recipe:
1. start with pork skin – meat and fat removed.
2. in a wok (or any other pot) add pork skin, water, green onion, ginger, rice wine. bring to a boil on high heat. Once it is boiling reduce the heat to a rolling simmer until the skin is soft.
3. keep cooking the liquid but remove the skin and chop it up well. Then add the skin back to the liquid.
4. When the liquid becomes sticky it is ready. Turn the heat off, let it cool. Then chill it and it will jell. Use this in your dumplings.
When the jell reheats as you cook the dumpling it becomes soup inside. It’s like a little yummy magic. Just be careful because the soup part is really hot when they are just out of the steamer!
Let me know if you try it and how they come out. I would love to see some pictures too!