This week, xiao long bao, better known by some as soup dumplings.
Soup dumplings, I must say, are magical, magical things. Perhaps one of my favorite noms of all we’ve eaten thus far in our Chinese adventures. The dumplings are traditionally filled with pork but can be found with a variety of other fillings, from vegetables to seafood. The best part: the dumplings are also filled with a gelatinized broth that turns to soup when steamed. Yes, any food that contains the term “gelatinized” I often view as suspect, but xiao long bao is an exception. One bite into a steamy bao and the delicious flavorful broth rushes into your mouth and the term gelatinized is forever forgotten.
We visited Din Tai Fung, a world-renowned Taiwanese restaurant specializing in xiao long bao, for our first soup dumpling experience. We ordered two types of the dumpling. The first was a mini xiao long bao which you eat with a soup spoon and a small extra bowl of soup — the soup dumping is placed in the spoon with chopsticks, the spoon is dipped into the bowl for a bit of extra flavorful broth, and the entire tasty treat is popped into your mouth to be savored until the next bite. The second type we ordered was the regular soup dumpling (10 to a basket, rather than the minis which come 20 to a basket). These are eaten with chopsticks, dipped into your preference of sauces (generally soy sauce or vinegar or a mixture of both) and savored (in our case quickly rather than slowly — I think we downed all of our dumplings in record time they were so delicious).
A word on dumpling terminology: what we in the west have come to term “dumplings” are actually a bit mis-named. The Chinese have many a dumpling-like food, all of which have different names. Jiaozi , or potstickers or gyoza, as they are known elsewhere, are made with a wheat-flour based dough, stuffed with a meat or vegetable-based filling, and sealed by crimping the edges together. They can be cooked by boiling, steaming or pan-frying. Baozi, on the other hand, are always steamed and are generally more bun-like. Generally filled with meat or vegetables and crimped at the top, they are also made with a wheat flour, but can be made both with raised or un-raised dough. The xiao long bao are an un-raised baozi, meaning the wrapper is thin and smooth. Baozi made with a raised dough have a very bread-like consistency.
Check back soon for the next Food Glorious Food post, where I will describe how to make dumplings (Craig and I took a cooking class with Hutong Cuisine and learned to make our own jiaozi!). For detailed information on how to make your own xiao long bao, check out Steamy Kitchen’s blog (thanks to Grace for finding it!).