Showing posts with label Dim Sum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dim Sum. Show all posts

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Xiao Long Bao - Little Soup Dumplings

Xiao Long Bao

After throwing out the question "Which would you prefer?" in that painfully short post I made last month, I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of commenters loved the dumplings. I grew up eating xiao long bao for breakfast almost every morning when I lived in Shanghai. I think it's one of those things you absolutely must eat in your lifetime; you'd be hard-pressed to find a more perfect morsel of food. Of course, I may be biased since they are my favorite food item but if you've seen the No Reservations: Shanghai episode, I'm sure Anthony Bourdain would agree with me (even though he hates food bloggers or something like that). Hopefully no one falls asleep reading this thesis-length post--I swear I tried to edit out as much as I could. Both xlb and croissants, which will come a little later, were in the top 5 of that huge long list of things I wanted to make this summer. I was able to cook about 1/3 of the list even though I only blogged about a handful of them. As for the rest of the items, the time frame is extended... indefinitely? Gotta love personal deadlines.

The xiao long bao, also called soup dumpling, is a bite-sized dumpling in a thin flour wrapper with a pork, sometimes crab, filling and a rich broth. The soup is what sets the xiao long bao, its pan-fried cousin the sheng jian bao, and the larger relative the tang bao, apart from all other dumplings and buns. The trick to getting the soup inside the dumpling is make a gelatin rich soup that solidifies at room temperature (think meat soup Jello) then mash it up into small chunks and mix it with a ground pork filling. As the buns steam, the pieces of gelatin soup in the filling melts back into a liquid that's now magically encased in the delicate wrapper. Pretty cool huh? A well made xiao long bao will have nearly two dozen pleats in the thin, almost translucent wrapper, a tender meaty filling, and is bursting with savory soup.

Xiao long bao originated in Shanghai over a hundred years ago and have now become an iconic symbol of Shanghainese cuisine. They were created by the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, which still sells these dumplings to this day. In Shanghai, you don’t have to travel far to find this morning staple but here in North America, there are only 3 major metropolitan areas that I know of serving this niche food item. Unfortunately, here in Seattle, you won’t be able to find any that are worthwhile. Instead, you'll have to make the drive up to the Vancouver/Richmond BC area, which has half a dozen or so restaurants serving decent xiao long bao (my favorite location being Shanghai River in Richmond). For elsewhere in the US, I've heard good things about the xiao long bao you can find in Southern California and New York City. Outside of Vancouver, SoCal, and NYC, I’m afraid you might be out of luck but if anyone finds a good city in the States do let us know! You may be tempted to buy the frozen xiao long bao sold at Asian grocery stores but usually they’re utterly disappointing-the skin is too thick, the soup leaks, and the filling is tough and studded with overwhelming chunks of ginger. But when a craving gets really, really, really bad, I'm not gonna say no.

xiao long bao When faced with a fresh basket of soup dumplings, don’t stick the whole thing in your mouth and chomp down. Hot juices will spurt out, dribble on your shirt, and worst of all, scald the inside of your mouth. Instead, after dipping the dumpling in a little black vinegar, place it on your spoon and gently nibble the wrapper and slowly slurp up the soup so you don't burn your tongue. Then dip the dumpling again in the black vinegar if you like a more vinegary kick before eating it. Some places will give you some ginger slivers to add to your black vinegar.

If you really want to try making this at home, I have to warn you that it’s long and time consuming. It was the most tedious recipe I have ever attempted but I'm weird and I like spending my weekend cooking something that takes 2 days to prepare. Even though the majority of my dumplings look misshapen and half of them leaked, the flavor was spot on! I did a pretty good job for a first attempt but I won't be making these again for years... So next time we'll just drive up to Vancouver for our fix.

If you're still set on making these at home, I implore you, please don't take short cuts. Don't make the stock with that can of Swanson's sitting in the pantry from 2001 *blech*. What makes these little gems special is the flavorful soup inside so spend the time to make a good soup base. It's worth it! While you could take some homemade chicken stock set it with gelatin, it will lack the velvety, almost creamy richness of a traditional slow simmered stock made collagen-rich pork feet or pork skin. For my stock, I used a combination of chicken wings, chicken backbone, and some pig feet along with aromatics like ginger, green onion, and star anise. You can use pork skin too but the meat in the pig feet will adds to the flavor. Make the wrappers fresh too because if you spend all that time making the soup and filling, it's a shame to use storebought wrappers.

xiao long bao 2

Xiao long bao – Shanghai Soup Dumplings

Aspic/Gelantized Stock

1 pound chicken wings
2 chicken backbones (carcasses from roast chicken will work too)
1 pork trotter (foot) or a large piece of pork skin
3 1/4 inch thick slices of ginger
4 green onions
1 star anise
8 cups of water

3 C all purpose flour
1/3 C hot water
2/3 C cold water
Pinch of salt

1 pound ground pork
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp sugar
2 C gelatin stock, chopped/mashed into small pieces

Serve with
Black vinegar
Fresh ginger slivers

Make the aspic
When working with pork feet make sure to wash it well, then boil it twice in a change of water to get the smell, bacteria, and scum out. If you're using raw chicken wings and backbones, it's best to boil those once too to get any scum out. Add the pork feet to a pot (large saucepan, stock pot, Dutch oven whatever works) and cover them with water and bring it to a boil. Boil for a minute, drain, and rinse off any scum on the feet in cold water. Wash out the pot as well or use a new pot because there will be scum on the side. Return the pork feet, and the raw chicken wings and backbones to the pot and fill with cold water and bring back to a boil again and boil for a minute. Drain and rinse off any scum and wash the pot again

Add 2 teaspoons of oil to your pot over medium heat. Smash the ginger slices and green onion with the side of a knife and add to the oil and until they are fragrant, then add boiled and rinsed off chicken wings and pork feet, 1 star anise, and 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer gently uncovered, skim any scum on the surface, for 6+ hours. Never let the soup boil again because it will cloud. The stock is ready when it can solidify at room temperature. Test the stocks gelling ability by spooning some of it into a small bowl and allow it to cool down to room temperature. If it solidifies then the stock is ready. Strain soup and season it with some salt. Set aside 2 cups for the dumpling filling. Save any excess for adding to sauces or soups. Let the soup cool to room temp then transfer it to the fridge. The soup can keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. You can scrape off any fat that solidifies on top or mix it into the filling, up to you.

Make the dough
In a large bowl, add 2 1/2 cups of flour. First add the 1/3 cup of very hot water and stir that into the flour. Then add the 2/3 cup of cold water and stir it into the dough. Bring the dough together and knead while incorporating additional flour if you need to, until the dough is not sticky. Don’t overknead or it will be too tough and gluteny to work with. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling
Mix the ground pork with all of the seasoning ingredients. Roughly chop the aspic then use a pastry blender or two forks to mash it into smaller pieces. Mix this into the ground pork mixture. Keep it in the fridge until the dough has finished resting.

Wrapping the dumplings
Divide the dough into 3 portions. Work with one portion and keep the other two covered. Roll the dough into a long snake. Then cut a small cylindrical piece off of the snake. Flatten with your palm and roll the dough out into a 2 1/2 inch diameter wrapper. The best rolling device for making Chinese wrappers is a small wooden dowel thats about 6 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.

The first 4 pictures in the eating Chinese xiao long bao tutorial shows the process of making the dough and wrappers. You want the wrappers to be a bit thicker than wonton wrappers. If the wrappers are too thin, the soup will dissolve it and leak out.

Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of the wrapper. Hold the outer edge of the wrapper with the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand. Using the other thumb and index finger, hold the edge of the wrapper and bring it to your dominant hand to pleat. Pleat around the circumference of the entire wrapper, turning the dumpling as you go, and seal the tip to close. The third and fourth pictures in the third row of the eating Chinese xiao long bao tutorial gives a somewhat helpful guide. The hardest part for me was getting my thumb out of the inside of the dumpling and sealing the tip.

Steam and serve
Bring some water to a boil in a wok or large pot with a steamer insert. Line a bamboo or metal steaming basket with cabbage leaves or damp cheesecloth. Place the dumplings in the basket and steam on high for 5 – 7 minutes. (5 minutes was enough for my dumplings but make sure the filling is cooked all the way before eating)

Serve hot with ginger slivers and black vinegar.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pork, Shrimp, and Shiitake Mushroom Potstickers

Pork Shrimp and Shiitake Potstickers

Dumpling making was a frequent weekend family activity when I was young. First, my dad would mix the filling, adding a splash of this and and a dash of that. Then we would start the assembly line. My brother's job was to separate any wrappers that were stuck together, lay them out, and, the most important part, place them flour side down so when we pick up the wrappers, the flour side would end up on the outside of the dumplings. My mom and I would wrap the dumplings, using up the wrappers as fast as my brother could separate them. Dad would help with the wrapping sometimes but his other job besides making the filling was boiling the dumplings. Of course, my mom would always get on his case about how he would boil them too long.

The way Chinese people boil dumplings has always puzzled me. Here’s how my family did it:
1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil
2. Add your dumplings, bring it up to a boil again
3. Add a cup of cold water, boil again,
4. Add another cup of cold water, and after it comes up to a boil again, they are ready to be served.

Every Chinese person I’ve asked about this says the same thing: add water, boil, add water, boil. Even all of my Chinese cookbooks say to boil this way. Nowhere does it specify how much water you start out with or how much is a “cup” of cold water, sometimes my dad used a mug, sometimes a bowl. Because I'm a food science nerd, I wonder, what is the science behind the principle of adding the cold water? I could BS something and say that the cold water solidifies the gluten in the wrappers making the dumplings chewier but honestly, I don’t think a cupful of cold tap water in a stockpot of boiling hot water is going to make a difference. What's the difference is between doing this versus a steady gentle simmer? Anyone want to hazard a guess? Anyways, since I like to be precise, or at least try to, I gave time frames for boiling, steaming, and panfrying the dumplings. You can always cut open a sacrificial dumpling to check if the inside is cooked through.

My family always used storebought wrappers for their convenience so I thought these were the way to go. The last time I tried to make homemade wrappers, I ended up with some painful and diastrous results (I won’t go into details). So I went back to buying my wrappers, thinking that they would solve my problems. But... they don’t! Now I find that the storebought wrappers are too dry and rigid. Having to wet the wrappers with water is an extra step and it's especially annoying when the wrappers don't seal properly. Homemade wrappers definitely taste better and have a much better chew but is it worth the trouble? I’ll have to try again.

With so many possible fillings and three different ways of cooking them, I'll never get tired of making and eating dumplings. Dumpling or jiao zi are filled with a combination of protein and veggie. They are usually filled with ground pork because that is the most common meat eaten in China, but they can also be filled with shrimp, beef, pressed tofu, or even scrambled egg. There's even greater variety of vegetables you can use: napa cabbage, salted mustard greens, Chinese chives, etc. Then you can either boil the dumplings (shui jiao) or steam them (zheng jiao) or panfry them (guo tie/potstickers).

Pork, Shrimp, and Mushroom Potstickers

1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb shrimp, finely chopped or briefly pulsed in a food processor
1/2 C chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 pack of potsticker wrappers or fresh wrappers
And a bowl of water


Fresh potsticker wrappers
3 C all purpose flour
2/3 C boiling water
1/3 C cold water
1 tsp salt

Makes about 32 to 36 potstickers

Make the wrapper (optional)
Mix flour, salt, and hot water. Stir together with a spoon or pair of chopsticks until the dough comes together. Add the cold water and stir. Knead until smooth. The dough should not be sticky. Let the dough rest at least 30 minutes. You can make the filling at this time.

Divide the dough in 4 pieces and keep 3 pieces under cover so it doesn’t dry out. Take one portion and roll it out into a long snake. Cut off a piece of the snake to and roll it into a 3 in wrapper. Ideally it should be thinner around the edges and thicker in the middle.

Repeat for the other half of the dough. Keep the dough covered when you work with out to prevent it from drying out.

Make the filling
Mix all of the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl.

If you're using storebought wrappers, make sure you place the filling on the side with less flour. Place a tablespoon of the filling on a wrapper. You can pleat the edges or fold them in half. If I’m boiling them, I get lazy and fold them in half. If I’m panfrying them for potstickers, then I like to pleat them so they can sit neatly on their flat bottoms in the pan. When using storebought wrappers, make sure to have a bowl of water to moisten the entire perimeter of the wrapper in order to tightly seal the dumpling. You won’t need the water for fresh wrappers since the dough is soft enough to seal together nicely. If you’re looking for how to pleat the dumplings, the very best folding guide I've come across is Jen’s dumpling guide. I didn’t even bother taking my own pictures especially with my dirty hands because Jen’s guide is an A+. There was a good one on Epicurious a while back but I can’t find it anymore. Place the wrapped potstickers on a lightly floured tray and keep them covered until you are ready to cook them.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the dumplings and stir so they don’t stick to each other or to the bottom of the pan. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 7 – 9 minutes, or until the filling is cooked through. Frozen dumplings will take an additional 1 – 2 minutes. Drain and serve with dipping sauce.

Bring the water in the steamer up to a boil. Place some cabbage leaves or a layer of cheesecloth in the steamer. Arrange the dumplings so they are not touching. When the water in the steamer comes to a boil, steam the dumplings for 10 - 12 minutes. Frozen dumplings will take an additional 1 – 2 minutes.

Pan fry:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Arrange the dumplings in a circular ring around the pan and squeeze some into the middle, making sure that they do not touch. Pan fry until the bottoms are light golden, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 C of water and immediately cover. Turn the heat down to low or medium low and steam the dumplings in the skillet for 10 minutes (12 minutes for frozen). After 10 minutes, remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium high to evaporate any remaining water and crisp the bottoms, about 2 – 3 more minutes. Place a plate over the potstickers and invert the pan to serve the potstickers crispy side up.

Freeze the dumplings on a lightly floured tray, making sure they are not touching. When they are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag.

Dipping sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
Thinly sliced scallions (optional)
Minced ginger (optional)
Minced garlic (optional)
Chili oil or chili sauce/paste (optional)

Mix everything in a bowl and serve with dumplings. Double if needed.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cha Shao Shu

I’m too intimidated to make my own pastry dough so I always take a shortcut and use store-bought puff pastry. I had a pastry sheet left over from Valentine’s day and some extra cha shao filling from making cha shao bao so I made some quick cha shao pastries, one of my favorite dim sum items. The Chinese use lard in their pastries so the buttery taste of puff pastry is not typical to Chinese baked goods (but I don't have hours to devote to making authentic pastry, maybe some other day).

When I told Steven I planned on making these, he was pretty apathetic, saying he didn't care too much for them. Well it was a different story when they came out of the oven. Since he ended up liking them so much, I lamented I didn't make more but I guess it's a good thing I only made 6 since eating so much puff pastry can't be too healthy.

I halved my original recipe for the filling so this adjusted recipe will be enough for 9 pastries. You can eat any leftover filling with some rice. The filling is pretty darn good, I ate a little bit while it was cooling.

Cha Shao Filling
1 C chopped cha shao
2 green onions, bottom half only, sliced thinly
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp Shao Hsing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 Tbsp to 1/4 C water, depending on how saucy you want the filling
1 tsp corn starch
Vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, and white pepper.

In a separate bowl, mix the water and cornstarch.

Heat a scant teaspoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat and stir fry the green onion (white part only) for about 30 seconds to a minute, or until fragrant. Then add the cha shao and the sauce and cook for a minute, until the mixture is bubbly. Then add the cornstarch water and stir together. Cook until the mixture bubbles again and thickens, about a minute.

Cool to room temp before using.

Cha Shao Shu
1 sheet of store bought puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp white sesame seeds
Cha shao filling

Defrost the puff pastry sheet according to package instructions.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

The puff pastry sheet is folded in thirds, so cut along the folds for 3 equal pieces of puff pastry. Then cut each third into 3 pieces, for a total of 9 squares of puff pastry.

Roll out each puff pastry square into a rectangle about 3 by 4 in. You don't need to roll it very much, the squares are about 3 x 3 in to begin with.

With the short side facing towards you, scoop a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the puff pastry. Fold the pastry over the filling and seal the 3 edges.

Brush the pastries with some beaten egg and sprinkle a pinch of white sesame seeds on top.

Bake at 375ºF for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastries are fully risen and golden brown. Serve hot.

Makes 9 pastries

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sticky Rice Siu Mai

There’s a potluck party at work tomorrow and I wasn’t sure what to bring. I remembered I had some siu mai wrappers tucked away in the freezer somewhere so I decided to make some sticky rice siu mai. Cantonese style siu mai (shu mai or shao mai) is filled with ground meat, like pork and shrimp, and is commonly served at dim sum. Another kind is the Shanghai style siu mai which is made with sticky rice.

Stick Rice Siu Mai
1 C glutinous rice (also called sweet rice)
1 C water
2 Chinese sausages
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Tbsp dried shrimp
1 green onion
1 clove of garlic
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/8 tsp white pepper
30 siu mai wrappers (siu mai wrappers are round like potsticker/gyoza wrappers only thinner)

Rehydrated dried shrimp and dried mushrooms in some hot water for 5 minutes.

Rinse and drain glutinous rice, add water and steam for 30 twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, finely dice Chinese sausages, mushrooms, shrimp, green onion and mince the garlic.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a skillet or wok and stir fry the sausage, mushroom, shrimp and green onion for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is fragrant and some pieces are lightly browned. Add garlic, oyster sauce, white pepper and stir fry another few seconds. Remove from heat and stir in steamed rice and 2 tbsp water to help loosen the mixture. Let the filling cool until it is warm or room temp before making the siu mai.

To make the siu mai, form a C shape with your fingers and thumb much like if you were to hold a cup. Place the wrapper on top of your index finger and thumb. Add less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Cup the siu mai with your index and thumb forming a collar around the top of the siu mai and squeeze lightly. While holding the siu mai, use the back of a spoon to push the filling in and flatten the bottom with the bottom of your palm.

Steam for 7 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately

Yields 30 siu mai.

I hope my coworkers like them. :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Shrimp and Edamame Dumplings

The mark of a good dim sum restaurant is a good shrimp dumpling. Har gow/xia jiao should be steaming hot, magically translucent, and expertly pleated. The wrapper should be tender and the dumpling should be bursting with fresh, pink shrimp with a slight essence of toasted sesame oil. Unfortunately, there are so many ways to go wrong. If the dumpling falls apart when you go to pick it up, then the wrapper is too fragile but if the wrapper is thick and rubbery, that's no good either. If there is too much bamboo, then they definitely skimped on the shrimp. All in all, a seemingly simple shrimp dumpling can be rather complicated.

My innate curiousity left me wondering how these dumplings are made; in particular, how the wrappers are made because they are so different from the usual dumpling or potsticker wrappers. So I researched some dim sum making and discovered that xia jiao can be made at home, albeit some of the ingredients were not commonplace pantry items. But I'm still missing a piece of the puzzle because as much as I try, I can only come to a close approximation. The dumplings I make are decent, but they're not perfect, like a good dim sum restaurant. Maybe this is a good thing because maybe not everything can be or should be made at home.

In this variation of the shrimp dumpling, I added some soybeans (edamames) to give it some bright green color. The edamames can be omitted and replaced with more shrimp for a traditional dumpling. The secret why the dough becomes translucent after steaming is because it is made with wheat starch.

Shrimp and Edamame Dumplings
1 1/4 C wheat starch (You can find wheat starch and tapioca starch at Asian markets)
1/4 C tapicoa starch
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 C boiling water

8 oz shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 C soybeans/edamame (if omitted, replace with 4 oz. shrimp)
2 Tbsp bamboo shoot, minced (this can also be omitted)
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice wine (Shao Hsing wine)

Peel, wash, and devein shrimp. Then chop, leaving some pieces small and some larger, and add to a mixing bowl.

Boil edamame for 2 minutes. Squeeze each bean out of the membrane layer that covers each bean. Roughly chop and add to shrimp.

Add minced bamboo, soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and corn starch to the filling and mix. Chill in the fridge while making the dough, allowing the flavors to develop.

Add wheat starch, tapioca starch, oil, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add boiling water at once and stir to bring the dough together.

When the dough can be handled, gently knead for 30 seconds to a minute. The dough will white and very smooth.

Break off about 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp of the dough and roll into a ball. Keep the rest of the dough covered. Using the side of a cleaver or the bottom of a pan flatten the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to a 3in circle. If a thinner wrapper is desired, roll the wrapper out after flattening.

Add about 2 tsp of the filling in the center of the wrapper and make pleats along half the wrapper. Overlap sections of the dough to create pleats, using your thumb as a guide. When half the circumference of the wrapper is pleated, seal the dumpling by pressing the pleated side with the unpleated side to form a crescent shape dumpling. If desired a triangular shape can be made by pressing the edges of the wrapper together at three points along the edge of the wrapper towards the center to seal in a triangular purse shape.

Before making the rest of the dumplings, begin boiling water for your steamer. Steam the dumplings for 8 to 10 minutes. The dumplings will become translucent after they cool for a bit after steaming.

Serve immediately.

Storing: These dumplings can be frozen but they must be steamed first. Then steam to reheat.

Yields about 24 dumplings.


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