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Soup dumplings

22 January 2010 10,321 views Add a Comment

Juicy Steamed Pork Ban Shang Hei Style (soup dumplings) Northern Chinese Eatery 13

My name is Beth and I am a carbohydrate junkie.

Never met a dumpling I didn’t like. I’ve made chicken and dumplings at my mother’s knee. I’ve had dumplings in Prague with wild hare stew and in Vienna with roast boar. Once at a little restaurant along the Danube in Germany, the dumplings were served alongside a chunky soup of mushrooms, potatoes, carrots and venison swimming in red wine. I’ve dropped dough atop a thick beef stew made in a Dutch oven and cooked with the coals of a campfire. Dumplings with soup are bliss. But I’d never had the soup inside the dumpling.

Now that I’ve found them, my new favorite Chinese treat is soup dumplings.

They are really closer to a steamed bun rather than a boiled dumpling. In China they are known as Xiǎolóngbāo since they are cooked in small bamboo steamers. (xiaolong translates as “small steaming basket” and bāo is a filled bun). You may find these dumplings locally under the name “juicy” or “Sanghai” style. I found them at Northern Chinese Eatery on Buford Highway where the menu refers to them as “Juicy Steamed Pork Ban Shang Hai Style.”

Xiaolongbao are traditionally filled with pork, but there are endless variations. It’s no small trick to keep the soup inside the thin flour dough. If you saw the film Julie and Julia, you’ll remember the part of the film where they describe aspic as a kind of “meat Jello”. To make soup dumplings, you wrap solid meat gelatin inside the dumpling skin alongside the meat filling. The top of the dumpling is gathered up into fine folds to enclose the filling. When the dumplings are steamed, the gelatin melts into soup. At one time these were only made in cold weather, but refrigeration has changed all that.

Once they are steamed, the soup dumplings must be treated with care, which is why they’re served in the same steamer they are cooked in. Biting into one can mean you’ll end up wearing the soup, so I suggest putting the whole thing in your mouth at once. If that seems less than lady-like, you can put the dumpling into a soup spoon.

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