It’s time for another International Incident Party hosted by Penny from Addictive and Consuming, and this time we’re bringing dumplings to the table. When I started thinking about what I was going to make, I immediately thought of the mother of all dumplings (imho) – Shanghai soup dumplings / xiao long bao. But after a bit of research on the internet I decided it would be too much trouble and tried hard to think of an easier alternative.
I walk past a butcher on my way to work every day and as well as all the usual cuts of meat they also sell a lot of offal. Last week I noticed they had a tray of pork skin in the window – and since pork skin is one of the components of the broth that goes in the xiao long bao I decided it was a sign that it was meant to be!
For those uninitiated in the magic of xiao long bao, they are dumplings with a meat filling that contains jelly made from a savoury soup. When the xiao long bao are steamed, the jelly turns into a piping hot soup inside the wrapper. They are WONDERFUL. After picking up my pork skin and chicken carcasses, I set to work.
Stage one in making the dumplings was to prepare a broth out of chicken bones, pork skin, ginger and onions. After the broth was ready, I added flavourless gelatine to set it into a jelly.
On Sunday morning I got up early just so I could make them. First I made the dough for the xiao long bao wrappers. The dough had to rest for thirty minutes, so while that was happening I put together the meat filling, which has the jelly mixed into. I wish I had read the filling recipe before I made the jelly, because it turns out only 1 & 1/2 cups of jelly is required - but the recipe said to make 4 cups of jelly. Rah! I was a bit annoyed - maybe because I was up early and hadn't even eaten breakfast yet!
After that it was time to roll out the dough and pleat the dumplings. I started off by rolling out the dough and using a cookie cutter to cut out circles, but eventually found it easier to roll the pieces of dough thinly into circles. The thinner the dumpling dough was, the easier it was to pleat (and the better they are to eat as well). My pleating was not great - but hey it was my first time!
The xiao long bao were steamed and, after giving them a bit of time to cool down, it was time for a taste test. It probably took me about an hour to make forty xiao long bao – but it certainly didn’t take that long to eat them! I thought my wrappers were still a bit thick, but the filling was tasty and, JOY OF JOYS, the steaming hot soup was contained inside. We ate them with vinegar. Nice! I was rather pleased with my effort - they weren't complicated to make, just time consuming. The hardest part was not losing the soup after they had been steamed - the little buggers had a tendency to stick to anything and everything!
I also made har gow / prawn dumplings, apparently because I hadn't spent enough time making dumplings! I found the har gow much harder to make than the xiao long bao. I could tell when I went to roll out the har gow wrappers that it was too stiff. Because the dough was relatively stiff, I couldn't get the wrappers to be as thin as I wanted them, and I also couldn't pleat them nicely. You really want a very thin wrapper for har gow, because the best ones have that translucent, thin skin when steamed.
The har gow were, as I expected, not great. Bro said they were better than the xiao long bao, but Alastair wasn’t a fan. I didn't think they were terribly great, although not THAT bad for my first attempt. However, I don't think I’ll try making har gow again – it's too much effort to master the wrappers.
So that's it for my contribution to the International Dumpling Incident Party. See Addictive and Consuming for the round up, I'll update this post later with links for all the party goers.
For the xiao long bao, I found Steamy Kitchen's post very useful.
For the har gow, I followed this recipe on About.com.