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Steamy Kitchen Interview and Soup Dumplings, A.K.A Xiao Long Bao

December 5, 2010 · 32 comments

in Interview,Mains

Before I start, I just want to say thank you all so much for your sweet comments and emails about my poppa – grandfather in Kiwi English, by the way  – it was so touching and it felt great to receive so much support and kindness. You guys are awesome.

soup dumplings image

If I say “I made dumplings!” you’re all probably going to roll your eyes and say “big surprise, Sasa” and it’s true, I have posted a crap-tonne of dumplings on this blog. Usually, I say they’re easier than you’d think.

Well, I’m not gonna lie, these were not quite so easy. My self-esteem’s intact though, because while the woman I got the recipe from claimed it was the first time she had ever made them, that woman was Jaden Hair. I’m sure you’ll agree that she’s up there with Superwoman on the amazing scale so I figure that managing to produce something that didn’t spontaneously combust or otherwise fail spectacularly qualifies me for some sort of (large, cash) prize.

soup dumpling filling image

Which is not to say Jaden’s recipes are normally difficult; on the contrary, I’ve made heaps of quick, easy and delicious recipes from Steamy Kitchen’s archives but this one completely unwomanned me. Can I say that? People say “it unmanned him” so I’m gonna roll with it. Also, soup dumplings, or XLB as they’re also known in Shanghai whence they hail – that’s Xiao Long Bao – aren’t normally the sort of thing you make at home, you eat them at yum cha as part of the spread of dim sum created by cooks with far nimbler fingers than I’ll ever hope to have.

Jaden must be the hardest working woman in the business: she’s on TV, on Steamy Kitchen, on Food Blog Forum, on the radio, has published several cookbooks and she organises a community garden project! I mean, in about 2.5 months the woman is basically going to be the Asian Martha Stewart, am I right? I say in 2.5 months because apparently she only started her blog 3 years ago so clearly she works at the speed of light. I’m expecting to see Steamy Kitchen cookware and home decorating products in stores any minute now.

Anyway, the dumplings. The stock part? Simple – dump lots of meat in water and simmer. Making the jelly, you know that’s easy. Mixing some minced spring onions, pork and prawns together to make prork? Candy from a baby. The dough (her mum’s) even, piece of cake. The actual assembling part? Not so much. The tops are supposed to be a delicate mass of folds so the soupy goodness inside melts in your mouth, not your hand but um, mine…Well, mine had to be squeezed together like a dishrag at the top. And that’s putting it charitably. They were moreish as all get out though; try them if you like a challenge, you won’t be disappointed by the taste, though you may realise your manual dexterity isn’t what Jaden’s is. And if you’re a wuss, have a look at her post on them anyway; it’s where food and porn intersect in the most delightful way.

So, without further ado, I give you: Jaden!

xiao long bao image

Sweet, salty, sour or bitter or a combination, and if so which?

Salty, spicy, sour, sweet! Which is why I love Southeast Asian food.

Did you grow up in a food-centric household or did your interest in food develop independently of your upbringing? If the latter, do you remember why?

Our dinner table was the center of the house, dinner time was always family time, so I always grew up enjoying good food.

What’s your earliest food memory?

Oh gosh, i don’t remember! ;-)

Hmmmmm…. I remember loving to eat white rice with my hands (and making a big mess!)

The knife you use most often; brand and type?

Wusthof Ikon Chef’s Knife.

Are you a cook or baker? Why?

Cook, because I don’t like measuring.

xiao long bao photo

Do you get hangry (dangerously irritable and irrational when hungry)?

Every night at 11 pm.

Any tips you follow to avoid the dreaded hangrrr or try and stave it off in others?

Drink more ;-)

Where was your favourite country food-wise to travel to?

Japan.

How many kitchens have you called your own and what was your favourite one like?

2 kitchens. The home we had in San Francisco was my favorite – because I designed each and every part of it to be open, useable and spacious! The kitchen I have now is great, but if I could find an extra $50,000 lying around, I’d tear it down and redesign.

Bedside table – cookbooks, novels or something else?

Oh don’t you want to know! *wink*

soup dumpling photo

What is one of the best things that has happened to you because of blogging?

Friendship – some of my closest friends are now food bloggers. We manage to still see each other several times a year at blogging events despite living all over the world.

Have you had any scary stalker moments?

Yes. But would require a couple glasses of wine first.

What was the biggest learning curve for you as you developed as a blogger (ie: using the software, photography, styling, writing etc.)?

CSS, PHP, HTML (basically anything with initials).

How do you handle people saying “oh, I’m scared to cook for you because you must have such high standards”? Do you have high standards or are you just happy someone wants to cook for you?

I just want to eat! I’m happy to be fed, even if it’s just take-out.

soup dumplings picture

What’s one food/kitchen product/utensil you love but can’t get where you are?

A robot to wash dishes and clean up kitchen.

When you blog, do you think of yourself primarily as a cook/baker, writer, photographer, stylist, a combination or something else?

A friend.

Post squirrel, storing up posts for weeks (months!) to come or living on the edge and banging ‘em out as you go?

Bang ‘em out as I go.

Thanks Jaden! If you ever get bored of writing about food, I think you’ll find writing steamy romances right up your alley…

Want more interviews? Here’s Tim from Lottie and Doof, Deb from Smitten Kitchen and Luisa from The Wednesday Chef.

Soup Dumpling or Xiao Long Bao Recipe

I changed a few things here, like including metric measurements but mostly I have remained faithful to Jaden’s recipe, though I rewrote it in my own words. I divided the work into 2 days because that’s how I did it and it seems less overwhelming.

Jaden says the dough should make 40 dumplings but I didn’t roll it as thinly as I ought to have so I only used up about half the filling; if you think you might have the same problem, double the dough.

The First Day

The Soup

2 litres (2 quarts) of water

1 kg (2 pounds) bone-in chicken bones such as wings, back and neck

60 grams (2 ounces) cured Chinese ham or cured ham (I used speck), cut into 4 pieces

450 grams (1/2 pound) of pork skin & fat or pork belly (I used the latter)

2. 5 cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, sliced into 4-5 rounds

2 spring onions, cut into 10 cm (3 inch) pieces

2 large garlic cloves, smashed with side of your knife

2 teaspoons of Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry, or sake, which I used)

Scrape the top of the pork skin or belly with your knife and rinse well.

Put all the ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil. Skim off the impurities, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours uncovered.

Strain through a sieve to remove the solids.

The Jelly

1 litre (4 cups) of the soup

1 tablespoon powdered agar agar or 1 tablespoon of plain gelatine

Put the soup in a pot and bring to a point just before the boil.

Meanwhile, find some sort of container to set the jelly in, a tupperware will do.

Remove the soup from the heat and whisk the gelatine or agar agar in until completely dissolved.

Pour into the container and allow to cool before chilling it in the fridge.

When completely cool, run the tines of a fork through it so the jelly is in tiny cubes of a few millimetres wide.

The Second Day

The Prork Filling

450 grams (1 pound) pork mince

120 grams (1/4 pound) shrimp, shelled, deveined and minced finely

3 spring onions, finely minced

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry, or sake as I used)

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix all the ingredients together.

Add the jelly and mix well.

Jaden’s Mum’s Hot Water Dough and Assembling/Steaming

400 grams of all-purpose flour

175 ml (3/4 cup) boiling water

75 ml (1/4 cup) cold water

1 tablespoon plain cooking oil

Put 90% of the flour in a large bowl. Pour about 1/3 of the hot water in the flour. Use a fork to stir vigorously. Repeat twice more.

Add the cold water and oil. Keep stirring vigorously until your arm feels like it’s going to fall off.

Dust counter with the remaining 40 grams of flour.

Place the dough on floured surface and knead for 8 -10 minutes, until it becomes smooth, elastic and bounces slowly back when poked with a finger.

Cover with cling film and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare a tray with baking paper on it to place the dumplings on as they are finished.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.

Cover 3 of them and roll the remaining piece into a log about 3cm (1 and 1/4 inch) wide, then cut and roll into smooth pieces of about golf ball size.

Use a floured rolling pin to flatten it and cut out with a 7.5 cm (3 inch) cookie cutter. Mine shrunk immediately so I stopped and just tried to approximate a circle.

Fill each circle with about a tablespoon of filling and pleat together as beautifully as you can manage.

Keep the finished ones on the tray and covered with a damp tea towel.

Place dumplings still on the pieces of baking paper in the steamer and steam for about 8 minutes.

Serve with the dipping sauce below, and rice.

The Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons of sambal (I used rayu, Japanese chilli oil)

125 ml (1/2 cup) black vinegar (I used rice vinegar)

125 ml (1/2 cup) soy sauce (I used Japanese shoyu)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

A thumbsized piece ginger

Julienne the ginger and then make tiny cubes with the strips.

Mix with the other ingredients.

Print this recipe

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Suz December 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Oh goodness, I’m a bit hangry right now and these pictures aren’t helping. Dumplings are brilliant. You can never have too many dumplings or dumpling posts. (Isn’t dumpling a brilliant word? I never realised that before.)

I’m sorry about your poppa. The photo of you two is lovely.

Sasa December 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I know, I try to say it as often as possible. Dumpling. DUMPling. Lil dumply.

Vanessa December 5, 2010 at 9:28 am

I love it when you surprise us! After reading all about Jaden and her amazing achievements, I was just expecting you to post the recipes but no, another great interview too! It was more like overhearing a conversation actually which I like. In my opinion, you can never have enough dumpling recipe and this one sounds awesome. Your pictures are so professional and beautifully composed, truly mouthwatering.

Sasa December 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

You’re so sweet, photography praise from you is praise indeed ^_^

Alessandra December 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

Ciao Sasa, are you in NZ yet?

I could not understand what was the transparent stuff with the meat, reading the ingredients i guess that it is prawns????

Cool interview :-)

ciao
A.

Sasa December 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Arrive on Thursday! The transparent stuff is jelly made fom stock.

sakura December 5, 2010 at 11:31 am

This is one of my favourite dumplings at yum cha. I always used to wonder how they got the soup in the dumpling until my mum told me about the jelly (as she’s cool like that). SO impressed you made this:)

Sasa December 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I had no idea either, the ingenuity!

diva December 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Sasa how on earth have you made xiao long bao dumplings look like it’s damn easy to make?! They’re so adorable and yet ppl are taking years to learn and perfect this stuff in China. GOD. Great post and I do agree, Jaden must be the most hardworking woman on earth. -thumbs up- Happy weekend Sasa :D Your post has just about made me the hungriest girl in Singapore…

Sasa December 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Well you mustn’t have far to go to get good Chinese ;P

Suzy (Foodie in Berlin) December 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I won’t even pretend that I will try to make these dumplings myself. But I do love dumplings. I often went to Hakkasan in London (for lunch, during the week when it wasn’t full) of if I had less money in the bank – Royal China.
I miss Hakkasan!
Great post.

Katie@Cozydelicious December 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Awesome! You mastered the soup dumpling. And they look amazing… beautiful photos. Yum!!

catty December 5, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Great recipe buttttt.. I’m still gonna go pay someone else to make mine cos I’m lazy ;) i LOVE Jaden.. awesome interview!! :) ps if I dont speak to you SAFE TRAVELS! x

Su-Lin December 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I love it! Soup dumplings – you’re amazing!

SMITH BITES December 6, 2010 at 1:43 am

am scared spitless to even attempt these – if you can’t make them, i am soooooo not setting myself up for failure!! nice interview w/Jaden – she is a total rawk star and does work very, very hard!

Marietta December 6, 2010 at 10:12 am

ahahahaha i laughed with the realization of the word dumpling!!! you loved it right?!!
niiiice…i love all kinds of dumplings..but i’m sure i am worthless enough to NOT be able to make them on my own…
me scared of the kitchen… my cooking is so basic…it’s embarassing

Alli December 6, 2010 at 10:53 am

They do look delicious, that’s the kind of dish I like someone to make for me! I have just bought a Takoyaki skillet, thingy pan! have you made them before and do you have any good recipes? Have a good trip and hope to see you on the 12th.

Sasa December 6, 2010 at 11:26 am

I’m afraid I’ve never made takoyaki, they’re something I always bought ;P Will put out a Tweet about it.

Jamie December 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Great interview, great blog post, great dumplings. I am inspired!

Heather December 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Great interview! The XLB looks fantastic. I fear I may have even more uncoordinated hands than you, lol. I’ve been putting off making my own XLB…. might have to try them now though!

Alanna December 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Those photos are amazing! It made me want to leave work and eat dumplings now. I also wanted to say, just saw your last post, so I’m really sorry about your poppa, I hope you have a lovely time back in NZ with your family.

Andra@FrenchPressMemos December 8, 2010 at 6:14 am

Love the recipe and the Jaden- she definitely is a machine on the blog and everywhere else. Never mustered the motivation to make dumplings – love them though!

Fathima December 9, 2010 at 2:14 am

Perfectly done dumplings… nice clicks too!

heather December 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm

What a nice intro for JH. Did you actually make the soup dumplings with her, or just from the recipe? Either way, they look lovely! It’s a daunting recipe, but I’d like to try it someday. I’ve actually never eaten a soup dumpling… must change that soon!

Cheers and thanks for the comment on Squirrel Bread,

*Heather*

Sasa December 12, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Just from the recipe! I live in Austria…

LimeCake December 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

What an entertaining interview! I love soup dumplings but they’re really about technique and practice. Great job!

Liam O'Malley December 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Great interview Sasa, I’m a big fan of Jaden’s.

margie December 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I love dumplings so much – SO much – but I haven’t made any since college. Twice a year the Chinese classes and Chinese club at my college would have a big dumpling party. One of our professors would make a bunch of filling and we would wrap and steam dumplings all day. My favorite professor made scads of her suan la tang (that made me wonder what the heck they were serving at restaurants under the guise of hot & sour soup, it’s so good), and we would eat until we were stuffed, then eat some more.

The best thing about dumplings, I think, is that they are so easy to eat :)

Sasa December 22, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Dumpling party! The best sort of party ^_^

Christie Wall December 24, 2010 at 9:05 am

Great interview Sasa, I’m a big fan of Jaden’s.

justcooknyc January 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

i like this post, not just because i’m a huge fan of those dumplings (though i’ve never attempted to make them myself) but because i’m a fan of Jaden too. i was lucky to finally meet her at a food conference last year, and to hear her speak at some seminars. i’ve already learned a lot from her, plus she’s really nice (and fun).

jon May 5, 2011 at 7:01 am

Looks great. My co-worker told me about these and I’m going to try a Greek – Middle Eastern spin with this.

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