30 May 2017
I should have known what I was getting myself into when I put xiao long bao ("soup dumplings") on the menu for a dinner party. This dish (in addition to the Silken tofu with mentsuyu and chili oil) is inspired by Corey Lee of Benu restaurant. All the ties to Benu are quite deliberate: Corey Lee is one of my biggest inspirations and all of my guests have had the fortune of eating at Benu, and thus I wanted to serve dishes that would evoke that common thread. That said, I find xiao long bao unbelievably difficult to prepare properly and it's a small miracle I found these even acceptable during the main event.
If you've never had a soup dumpling, it's quite literally what it sounds like: a small pleated dumpling that bursts with hot liquid soup when you eat it. It may seem a mystery how you get liquid inside of a dumpling, but put your syringes away; the secret is to set the soup stock into a jelly of sorts with gelatin, which then melts when steamed and served. You'll read that the way to eat a soup dumpling is to pierce it and drink the soup from a large spoon before eating the dumpling (and remaining meat filling), but I sort of like just eating the whole thing in one bite - they burst in a fun way. Make sure your dumplings are not scalding hot if you want to try this.
This is a barely-modified version of the recipe that originally appeared on ChefSteps with Andrea Nguyen. I added shrimp to the filling on a whim (leading to a possibly confused mix of proteins), and believe it or not, used storebought dumpling wrappers instead of making my own dough. Before there are riots on the streets, I should say I have made my own dough for one practice batch, but was unable to achieve a quality I was satisfied with, so perfectly round and flat storebought wrappers it is.
I served these with a dipping sauce made of black vinegar and soy which has a complex smoky/salty flavor. I had to travel far and wide to find black vinegar (at a Vietnamese market, no less) - if you can't find any, just soy sauce should be okay, but there's no easy substitute that I know of.
For 4 servings.
360g chicken stock
1/3 in ginger, unpeeled
1 slice bacon, chopped
2 sheets gelatin
190g fatty ground pork
125g shrimp (9x 26-30ct)
1/2 in ginger, peeled and minced
15g Shaoxing wine (substitute dry sherry)
4g sesame oil
5g shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
1.5g kosher salt
45g chinkiang vinegar (black vinegar)
10g shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
1.5 in ginger, peeled and julienned