Like my last post, this is another to fill the dog days of a quarantine summer. Who yet knows what will be the ramifications on the world from this pandemic, but I suspect there is going to be something about new hobbies, cooking at home, and taking on ambitious projects that you may otherwise never have undertaken. For me, I’m not sure I ever had the intention in life to attempt soup dumplings. I enjoy them, but I always relegated them to the list of things that you eat at restaurants, too much work to ever attempt home-made. “Leave that to the experts at Din Tai Fung” that’s what I always thought.
But alas, the days are long and time is plenty, and soup dumplings don’t travel well in Deliveroo scooters. This venture was made entirely possible by Marion’s kitchen, who I have recently become obsessed with. Both for her making homemade thai food feel more attainable to me and for Mama Noi who reminds me so much of my own grandmother that it’s scary. She is thai and my own grandmother (Mama Ngoai) is vietnamese but the mannerisms, down to the way that they CHEW, is uncanny.
Anyway, thanks to Marion, I made soup dumplings. She calls out specifically that these are Pho soup dumplings (a welcome nod to vietnamese cooking for me), however I think they taste just like any normal xiao long bao. That is to say that they are stunningly accurate for what you could get at a dumpling house.
Due to the ambitious nature of this project, I planned it all out in a notebook beforehand. The most important thing when biting off more than you can chew is preparation. The recipe has 4 main aspects to it: the soup jelly, the homemade dumpling wraps, the mix, and the fold.
The Soup Jelly
Marion starts from store-bought stock and so did I, but again if you’re looking for a long project, feel free to get your own ox tail and boil them down to make your own stock. Maybe one day I’ll share my own grandmother’s recipe. Starting from store bought and simmering with cinnamon, cloves, and star anise are more than sufficient for this. After adding fish sauce and soy sauce for a burst of flavor, you set the broth with gelatin.
Homemade Dumpling Wraps
I know it sounds like a hassle, but remember, we are trying to take up time. And anyway, it only has two ingredients: flour and water. Actually this was way easier than expected. Sort of like making homemade pasta, I find it almost therapeutic.
When planning, you need to allow for at least 2 hours for that soup jelly to set. Then you combine it with your pork mixture. I personally did not go to the same lengths as Marion in mixing together the jelly and pork. I actually prefer for the pork filling and soup to be two separate entities within the dumpling. It works either way but I was very happy with my results!
Actually maybe the hardest part? Marion makes it looks so easy and in my minds eye I can see myself doing the motions, pinch and move, pinch and move. But when the dumpling goes in my hand, whatever my brain seems to understand, my hands cannot do. But have faith and keep trying! You will get it eventually, and if you make extra dumpling wraps beforehand, you won’t get so upset when you mess the first few up. Be nice to your future self and make extra dumpling wraps in step two above.
After hours of hard work and stretching your abilities like you never thought you would, you will have beautiful, bursting with flavour, soup dumplings. And you did it all by yourself! Good for you!
Full recipe along with loads of other amazing ones on Marion’s Kitchen.