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Xiao long bao - would I be crazy to try to make them?

I love xiao long bao/soup dumplings. But I live too far away from a source to eat them regularly. I've seen recipes for them and am tempted. I'm looking for advice from those who do cook or have cooked them. Is this just too much work? Is the soup gelatin even remotely, easily achievable? If I substitute wonton wrappers, have I ruined them? Certainly the XLB dumpling isn't the same consistency. How hard IS it to make the dumpling? Almost 20 years ago, I made the dumpling for har gao and it was tedious and I wasn't pleased with the result. If I DO make them, do they freeze well? I'm willing to devote lots of time to this if y'all think I could pull it off. BTW, I'm NOT Chinese :)

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  1. I think the most difficult part of making Xiao long bao is the gelatinized filling. The dough is very basic and the sauce (if you like the vinegar/ginger variety) is a snap.
    They are not a lot o work, but they do take a bit of time. DON'T use wonton skins. That'd be disasterous.
    Here are a couple of links that might help you get the job done:
    http://the-cooking-of-joy.blogspot.co...
    http://steamykitchen.com/88-xiao-long...
    You will need something to use as a steamer. But a colander will do in a pinch.
    Yes, they do freeze well. You can even purchase them frozen in some super markets.
    But I wouldn't freeze them after they're cooked. I'd freeze them raw then thaw them at refrigerator temperature before cooking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: todao

      Thanks. I'd seen the steamykitchen one but not the cooking of joy (isn't that a great name?) The dough really does seem straightforward. And, no, I wouldn't cook before freezing. I have a two-story (!) bamboo steamer but it's rather small. Been meaning to pick up a larger one anyway.

    2. I remember there were a few threads some years ago. Just in case they're helpful:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/279497
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/279485
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/275737

      I'm sure there's more lurking about.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        These are ALL very helpful. Thanks as usual, Caitlin.

      2. I've made them using the Anita Lo recipe published in either Bon Appetit or Gourmet in the last few years. They are not as glorious as the ones from specialized vendors, but they are still worth the effort.

        Making the gelatinized filling was not the issue, the issue was getting enough of the filling into the dumpling to get a significant amount of broth inside. I have never been happy with the amount of broth I can get into the dumpling. But they were still very tasty.

        I cheat and use a premade dumpling wrapper. It is not as much of a disaster as Todao claims, it is serviceable. But if you can make your own, go for it! Maybe have some dumpling wrappers as a back up. My issue is that I really love the very thin dumpling skins, and I think they are a real art to master. I know I have no chance of mastering them. So I just make do with premade wrappers.

        I have frozen them, and as Todao suggests, it is best to freeze them raw. But I don't bother to defrost them before i cook them, I just cook them frozen. The frozen dumplings have even less soup in them than the fresh ones, I couldn't even tell they were soup dumplings. They are still tasty, just not as special.

        You should go for it! It is very satisfying to see row after row of lovely dumplings. I limit my expectations, I don't expect them to be as good as the commercial ones. But they are still yummy to eat, and fun to prepare.

        1. Definitely make them. Not that hard at all, and like most things, you get better the more times you make them.

          Don't use wonton wrappers. Part of the charm of XLB is the wrapper. Make them by hand -- you wont' regret it. Making the wrappers (next to the folding and pleating of the baos) might the most challenging part in making XLB.

          Yes, they freeze well -- very well, in fact. Freeze them raw.

          Good luck.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            After you make them you can get these three to come over and eat them! Fast! There is actually more than one YouTube video about xiao long bao eating contests

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svapzD...

          2. Its funny -- one person says the filling is the most difficult part, another says getting enough filling into the dumpling is the most difficult part, and in my two tries at making them, it was the wrappers that were the most difficult part. In my attempts I've had no trouble getting the broth to gel (cooking some pig skin with the chicken broth infuses it with lots of gelatin)... And not much trouble dicing it to put it in the skins... But both times the skins have leaked, such that no soup is left at the end of steaming. If you succeed, please let me know!

            2 Replies
            1. re: fearlessemily

              Yes, everyone seems to have a hangup on this. And, yes, the dumplings getting and staying sealed??? Argh :)

              1. re: fearlessemily

                I have the most trouble with skins, too. I guess you can start out by making them kind of thick. Also, you probably do this already, but my mom puts them on little squares of parchment paper and into the steaming basket immediately. No sitting around on the counter so they have to be moved twice. I also find that for whatever reason, it helps when we steam smaller batches at a time.