HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Should a great Shanghai soup dumpling / xiaolongbao contain oozing soup from the pork filling (directly), or via a congealed gelatinous spoon of soup inserted?

Most of you know what a xiao long bao is (others loosely use the term soup dumplings).


So if you know them, Nan Xiang, Jia Jia, Din Tai Fung, amongst others are globally known names.

In NY, Spring Deer/Joe's Shanghai is uber famous. For LA there's also a branch of Din Tai Fung but there's also many other non brand name favorites like JJ, Mei Long Village, or the mom and pop shop. In San Francisco Bay Area, it's pretty much Koi Palace, Yank Sing (both interestingly dim sum places that excel in them), plus many other Shanghai spots.

Earlier I was watching this youtube clip of this Hong Kong TV and media personality, who is known as Ah So. Without getting too much into her background she did a lot of work in Hong Kong radio and hosted a lot of TV shows, mostly the more well known ones about food. She is also infamous for being rude and extremely arrogant in her speech, extremely critical of food (especially badly done expensive food, even if considered cheap), and in a sense gained her acclaimed status.

One remark she made and I will translate it

"The difference between a properly done xiaolongbao (and baozi) is that the properly done xiaolongbao will create and exert ample soup from the natural juices of the pork filling. That is how you tell if the chef is doing his work properly. A badly and improperly done xiaolongbao is where the chef inserts a congealed/gelationous mini spoon of soup with the filling into the bao then steamed, so the gelatin melts and becomes soup".

That is quite the bold statement. Does that mean that Nan Xiang (as featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation Shanghai episode) that does gelatin into soup, is incorrect/lazy/not as good?

Is the gelatin method prevalent across the US supposed best Shanghainese restaurants that do XLB well? Is it even possible to do a proper XLB where the soup is not manually inserted but created from purely steaming and creating the right pork filling mixture?

On top of that, she says that if you can taste the difference between (without knowing what goes inside the kitchen) what is inserted as soup into the XLB versus the soup that comes naturally from the meat filling, then you're qualified to talk about food (in the loose sense). Cocky yes....agree or disagree?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I made XLB a couple of months ago and I think Ms. Ah So is full of something but not XLB :) I've not eaten them in China but what I've had and then made the gelatin/soup portion is a separate component. You make the meat or whatever filling, you make the "soup" from a to-die-for stock that gets agar or someother type of gelatin added, you make the dumplings. A teaspoon perhaps of fillinggoes into the center of the wrapper. A small amount of the solidified "soup" goes on top of that. You then pleat the dumpling. XLB.

    I'm caucasion but did ALOT of research on this both on CH and elsewhere and no one ever suggested any otherway. But I'm willing to beproven wrong.

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      She's not a likeable person for sure, but the crowds love her for some reason. This woman pretty much also told off a restaurant owner who sought her advice and "wisdom", and got told off that his restaurant's fried pork chop rice had too much garlic on top, and that she felt garlic should be only used to prep the wok for frying, and the garlic should be removed from the dish (thus leaving it on and with the food suggests compensating for the lack of freshness of the pork, which she picked up to be from frozen).

      I can see where Ah So is coming from, as her years of eating Cantonese food experience tells her that great food should stand on its own, and is applying that to non Cantonese Chinese food.

      Original and natural taste. She thinks using gelatin is not the right way, as she would rather taste the juices from the pork and for that to be the soup. I'm really curious if there is a way to do this without using gelatin of soup, and what is the technique, and if there are any restaurants outside of Hong Kong that are doing this.

      The same thing she says, applies to those beef hockey pucks, aka niu rou xien bing, or "Chinese hamburgers". With the amount of beef inside those things I suppose it is not hard for there to be natural juice oozing out, but for XLB I bet it is trickier.

      1. re: K K

        If I could have made my stock with lots of chicken feet instead of one crummy neck and a turkey wing, it certainly would have been more gelatinous but never solid enough to pick up and put into the dumpling. And if it's not solid it's certainly, IMO, going leak out of top and also probably make the dumpling skin soggy. I hope experienced XLB makers, esp. from Shanghai, will weigh in here. I'm too much of a beginner.

        1. re: K K

          I don't know if it is related or an entirely different beast, but I recall the same Ah So emphasizing on adding a lot of water during the marinating process, when making some meat patty dish in another show (it is a bit late in the day for me to try to recall what dish exactly it was).

          I tried applying that principle when making meat patty-type dishes, even extending to hamburgers. Sometimes I would use stock but most often water, although I always try to use quality meats. The products always come out juicy and tasty.

      2. Here's my thread on the subject with loads of help and the link to what I wound up making.


        1. I'm not sure I understand what she's talking about. The filling is usually based on uncooked ground pork, no? So where the heck is the soup supposed to come from if you don't add some gelatinous stock? Think potstickers. Or siu mai. Ground pork filling, no soup.

          In order to get gelatin from pork, you need lots of connective tissue, and you need to cook it for a long time. If somebody served me XLB full of pig's knuckle that had been steamed for a couple of hours, you better believe I wouldn't be happy. You gotta have stock.

          All I can think is that maybe she's saying that the stock used should be extremely gelatinous, so that commercial thickeners are unnecessary, and that it should be mixed into the filling before the dumplings are stuffed as opposed to put on top.

          Otherwise, her statement doesn't make any sense to me. The notion that a basic ground-pork-based dumpling stuffing is going to make enough juice for an XLB just boggles the mind. But maybe somebody else will have more info...

          3 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            She's basically saying in Cantonese from the video around 1:12 mark


            that a good XLB should stricly have the natural juice coming out of the meat (making the interior soup). A bad XLB is where the chef adds a spoon of gelatin (subtitles says fruit jelly, but she means a gelatinous soup stock). Her point is that the pork filling by itself, without adding gelatinous soup in addition, should be flavorful and juicy enough to ooze out some natural juices to create that soup. Yes it's a bold statement to make, and I am really curious about this. Sure I've had pepper pork burger charcoal roasted Fuzhou style buns in Taiwan, where I see a premarinated meat mixture with scallions, sesame oil, pepper, and other ingredients, but nowhere do I see during the making process where the bun maker adds in a spoon of gelatinous stock. And unfortunately I don't remember what the Din Tai Fung chefs did in Taipei and Arcadia where you can see the chefs make them behind the window.

            There must be a technique if this is so (unless the chefs in the video already marinated the meat with the gelatin and this Ah So is talking out of her hoo ha), so I'm curious as to what it is.

            1. re: K K

              A drool-inducing video, by the way.

              To be fair, she didn't exactly use the word bad. She used the equivalent of what I would translate as "unworthy of boasting" versus "worthy of boasting". I don't quite agree on that criteria, by the way, because whatever that is the most delicious should prevail.

              If it helps, here is a video of Taipei's Ding Tai Fung chefs (supposedly) making the said XLB's. The only filling shown is something that appears to be a smooth paste, at around 4:14. No appearance of any separate jello, and if there is any additional stock, it would have been incorporated into the paste:


              1. re: tarteaucitron

                I saw a video where the gelatin soup had been mixed into filling prior to filling the dumpling. I'm considering trying that the next time. BTW, KK, DID you read the recipe that Ifixed?

          2. Ah So is right.

            Adding gelatin to XLB, traditionally speaking, would be laughable and bordering on verboten.

            That said, the experience that Ah So speaks from has its genesis in a time when pigs (and cuts of pork) were much fattier than the lean crap we have nowadays (both here in the U.S. and even in China).

            Given how lean most cuts of pork are now, it would be impossible to make XLB the traditional way -- relying essentially only on the "fattiness" of the rendered fat to create that "soup" sensation. Hence, the frankfood procedure of adding gelatin.

            Lastly, it should also be noted that in our "McDonald's supersize" culture, the "soup" in the XLB has really gotten out of hand. Sure, there should be *some* liquid in the XLB, but certain places go to extremes -- using that almost as a selling point of the XLB.

            Traditionally, XLB had some liquid but it was never meant to be a "fountain of aspic" gushing into your mouth as you bit into it. I think lots of places have totally gone overboard with the "soup" factor. You should have some liquid, but nothing like what you would get at some joint -- enough "soup" to rehydrate a bucket of dried Shitake 'shrooms.


            37 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              I think you've hit the nail on the head with the limitations of standard American pork (as well as chickens but that is a separate issue) that has failed to reproduce the same flavors and thus requiring that extra spoon of gelatnious broth. Great example is Din Tai Fung Arcadia vs Taipei locations (let alone flagship store).

              But what worries me is that even if the pork in China is decent enough, then why is Nan Xiang Mahn Toh (where Bourdain ate in No Reservations Shanghai) adding the gelatinous soup in addition? Or is it done to appease the local and foreign tourists?

              Some of the funniest looking XLB I've seen locally are pork and nappa cabbage mixed in. The gelatin put in does contain some fat, but upon dissolving the fat retains a solid mushy texture (and doesn't become soup). At that point the saving grace would be a bargain price to compensate for the oversteaming or lack of detail.

              1. re: K K

                Did you read the recipe that I included? There was certainly no "solid mushy texture." I like ipse's comment about the amount of "soup." I'd thought perhaps mine should have had more but perhaps they were just right :) Thanks for that.

                1. re: K K

                  "But what worries me is that even if the pork in China is decent enough, then why is Nan Xiang Mahn Toh (where Bourdain ate in No Reservations Shanghai) adding the gelatinous soup in addition? Or is it done to appease the local and foreign tourists?"


                  Gotta keep up with the times. Food evolves, nothing stays the same forever.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  If these were grease dumplings rather than soup dumplings, I might agree with you. But in order to get soup, you need gelatin. Period.

                  And I don't care how fat your hogs are, you're not going to get gelatin from ground pork that's only been steamed for ten minutes. It just ain't gonna happen. You need to add some liquid. And the only way to hold the liquid in place while the dumpling is formed is if it's gelatinous.

                  There are about a million online recipes for soup dumplings, and many of them don't have gelatin added. What they do have, though, is gelatinous stock that's mixed into the filling. I fail to see how this is "frankenfood."

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Two points:

                    1. As I mentioned above, the pork we have nowadays is simply much leaner than in year's past.

                    2. There should not be *that* much soup in XLB. This is why the term "soup dumplings" is such misnomer on so many levels when it comes to denoting XLB.

                    3. And who says you are *supposed* to get gelatin?

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I just read that the alternative to "gelatin" is to boil down a gelatinous stock to the point that it will "gel."

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Lean pork has nothing to do with it. Fat does not make soup. Fat makes grease.

                        The soup - however much or little - has to come from somewhere. And the most likely place it's going to come from is from the melting of gelatinous stock.

                        No, you don't have to have gelatin. But if you don't, you won't have any soup, either.

                        ETA: just to avoid any confusion, I'm not talking about adding stuff from a box that says "GELATIN" on it. I'm talking about using a rich stock that has cooled and gelled as one of the ingredients in the filling.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          "I'm talking about using a rich stock that has cooled and gelled as one of the ingredients in the filling." I think we're all in agreement to that, which is what "Ah So" is objecting to and what No Reservations: Shanghai showcased of the XLB making process at Nan Xiang. The gelatin produces the soup. But what Ah So wants is pure meat juice/essence of flavor, where quantity is not the issue.

                          Steve below mentioned crab XLB.

                          Well I can draw an analogy of what a real dim sum ha gow should taste like. Unfortunately it has been years since I've had a real good one. Fresh shrimp prepped in a certain way and steamed with all the right conditions, should produce a rather juicy sweet experience when the dumpling is bitten into. Ditto for the perfect siu mai where you should taste the essence of pork juice, mushroom flavor, and shrimp where appropriate. Unfortunately that's hardly the case these days. Some people think stuffing in some pork fat and chopped bamboo shoots, sprinkle some pepper in and calling it a day. Either that or the quality of shrimp is not as prime (depending on the source, and whether it's from some frozen batch).

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Any typical Chinese pork filling -- be it for XLB, baos, or dumplings -- will give off some type of liquid after it's been cooked (either steamed, boiled, or pan-fried).

                            Some will have more liquid than others. You don't need to have gelatin.

                            You're not drinking fat or pork grease. It's the natural moisture from the pork meat itself, combined with fat, and anything else that might be in the filling.

                            And I go back to my original point. There is not supposed to be that much "soup" in a XLB. Some liquid, yes. Soup? Uh, no.

                            For example, bite into any steamed pork bun and you'll get a nice dripping of liquid -- a liquid that is a combo of pork juices, pork fat, sesame or corn oil, etc. These are pork baos, or buns, not XLB. Are we now going to call these things "soup buns"?

                            It's just the nature of things.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              But can you explain why those "natural moisture from the pork meat itself" or the "pork juices" you're talking about are semi-solid at room temp and liquid when they're hot? Seems to me the most likely explanation is that THEY'RE FULL OF GELATIN. But maybe it's just magic. Yeah, that's it. Magic.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I think we are speaking over each other.

                                I am saying that XLB filling does not need gelatin. If your pork was fatty enough, the natural pork juices with the pork fat, the sesame oil, will create the so-called "soup" that people have come to associate with XLB.

                                The use of gelatin or aspic is only a recent creation or addition to the XLB repertoire. Something added to appease the masses that have come to romanticize the notion of "soup dumplings" being full of, what else, soup.


                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  And I am saying that XLB will not be XLB without gelatin.

                                  Gelatin isn't a recent invention; it's the natural byproduct of cooking animal parts that contain collagen, and has been part of cooking since the first caveman slow-roasted a mastadon haunch. Those Bronto Burger ribs that tipped over Fred Flintstone's car? Loaded with gelatin.

                                  Any liquid in soup dumplings - even if it's just a drop or two - is there because something changed from a solid or semisolid state to a liquid. And the two things you're going to find in the filling that can pull off that trick are fat and gelatin.

                                  Look at the video K K posted above. At 1:12 - 1:17 you can see the filling used for the dumplings they're eating. It isn't just plain ground meat, but is a little gooey. And I'd be willing to bet a substantial sum of money that it's gooey because the meat has been mixed with stock that's solid at room temp. And the reason the stock is solid at room temp is because it contains gelatin.

                                  Or consider this recipe: http://steamykitchen.com/88-xiao-long... There's no gelatin added to the dumplings alongside the filling, but the filling itself contains plenty of gelatinous broth. Yeah, they cheat and use some commercial gelatin instead of extracting it exclusivley from chicken feet, but the chemistry is exactly the same.

                                  If you don't have any gelatin in your filling, the only liquid in your dumplings is going to be fat. (Okay, maybe a bit of soy sauce or sesame oil, but we're talking tiny amounts.) And whether its a gusher or just a fraction of a teaspoonful, the liquid in XLB isn't just fat. There's no way that can happen unless the filling contains a fair amount of gelatin.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    or aspic - which naturally occurs in making hearty stocks and turns the broth into a gelatinous mixture. You are right - there is not enough moisture in the ground pork filling to create any kind of juice.

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      And what thickens an aspic? Gelatin!

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        Aspic naturally occurs in the making of hearty stocks. I associate "gelatin" with being a human-made product.

                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          I guess that was the point I was trying to make with ipsedixit - gelatin occurs naturally whenever you cook meat that contains collagen. XLB (and myriad other dishes) took advantage of the existence of naturally-occurring gelatin long before the commercial product was available.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            On that point alan, I'm not disagreeing with you.

                                            Like I said, you will get natural "juices" from a pork filling without adding ADDITIONAL aspic.

                                            What I'm disputing is that XLB actually REQUIRES the addition of aspic, gelatin or whatever you want to call it, to produce the so-called "soup".

                                            You don't. You can get it from the pork itself.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Getting back to the OP, how 'cocky' is the statement that you can taste the difference without knowing? What places are we talking about? Can we name names (both 'with' and 'without' adding gelatin)? How far does the concept extend... does it mean the same thing for crab xlb as pork?

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Ah So is not more cocky than any other "celeb-type" chef.

                                                Giada by accentuating the Italian acents to her ingredients is cocky in her own way.

                                                Paula Deen insisting that every thing about a stick or two of butter can be downright cocky.

                                                The whole notion of a "throwdown" might make Bobby Flay the "king of cocky".

                                                Mario B. just excudes cockiness -- maybe best exemplified by his clogs.

                                                Oh, and Robert Parker ... 'nuff said.

                                                I'm not bothered by her cockiness, or anyone's elses for that matter.

                                                It's just the nature of the biz.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  So I guess you are saying that she is 'full of it' when she says that you should be able to tell the difference between the two xlb (added gelatin or not) and that one is superior to the other?

                                                  I was only reiterating the OP.

                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                    Let me rephrase what she said

                                                    "if you can tell the difference between a bragworthy XLB whose liquid content is natural juices vs an unbragworthy XLB whose soup is inserted with the filling via a spoon of gelatinized broth (not implicitly stated how the gelatin is made), then you have decent eating standards"

                                                    1. re: K K

                                                      KK, I'm curious: is that a translation from the Chinese characters or Cantonese? I listened to the Cantonese, and it does not seem quite as formal.

                                                2. re: Steve

                                                  I must say that because of Ah So's remark, I will pay more attention to whatever XLB I eat and try to study the flavors of the juices or soup that comes out. Things like 5 grams of skin with 16 grams of filling and 18 pleats making a passing grade XLB as a basis is just skirting the surface.

                                                  Steve, shellfish like crab or shrimp does contain quite a bit of water content, so when they are steamed there are natural juices that flow out.

                                                  When you say crab XLB are you referring to XLB containing all crab, or minced crab with pork? I have no clue how Joe's does it, as I am only aware of them by name and random pics on the likes of flickr.

                                                  In Taiwan it is very common to find variants like shrimp XLB, sometimes shirmp and pork together. A classic one is loofah squash (si gua) and shrimp (no pork whatsoever) and is a personal favorite. A skilled chef should be able to bring out the natural juices of the shellfish and squash, both of which have water content and in some ways flavored naturally. What happens when you steam a squash, or zucchini for that matter? Definitely no need for aspic or prepared gelatinous broth there, unless they're calling it tang bao and ensuring ample soup. And if you bite into a loofah and shrimp XLB and see no liquid at all, then it's a true sign of flop.

                                                  I suppose it is easier to get a decent amount of juice with shrimp + loofah squash vs pure pork.

                                                  Also....if Ah So is being cocky without educating the audience, then that's another matter. She may be opinionated and not liked by everyone, but she made people discuss this thread already which in itself is productive.

                                                  1. re: K K

                                                    Agree on the last part especially.

                                                    At the end of the day, in terms of the XLB juices, I would care most about whether it is tasty and in line with the rest of the dumpling, i.e. without tasting of anything that stands out as not belonging there. I do not care whether the juice is 100% from the meat that it came with, or from another meat source with additional bones, or from another species. I do not care if 20% or 80% of the juice is from another source, or that it has additional gelatin, from a box or otherwise. I would care that the soup is piping hot, though.

                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                            There's always room for......gelatin!

                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                          Having made more dumplings, XLB and baos than I care to count or recollect (both at home and at my family's restaurant), I can tell you for a fact that you *can* achieve a "soup" effect without the addition of gelatin.

                                          And I am saying that XLB is XLB without the addition of gelatin (or aspic).

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            " can tell you for a fact that you *can* achieve a "soup" effect without the addition of gelatin. And I am saying that XLB is XLB without the addition of gelatin (or aspic)."

                                            Any techniques you can remember share as to how this is done? For dim sum ha gow, I've read somewhere that the shrimp needs to be pre-treated with some flour (or cornstarch), salt, ans sesame oil, where the salt draws the offer out. Then some rinsing to remove the excess powder, then some more salt/pepper type marination and refrigerature the mixture before you use to wrap. Did you do anything of the sort with the XLB (pre-treat it in some manner, including refrigeration) to achieve sufficient and maximize meat juice?

                                            That is what got me curious about drawing the meat juice out (w/o gelatin) in the first place!

                                            Again Ah So, said very clearly in Cantonese, "a XLB that's brag-worthy is where the juice comes out from the meat itself". Notice she never used the term soup. Only meat juice. And even with that said, it seems perfectly fine if there is not a lot, as it seems to be more of a quality issue than quantity.

                                            Now this discussion has proven that because XLB is dubbed as "soup dumplings" that there's the expectation that once the XLB is bitten into, the broth should gush out like a Peter North explosion, and anything less is not a XLB.

                                            1. re: K K

                                              There's really no trick. Between the steaming process and the natural juices in the pork mixture (i.e., pork, pork fat, sesame oil, corn starch, s&p, etc.), you'll end up with a flavorful amount of "juice".

                                              KK (as well as alan), try this out or consider Chinese meatloaf.

                                              Ever make Chinese meatloaf at home? The meatloaf, which is basically very very similar to the pork filling for XLB, is steamed. When you are finished steaming the meatloaf and cut it open, what do you find at the bottom of the bowl? A pool of liquid.

                                              And, trust me, no gelatin, aspic, or whatever is added to the meatloaf mixture before steaming.

                                              The same thing happens with XLB.

                                              And, I go back to my initial points: (1) pork used to be much fattier and (2) there should *not* be so much liquid in XLB as to consider it soup; liquid and pork juices yes, but not "soup".

                                              Just my 0.02.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Not sure I agree with your meatloaf example. Meatloaf cooks over a period of time. XLB are quickly steamed. How long does it take? WIth such a small amount of meat, I can't imagine it's the same idea. Also, you wouldn't get much of a pool with steamed crab.

                                                I'm not saying I don't agree in principle that xlb made without gelatin is superior. However, since the gelatin is not flavored, it is yet a question of the quality of the other ingredients. It is only a 'shortcut' if other elements are compromised.

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  Time spent steaming really has nothing to do with the liquid, but rather the density of the food.

                                                  Generally, depending on how thick my loaf is, I steam my Chinese meatloaf for around 20 minutes.

                                                  For XLB, it's anywhere between 10-15 minutes (depending on the size and type of my bamboo steamer).

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  I think the addition of aspic is more based on business convenience. You can cut corners with the addition of aspic--the pork can be lower quality. Also, American farmers have been breeding fat out of pigs for decades. In the old days, it was more difficult to overcook pork because it had more fat. Some cuts today are so lean that it takes a miracle to prevent overcooking.

                                                  1. re: raytamsgv

                                                    All the fat piggies these days have been set aside for hot dogs ...

                                                3. re: K K

                                                  Does the fact that someone speaking in Cantonese and critiqueing a Shanghainese dish have any bearing?

                                                  1. re: K K

                                                    True xlb are quite small, so they will have no big gush. But I think they are more delightful with a nice amount to slurp out. Just a little wetness is less thrilling. Overall, I have to say I still prefer Tang Bao, gelatin and all.

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Since you've made countless XLB, please share your recipe.

                                                  3. re: alanbarnes

                                                    Interesting debate going on in here, and I wish I knew enough to contribute something.

                                                    I had a hunch that the natural juices do not come from only gelatin (through the breaking down of collagen) and fats, and that other structures in the meat do contribute to some juices. Here is what I have found. Cannot comment on the credibility because the person did not provide references, but at least it is a starting point. Perhaps someone with more background can weigh in:

                                                    "Lean meat is a composite material of muscle and connective networks made of two very unlike types of protein: muscle proteins (such as actin and myosin) and collagen... Myosin is a motor protein operating in water: the muscle cells contain 75% water. By contrast, the collagen binds very little water. At about 50 C, heat drives the water out and water-loving myosin partially uncoils and coagulates."

                                                    Although a bit vague, it seems to imply that the myosin partially uncoiling at around 50C coincides with the water being driven out (from the muscle cells, I suppose).


                                                    1. re: tarteaucitron

                                                      That is true, any meat will squeeze out juices when heated to a point where it is cooked. The prime example is when you cook a steak and let it rest... juices will run out. The same holds for XLB. That, combined with the fat in the meat and so forth creates the juice. However, I do have a chinese XLB recipe book that advices mixing in a bit of aspic made from chicken feet and pork fat to mix into the pork mixture (not placed on top or whatever, mixed into the meat). Whether one agrees with that is a matter of opinion

                                    2. "On top of that, she says that if you can taste the difference between (without knowing what goes inside the kitchen) what is inserted as soup into the XLB versus the soup that comes naturally from the meat filling, then you're qualified to talk about food (in the loose sense). Cocky yes....agree or disagree?"

                                      My comment is Oh please.

                                      This is like the same sorta argument of : "I can taste the difference between a 5, 10, 20 million year old Scotch" In a blindfold taste test,,,or the pepsi coke one or the etc etc so forth.
                                      And then there is this: http://www.chow.com/stories/12024?tag...

                                      a mixture of two ?

                                      1. What about crab xlb?

                                        Would adding some frozen stock work? Then it melts when steamed. Solves the problem if Ah So does not like the gelatin.

                                        Joe's is Tang Bao. Does her xlb 'rule' that apply also to that? How could it?

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Steve

                                          I actually made a CHOW account just because of this discussion....

                                          Anywho, if you add frozen stock it'll eventually melt (while in the frigerator waiting to be heated up for an order) and it can cause the skin to possibly break? if its too soggy.

                                          I'll tell you guys this now: I've never had a fresh XLB....dont know if any place in Miami even MAKES XLB but I'm very intrigued in this topic because 01) i find the concept of mixing, in any form, a gelatinous mixture and having it dissolve during the cooking process to create a "wow" factor is amazing (though not new), 02) because I just recently made a XLB for my friend's birthday (using the recipe provided from Steamy Kitchen) and 03) Nothing got my interest more than the OP of this thread.

                                          I agree with all the previous commenters about gelatin being produced from collagen when having a very rich stock- but someone mentioned about it being possible to have something semi-solid or even solid at room temperature without the addition of commercialized gelatin- IF that is fat, it will not guarantee to be "soup"-like when properly heated and may even have a "foam." What bothers me that is the ridiculous amount of FAT that the recipe calls for! Stocks are not supposed to have fat, speaking in a classical French cuisine sense and even in the Chinese sense, as it'll leave a somewhat greasy mouthfeel around the palate which can somewhat fog your tastebuds of what the flavors truly taste like.

                                          But yes, many years ago the fat ratio for pigs in both China and the US was much much much much higher than it is today. Due to demands and pressure of not being able to sell pork as well as beef and chicken they eventually made it leaner, hence "the other white meat." And when something has less fat it will also have less collagen to give the stock (or soup) a thicker consistency....and also the amount of bones/protein you put in with the amount of water also varies on how gelatinous your final product may be- especially if you let it reduce enough or even further to try and maximize the flavour and consistency.

                                          And to ipsedixit: "Having made more dumplings, XLB and baos than I care to count or recollect (both at home and at my family's restaurant), I can tell you for a fact that you *can* achieve a "soup" effect without the addition of gelatin.

                                          And I am saying that XLB is XLB without the addition of gelatin (or aspic)."

                                          What was the fat to meat ratio for your ground pork? Did you grind it up yourself or did you buy it (because if you buy it supermarkets tend to not inform you the ratio)? If you grounded it yourself and you knowingly had a lot of fat and a good amount of wet marinade for the filling then yes, juice can emit, however you'd need a good amount compared to having it done today's way, by adding a congealed stock to the filling before pleating. So why it is not impossible, its is very unlikely that you can produce the same results that everyone is thinking of.

                                          1. re: Bb_Jeh

                                            Welcome to Chowhound!

                                            "if you add frozen stock it'll eventually melt (while in the frigerator waiting to be heated up for an order) and it can cause the skin to possibly break? if its too soggy."

                                            XLb should be made to order - you order a steamer basket, they take a square of dumpling dough, plop in the ingredients - pork, crab, a small piece of frozen stock, twist the wrapper around the ingredients and steam. No sitting in the fridge necesssary. In some places you can watch them do it.

                                            "Stocks are not supposed to have fat, speaking in a classical French cuisine sense and even in the Chinese sense, as it'll leave a somewhat greasy mouthfeel around the palate which can somewhat fog your tastebuds of what the flavors truly taste like."

                                            There are many Chinese soups made with loads of oil - it is sometimes a featured ingredient - there is even a Sichuan dish called shuizhuyu (pronounced shway-joo) that is fish boiled (and served) in oil. So no reference to any kind of French classical cuisine.

                                            "So why it is not impossible, its is very unlikely that you can produce the same results that everyone is thinking of."

                                            I think the point of the thread is that true xlb should not have as much liquid as 'everyone is thinking of.' It is a small dumpling with just a bit of liquid. Tang Bao, like they serve at Joe's Shanghai in NYC, are large dumplings gushing with soup.

                                            So far, I don't see what all the fuss is about, but if I ever get to the point where I have the good fortune to eat a lot of xlb at many different places, then I may have the opportunity to compare. I am pretty much limited in my opportunities close at hand.

                                            Lots of great food in Miami, but the Asian opportunites are limited I think.

                                            1. re: Bb_Jeh


                                              Welcome to Chowhound.

                                              As to your question, it was regular ground pork usually with at least 25% fat requested from the butcher.

                                              The point my posts were trying to make is (1) that tradtionally XLB should not be have *that* much so-called soup and (2) you *can* achieve a soup-like effect without the addition of aspic/gelatin.

                                              Like I said upthread, when you steam ground pork in a bowl, when you are done, lift it up. What you have at the bottom of the bowl will be a pool of liquid. You'll get the same effect when you make XLB without the addition of aspic/gelatin.

                                              Now, again, I'm not saying one should not add gelatin, just that the current notion of "soup" dumplings totally romanticizes the notion of "soup" -- there just shouldn't be that much soup to begin with.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Yup what you said.

                                                Those who have access to a good butcher who can customize meat grinding, can request the upper back leg meat and/or ask the butcher to include your specified amount of fat to mix in. Now a good butcher should just weigh the amount of lean meat you're getting and charge you for just that, rather than weighing the total including the fat. Depending on the cut of pork you can even have the butcher grind it twice.

                                                I think we can all agree on the fact that a soupless XLB is horrible, whether it is a result of oversteaming, punctured skins, and other factors. Some prefer a lot of gushing hot liquid and there are a few that prefer the natural juice from the pork filling even if the amount is not like that of a gushing geyser (without adding some superior broth that was refrigerated and gelatinized, or some sort of jelly made under more mysterious or shortcutted circumstances).

                                                Just out of curiosity, I did a little research to see if there's any info on the net to see how Din Tai Fung make their XLB. It is very interesting and is worth mentioning.

                                                The ingredients that go into their filling, according to an article that mentioned the DTF location in Kuala Lumpur, are:

                                                pork (of course, but no mention of cuts or ratios)
                                                soy sauce
                                                oil (what kind I don't know, could be sesame oil)
                                                and something called 皮凍 (pee-dong, or cold skin)

                                                I looked up what 皮凍 is all about. This blog describes the cooking process, not DTF's (where the pictures may help give an idea). I guess you can say it is gelatinzed skin.


                                                1) Remove hairs from the pig skin, wash and clean
                                                2) Remove excess fat layer from the skin
                                                3)Boil skins for 3 minutes with ginger, cooking wine, scallion, then remove skins and rinse
                                                4) Soak the cooked skins in cold water overnight (with ginger, scallion, cooking wine in the mix
                                                )5)Cook mixture for 30 to 40 minutes. Add water, cooking wine, ginger, huajiao (peppercorn), and ba jiao (not sure how to translate this spice). Remove any floating bits of fat.Remove skins, rinse in cold water, and shave off any additional pig skin hair
                                                6)Cook skins again in low heat (upwards of 3 to 4 hours). Slowly add water when needed, and carefully observing the density.
                                                7) Pour mixture into a bowl, let it cool, then refrigerate. Turns into jelly about 2 hours.

                                                Now this is a very laborious process in itself, and selecting the right kind of skin, as well as removing fat from the skin is also key.

                                                Going back to the DTF XLB process, in addition to lean ground pork and this jelly skin, they also add some, according to the translation, "oil" (could be fat) from the upper back leg of the pig, and "oil" from the spine (upper back?). So basically these different parts of fat and mixed in with the lean ground pork prior to grinding. Then the pork skin jelly added, along with spices/seasonings, prior to wrapping.

                                                So with that in mind, I guess I'm curious if that's how the other famous places across the world do it, and whether Ah So's so called bragworthy XLB contains the pig skin jelly or not.

                                                1. re: K K

                                                  Ba jiao is star anise. Hua jiao is Sichuan peppercorn. Any place I've seen making xlb they use pi dong (or a gelatinized stock of some sort).

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  So are you willing to share your recipe?

                                                  1. re: c oliver


                                                    There's really no real magic or secret to it. You will need to make scallion/ginger water, the pork filling and the XLB wrappers. Details below.


                                                    For scallion/ginger water
                                                    -scallion stalks
                                                    -fresh ginger root

                                                    To make scallion ginger water, rough chop the scallions and slice ginger root into quarter sized discs. Throw the scallions and ginger and water into a food processor and puree then strain -- reserve the water. Alternatively, place the scallions, ginger and water in a pot and bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard scallions and ginger and reserve liquid and allow to cool to room temp.

                                                    For pork filling
                                                    -ground pork with minimum of 25% fat (more if you can get it)
                                                    -white pepper
                                                    -soy sauce
                                                    -rice wine
                                                    -sesame oil
                                                    -scallion/ginger water

                                                    To make pork filling. Combine all the ingredients except the scallion/ginger water. Then slowly add the scallion/ginger water and slowly incorporate it with the meat -- allowing the meat to absorb the water as you mix. Stop when the meat starts to resemble a paste-like texture.

                                                    For the XLB skins, use a basic dumpling wrapper type recipe (e.g. water and flour, no eggs).

                                                    I believe that about covers it all I think. Hope that helps.

                                                3. re: Bb_Jeh

                                                  Welcome to chowhound!

                                                  I never made XLB, but I've had some experience with ground pork. We never used the ground pork from a Chinese supermarket for my family's restaurant. We always asked the butcher to grind pork butt because it had the right amount of fat/meat ratio for us.

                                                  At home, I use ground pork leg, which has almost no fat. I like ground pork butt better, but my spouse and kids think it's too fatty. The good thing about Chinese supermarkets in my area is that they will grind whatever you ask.

                                              2. For what it's worth, the way my grandmother used to explain it to me, XLB is made with chips of frozen soup wrapped in with the filling. I've never tried it, and my grandmother's days of making XLB by hand are long-over (arthritis), but according to her, the pork filling itself is not sufficient to get the "soup" effect.

                                                1. I have got to ask the dumb question. If the meat filling produces the soup/sauce why aren't all pork dumplings XLB...? Isn't the diference between XLB and other dumplings the extra "soup" rather than a normal dumpling that simply has a rich, moist texture to the filling?

                                                  Stock will thicken naturally if it has lots of collagen from the skin and bones, this is due to the gelatin which is a protein which forms as the bones/skin is boiled (and you need bones for stock). Gelatin is not a fat, and too much fat in a stock is a problem and will really effect the mouth feel of the finished product.

                                                  14 Replies
                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                    "Too much fat in a stock is a problem"

                                                    Not if fat is one of the featured ingredients. There are many Asian buns / dumplings, soups, and other dishes in which fat is prized and considered a sign that it is well-made.

                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                      fat as in soft solid (i.e. pork belly), or as a liquid floating top of the soup?

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Liquid. Like melted animal fat in Tang Bao at Joes' Shanghai or Niu Ro Xian Bing at A & J.

                                                        Or as an oil slick on ramen (3 photos of this):

                                                        Or there are many Chinese dishes that are cooked and served in oil, like this version of shuizhuyu (fish boiled in oil):

                                                      2. re: Steve

                                                        Steve the key word was "too", I agree that fat is key to many dishes, but simply adding more fat to a stock or using fattier meat is likely to result in too much of it. Fatty meat is fine, but a lot of the resulting fat should be skimmed off (which it looks to have been in the ramen as i is a wonderful bright gloss rather than a slick). It seemed from this thread a lot of posters believed natural gelatin came from fat, but it mainly comes from bones, cartlidge and skin.

                                                        I would also argue there is a big difference between animal fats and oils especially the chilli oil and sesame oil added after cooking as a garnish.

                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                          One of the cardinal virtues in Chinese food is "you ye bu ni", rich but not greasy. The best xiaolong bao epitomize this desired quality. Shui zhu yu (ironic dish name since it's not boiled in water (shui) but rather oil) at its very best can have the quality but is usually a bit too oily at least as far as I'm concerned.

                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            Correct, "you ye bu ni", is also a measurement of the really good heavy fatty dishes that have a laborious cooking process, like Hangzhou style pork belly (tung por mahn rou) or a Hangzhou prep of basically cooking a dried cured Chinese jing hua ham (mi jih kuo fang if I recall correctly).

                                                            This is why the Din Tai Fung folks in Asia, when they make liquid skin, they remove excess fat, so you're just left with pure bliss and no greasy fatty sickening feeling.

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              xlb are not fatty. But tang bao and other dumplings can be very fatty.

                                                              Whaddaya mean 'a bit too oily'? it 's not oil-y, it IS oil. Lots of it. And the turbot at Hengshan Cafe (which you rightfully recommended to me) was served with oil and fresh chili peppers. In some Chinese dishes, oil is not just to cook in and drain off but is used as a sauce.

                                                              I just don't want anyone to get the impression that oil is always something to skim. In some dishes it is a featured ingredient in a way that is not true of Western cooking.

                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                "I just don't want anyone to get the impression that oil is always something to skim. In some dishes it is a featured ingredient in a way that is not true of Western cooking."

                                                                Yup, like Sichuan hot pot.

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  Absolutely agree, oil is used gloriously in Chinese food (the world's most varied and delightful) and I in no way shun it. I am just not terrifically fond of shui zhu dishes. It's just me. I'm allowed, am I not?
                                                                  Damn that Hengshan Café duojiao yu is great, isn't it? Yeah Shanghai in NY Chinatown has it on their specials menu but the fresh turbot is matchless.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    Oh yeah, totally, I know plenty of people who are not crazy about shuizhu.

                                                                    Access to great fresh seafood - like the turbot- is key to many wonderful cuisines around the world. An otherwise pretty good restaurant in the US can't compete with what is available in Spain (for example), Portugal, Chile, Peru, or many parts of Asia - just to name a few.

                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                      I didn't willingly eat fish (except as ...and chips) until we went to live in Taiwan - and now I can't get enough of it.

                                                          2. re: PhilD

                                                            Fillings, shape and manner of cooking are different for XLB (小籠包) and jiao-tze (餃子)

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I am intrigued. What is the specific difference in the manner of cooking? (I know the shape is different). I have enjoyed lots of dumplings of all shapes and types across China and it is only the XLB that has the soup.

                                                              If as Ah So says it isn't because solid stock is added then why isn't liquid more common? Is it potato flour in the mix to absorb juice? Or is this simply a case of regional food snobbery with a Cantonese critic having a pop at a Shanghai speciality

                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                "I have enjoyed lots of dumplings of all shapes and types across China and it is only the XLB that has the soup"

                                                                BanTangJiao (半汤饺 half soup-half dumpling) has, duh, a lot of soup.
                                                                The Jiaozi that I serve my guests has so much soup that I have actually asked them to wear their dirty cloths to my dinner. Some hostess, huh?

                                                          3. In Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings she has an XLB recipe. A couple of quotes from her narrative:

                                                            "These delicate dumplings...were invented in the late 1800s in Nanxiang village outside Sanghai." So relatively speaking, they're a fairly new/modern dish.

                                                            "Gelatinous pork skin is traditionally simmered for the broth, but many modern cooks employ agar-agar (my note: it's a natural seaweed-based gelatin) or unflavored gelatin to insure proper gelling."

                                                            1. Forgot I had this in my favorites


                                                              It's a food news program from Taiwan, some XLB place was interviewed and the chef spills his own secrets of how he makes them. Of interest, around the 2 minute mark, is the ingredients for the filling and the soup, which is a concentrated paste from 10 to 12 hours worth of cooking that included old hen, jin hua ham (Chinese cured ham), and pork bones. The broth in paste form is incorporate into the meat mix. The focus really was the translucent thin skins that according to the TV host (and chef) remains strong and can withstand re-steaming.

                                                              Just adding this to those who are interested or want to know how others do it.

                                                              14 Replies
                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                Another question. Do authentic XLB have thin translucent skins? I know this is a key element of quality in Cantonese dim sum however I understood that Shanghai skins were traditionally thicker (more hearty in order to ward of the cold in winter) so should true XLB have thick skins...? Or has someone fed me some BS.

                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                  Not thick skins. The skin tears very easily. Tang bao (soup dumplings) are larger and a bit thicker than xlb, but the skin still tears easily. There are other Shanghai dumplings, like shengjian bao at Yang's Fry Dumplings that have thicker skins. They are cooked in a pan and the flat bottom gets extra crispy. These are a religious experience.

                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                    Shengjianbao - 生煎包 - are not dumplings though. They are pork filled buns and have no skin. The dough has yeast (生 Sheng) whereas Chinese dumplings (boiled, steamed or fried) are not yeast doughs.

                                                                    1. re: scoopG

                                                                      I stand corrected. Thanks for the info.

                                                                      The ones at Yang's have quite a bit of liquid in them, so you do have to be careful.

                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                          Here is a You Tube video. Do NOT do what this guy does. It's funny, but believe me he REALLY burns himself. The soup in this is plentiful and extremely hot.


                                                                          1. re: scoopG

                                                                            Ever tried the shengjian bao at old Yeah Shanghai new Old Sichuan in Manhattan Chinatown? Damn good.

                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                              They were good! I have to go to Deluxe Market now to get them.

                                                                        2. re: scoopG

                                                                          生(sheng1) has a meaning that relates to yeast? I never heard of that word used for yeast. I can only find reference to 野生酵母 (ye3 sheng1 jiao4 mu3) meaning wild yeast. But here, the 生 is related to 野生 which means wild and not to yeast 酵母. I could be wrong, and if you have a reference explaining the origins, I would love to read it!

                                                                          1. re: zruilong

                                                                            生 (sheng1) by itself does not mean yeast per se. But in the word 生煎包 (sheng1 jian1 bao1) it denotes that the 包 (bao1) is made from a yeast dough. One meaning of 生 (sheng1) is to grow or rise, much like yeast doughs do. 饅頭 (man2 tou) is not a yeast dough bun but in Shanghai they have 生饅頭 (sheng1 man2 tou)!

                                                                        3. re: Steve

                                                                          The epitome of tang bao elegance in my experience was at the aptly-named Sui Yuan in Taipei - the skins were very thin and delicate and the filling very juicy. No small feat in dumplings no bigger around than a 50-cent piece! The pleated side was underneath in the steamer, very enticing morsels.

                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                        Several things stood out:
                                                                        - the amount of broth that they drained into the spoon was not as much as I expected. Also it was quite clear.
                                                                        - the paste was quite dark, and did not have the texture of a gelatin rich stock. Also they did not use that much. I think it was more for flavoring than broth.
                                                                        - they stirred quite a bit of water (or thin broth)into the stuffing.

                                                                        I think the soup in the dumpling came from that water, plus a modest amount of meat juice. It did not look fatty, nor did it look like a gelatin rich stock.

                                                                        I did not understand any of the speaking.

                                                                        1. re: K K

                                                                          Thank you for this link! I can see many happy hours in front of me looking at all the videos from this show. Makes me SO homesick for Taipei. Wish we could retire there, unfortunately the weather is not good for asthmatics like my husband.

                                                                          1. re: K K

                                                                            paulj: The soup that came out was lighter in color than you might expect, but I think that's because very little soy sauce was used in the filling and also because pork in Taiwan cooks up whiter than US pork. The soup additive was gelatinous, just not gelled. They chill the filling for several hours before stuffing the bao (so it incorporates the liquids rather than having to insert a cube of it, would be easier/faster to mass-produce the bao). I love how every aspect up to the number of pleats used to close a bao is carefully considered and discussed...I want to go back so bad.

                                                                          2. Went to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia tonight. Long time server Sandy who has been there since they opened confirmed my suspicion that they insert a frozen pellet of soup. She laughed and said it would be too greasy tasting if it were fat from the ground pork.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: monku

                                                                              Hmmm that's inconsistent with the described method of DTF Malaysia of using the pi dong/boiled down liquid skins sans fat from the article I dug up. Either that or the SoCal owner came to terms with a more cost effective receipe that still was deemed acceptable to the brand.

                                                                              1. re: K K

                                                                                Isn't it possible they freeze that liquid and insert it?

                                                                                1. re: monku

                                                                                  Possible...since it's so time consuming to make the liquid skins in the first place. The question is, what's in that frozen soup exactly. Either way, a good data point to know.

                                                                            2. For pork filling mixture in xiao long bao, many chefs today add gelatin to a soup base and will cool then cut into cubes to insert into the dumpling filling. Traditional chefs will trim pork and use the bones to create a stock. The stock is fortified with chinese ham and ginger and scallion. Pig's skin is boiled and added to the stock. When drained and cooled, the stock will become very gelatinous, yet still have intense pork flavor. The gelatinous stock is then ground or minced and mixed together with the ground pork and seasoning. When steamed, the filling will have soup, yet the pork mixture will still be loose and tender. Many Chefs, for time and money purposes, have just added gelatin to a weak soup base or stock and placed a cube of jello into the filling. The result is soup in the dumpling and a firm pork meatball of filling. Hope this helps.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: hottiechef

                                                                                That gelatin also comes from parts like pork skin - but by way of the Knox factory rather than the cook's kitchen. But after purifying it doesn't have any pork flavor.

                                                                                I vaguely recall a cooking show, probably Cooks Illustrated (Americas Test Kitchen) that recommended adding some powdered gelatin to ground meat to make a moister meatloaf.

                                                                                I might add that gelatinous pork parts, such as skin, feet, snouts and ears are readily available in large Chinese groceries (such as 99Ranch). Their deli even sells feet braised in soy sauce (duck feet and wings as well).

                                                                                1. re: hottiechef

                                                                                  Thanks, I think you just summarized some of the key points made in this ever growing thread and perhaps even properly explained what the TV host was really saying.

                                                                                2. Debates about how food *should* be and how they are *supposed* to be are pointless. This is like the Mozza pizza debate about how their pizza isn't really pizza.... Someone should ask Ah So "Does it taste good?"

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: AndyGanil

                                                                                    I am not sure it is fair to characterize this thread as a 'debate.' So far, I think everyone is trying to investigate the subject in a free-wheeling discussion. I've definitely learned more about the subject than before, and I think it's interesting.

                                                                                    Personally, I am not so interested in 'yay or nay' posts as I am in finding out why a version of xlb may be better than another.

                                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                                      I agree, Steve. I made XLB a couple of months ago. I thought they turned out pretty well but they weren't as "soupy" as I had thought they should be. From this thread, I see that they were probably just fine. Now I just have to work on the thinness of the wrapper :)

                                                                                    2. re: AndyGanil

                                                                                      "Debates about how food *should* be and how they are *supposed* to be are pointless."

                                                                                      Then a good majority of Chowhound would be "pointless" ... which it very well might be. But it is what it is.

                                                                                      1. re: AndyGanil

                                                                                        This thread is a discussion is about whether the use of different ingredients affects the resulting taste. If you think it is pointless, what are you doing on chowhound?

                                                                                        1. re: AndyGanil

                                                                                          There is merit to the discussion of what food should taste like or how it should be made. Quite often, many people will like a certain dish that has a generally prevalent method of preparation. When people search for such a dish, the canonical version serves as a useful point of reference. This is within the context of whether or not it is tasty.

                                                                                          1. re: AndyGanil

                                                                                            Well we are just discussing the comments and two given choices/versions of a food item by a TV food program host and critic. It's a healthy discussion. If you find a version that floats your boat, that's great. But it helps to understand how different preps, while arriving at the same general effect, lead to vastly different results. Whether one prep is superior to another is strictly subjective, but no one would argue that a well thought out/labor intensive prep generally surpasses a shortcut/mass produced version, all things being equal.