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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).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiao_lon...

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?

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  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.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6456...

        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

            http://www.youtube.com/user/nissinmar...

            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:

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLY0WH...

              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.

            Cheers.

            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.

                                [shrug]

                                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).

                                                    http://shkrobius.blogspot.com/2009/12...

                                                    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 ?