Discover how to cook Xiao Long Bao 小笼包 and why it’s so delicious. Come for a quick trip into Chinese people’s heart.
Table of Contents
1. Why is it so tasty?
Xiao long bao 小笼包 is a real delicacy in China. When you lift up the lid of the steamer, through the hot steam, you will see these pretty mini buns sitting there, begging for attention. And you can almost see the juice inside through the thin and translucent skin. As you gently lift the wobbly bun, you must make sure you don’t break the skin and lose the juice. The moment when it bursts in your mouth, you will feel the soft and chewy skin mixing with the hot and juicy filling. And if you dip them in a bit of vinegar and ginger sauce, you get the real, traditional and sensory way that makes Xiao long bao 小笼包 so delicious. By the way guys, did you know the best place to eat Xiao long bao 小笼包 in China is Yu Garden in Shanghai?
Making Xiao long bao 小笼包 is not easy. The key is to fill in as much juice as possible, but at the same time, to keep the skin wrap as thin and soft as possible. This is a real challenge, since the skin wrap can break while cooking.
2. Cooking tools and Ingredients
The plain white flour or all-purpose flour in US is fine. However, the strong white bread flour is too tough for this bun. We will use 500g of white flour.
The skin will be too chewy if you mix the flour with cold water. However, on the other hand, the skin will be too soft and sticky if it is mixed with hot water only. Some recipes suggested to mix the flour with 70℃ water, but it’s too complicated to manage the exact temperature. I found it is easier to mix half of the flour with boiling water, and the other half with the tap water.
C. Kneading and Setting
After mixing all the flour (hot and cold) together, you need to knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth, then you cover the dough and let it set for 15 minutes.
After that time, knead the dough for another 5 minutes, cover it again and set it for 40 more minutes, ideally for an hour. You will feel the dough is even more smooth and elastic after the second kneading and setting.
Ideally, the size of the bun should accommodate just one bite. Otherwise you will lose the juice if it takes two bites to finish one bun. Therefore, each wrapper should weigh around 10 to 12g.
Roll the dough into a circular shape making the centre thicker and the edges thinner. That will help the skin hold the content while at the same time not having a big lump of dough at the top.
I always make more dough, as it is much easier to handle the leftover dough than handle the leftover filling. If there is any dough left, I normally wrap it and keep it in the refrigerator. I use it to make the Chinese style spring onion pan cake within the next day or two.
3. Juicy and tasty filling
Any minced meat can be filled into the Xiao long bao, but the most common filling in China is the minced pork. Whether you buy the shredded meat from store or chop it yourself, the portion of fat should be at least 20%. Otherwise, the texture will be too dry.
B. Boil some of the seasonings
Boil ginger, star anise seed, Sichuan pepper corn and fennel seeds in a cup of water first, then filter away all the seasonings. You will only add the seasoned water in the ground meat.
Remember to mix the filling in one direction only.
No matter what kind of filling you make (pork, chicken or beef), the jelly is the key ingredient to make successful Xiao long bao 小笼包. Indeed, the signature juice of this steamed bun is coming from this jelly.
Stay tune for the wok jelly recipe.
4. Detailed recipe
▪️500g plan white flour or all-purpose flour
▪️100ml boiling water
▪️150ml cold water
✅ Mix half of the flour with the boiling water. Then add the salt in the other half and mix it with the cold water.
✅ Combine the cold and hot part together and knead the dough for 15 minutes. Cover and set the dough for 15 minutes.
✅ After 15 minutes, knead it for another 5 minutes, and cover and set it aside for 30 to 60 more minutes.
▪️500g ground meat (20% fat)
▪️400g clear pork or chicken jelly (cold and solid)
▪️3 spring onions
▪️5 slices of ginger
▪️1 star aniseed
▪️10g Sichuan Pepper corn
▪️10g whole fennel seeds
▪️2 table spoons of light colour soy sauce
▪️Quarter tea spoon of white pepper powder
▪️1 table spoon of rice wine/sake or white wine
▪️1 tea spoon salt
✅ Put ginger, star aniseed, Sichuan pepper corn and fennel seeds in 200ml cold water, and boil for about 10 minutes at low heat until the water reduce to 100ml. Filter away all the seasonings.
✅ Add the soy sauce, white pepper powder, salt and wine in the meat first, and then add the seasoned water in three batches while you are mixing the meat in one direction. Mix until all the seasoned water is absorbed and your hand feel the strong resistance from the meat while you are mixing.
✅ Mince the jelly, try to not touch the jelly with your hands. Mix in one direction
✅ Cover the filling and put in the refrigerator. Only take out right before you are ready to wrap the bun.
✅ Cut one third of the dough at a time and roll it into a rope with 3cm diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered in the pot, otherwise, it will dry out.
✅ Cut the rope into 2cm long pieces, and press the pieces into disk shape.
✅ One hand holding and moving the disk in one direction and another hand roll the pin on the disk back and force. Press the pin a bit harder on the edge so the edge will be thinner and the center will be a bit thicker.
✅ Ideally, each wrapper shall be around 8 to 9cm diameter.
✅ Put a lump of filling in the centre of the flat dough and hold it with one hand (left if you are right handed), leave 2.5cm space from the filling to the edge.
✅ Fold the edge of the wrap with your right hand’s thumb and index finger little by little until the end. Normally, you fold around 18 to 20 times and then close the wrap.
✅ Put the non-stick parchment paper for steam on the bottom of the steamer. This is a must. You can find this paper in oriental stores. If you don’t use the parchment paper, your Xiao long bao 小笼包 will stick at the bottom. Afterwards, it will break and you won’t able to enjoy the juicy bun at all. This is the last thing you want to happen to your Xiao Long Bao.
✅ Please leave at least 3cm distance between each bun. The buns will become bigger once they cooked, so you need to leave enough space in between to prevent them from sticking together.
✅ Only place the steam colander on top of the pot when the water is boiling. Steam for 10 minutes if there are more than 10 buns in the steamer. Otherwise, only steam for 8 minutes. Keep the heat at the high level throughout the cooking time.
✅ After you turn off the fire, open the lid and let the buns cool down a bit before you eat them, because the juice is boiling hot and you could burn your tongue. Still, Xiao long bao 小笼包 should not be consumed when it is completely cooled down, as the juice will coagulate.
G. Sauce for dipping the Xiao long bao 小笼包
Two table spoons of dark Chinese vinegar (prefer Chinkiang vinegar). Add a few pieces of thinly shredded ginger in the vinegar.
My Tip: I take out the Xiaolongbao gently from the steamer when it is still very hot and put it into the vinegar sauce to seat for a minute before eating it. The sauce will cool down the bun and at the same time provide the flavour.