So about two years ago I had a life-changing experience and it took place in Chinatown in New York City at a restaurant called Shanghai Asian Manor. That was where I first experienced the goodness that is Chinese soup dumplings or xiao long bao, which are little dumplings actually FILLED with soup, so when you bite into them you drink all of the pork broth inside and then eat the dumplings. They're amazing and still haunt me to this day.
I've been obsessed with them ever since, and I actually found a recipe to make them, but I also found out why they're such a hot commodity: they're pretty difficult and require a lot of effort. The recipe requires you to actually make your own pork broth/chicken broth. You have to wait for it to congeal and mix it in with the filling, so that when you steam them, the congealed broth melts into soup. Welp.
That is, until my friend Brittany casually mentioned that she'd made her own soup stock before. So we decided to step up to the challenge and make soup dumplings + one of my favorite desserts, cream puffs, which are super-easy to make yet very impressive-looking.
Yields: Way more soup dumplings than you think you can eat
Prep: 3-4 hours
Cook: 30 minutes
½ pound pork skin, cut in half
1 pound pork bones
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly slices
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
A pinch coarse sea salt
Place pork skin in a small stockpot or large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then drain and rinse with cold water.
Slice skin lengthwise into 1"-wide strips, trimming any fat, then slice strips crosswise into about 1/4"-wide pieces.
Return skin to same stockpot and add bones, foot, scallions, ginger, wine, and 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, skim surface of any foam, and reduce heat. Simmer, skimming often, until liquid is almost opaque and reduced to two cups, around one hour.
Strain liquid into a 13x9" baking dish, discarding solids. Season with salt, cover, and chill until set, at least two hours and up to three days (we let ours set for two days, but there wasn't enough fat, so it didn't completely solidify).
1 ¼ pounds ground pork shoulder
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 ¾ tsp coarse sea salt
1 ¼ tsp Chinese rice wine
1 ¼ tsp sugar
1 ¼ tsp sesame oil
¾ tsp ginger, chopped
¾ tsp black pepper
1 pack dumpling wrappers
Mix ground pork, garlic, soy sauce, salt, wine, sugar, oil, ginger, and pepper with chopsticks in a medium bowl, stirring until it all comes together, about 20 seconds.
Cut a fine, crosshatch pattern in jelled soup to create very small pieces (again, ours didn't congeal properly, so we kind of just mixed it in). Scrape into bowl with filling and mix to combine. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Line the steamer with wet paper towels. Spoon a small amount of filling/jelled soup into each dumpling wrapper and crease until dumpling is sealed into a little pouch. Repeat until you run out of filling or dumpling wrappers.
Place steamer over pot of boiling water and cover. Steam dumplings 8 minutes, and serve directly from steamer.
Brittany and I were incredibly impressed with ourselves that we managed to actually make soup dumplings from scratch. They weren't as soupy as we would've liked, because the soup didn't jell completely, but they were still delicious. Would absolutely make again, if ever I have the time and discipline to make my own soup stock.
And then, not nearly as difficult or as time consuming, the cream puffs.
Yields: Three dozen cream puffs (depending on size)
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
1 package JELL-O instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk (you can switch the milk/cream proportions, which I did because I didn't have enough cream)
Mix together vanilla instant pudding mix, cream, and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 425 °F.
In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil (not sure what this means). Stir in flour and salt until the mixture is stretchy.
Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the outsides are golden brown and the centers are dry. Wait for them to cool, poke holes in the sides with chopsticks, and use a Ziploc bag to pipe the filling into the shells.
And voilà! My mom makes these a lot, and they're a crowd-pleasing favorite, but I never realized exactly how easy they were. Tempted to make them all the time now.
P.S. I only have one month left here so if you wanna cook/bake with me NOW IS THE TIME.
writer/creator. problem-solver. curious cat.