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Chinese Soup Dumplings

by Jim DeLillo 2 months ago in product review / feature / cuisine
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Xiao Long Bao

Chinese Soup Dumpling being placed gently into a spoon to catch the juices © Jim DeLillo

Xiao Long Bao defined

Chinese Soup Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao are not just a food item but an experience. Often only found in Chinatown neighborhoods or traditional Chinese restaurants, you enjoy these treats through a ritual of precise eating instructions.

A soup dumpling is similar to other dim sum. In other words, a wonton wrapper is filled with a little seasoned meatball. The ingredients may include pork, crabmeat, shrimp, or a combination. The unique element of these nibbles is the soup enclosed by the dough. Nicknamed juicy buns or soupy buns, the meat filling is nestled in a delicious broth.

An eating ritual

Firstly, to eat these, you must carefully lift the dumpling out of the steamer tray with chopsticks, being careful not to puncture the dough, lest all the juicy goodness be lost. Then, you transfer the bun into a ceramic spoon and intentionally pierce the skin. Allow the spoon to capture the steaming liquid. Above all, to do so with your mouth would result in scalding your palate. As the soup cools, you sip the broth from the spoon. Lastly, adding a bit of shredded ginger, you dip the remains into a traditional dipping sauce and enjoy in one big bite (or a series of nips).

Imagine my pleasure when I found a source to order these delicacies online.

Origins

Jen & Caleb Xiao are 2nd generation Chinese Americans. You’ll find their stories on their website, outlining their cultural heritage, family, and a love affair with each other and their food.

Their desire is to keep Chinese culture, history, and identity alive.

They founded Chi Jie – 小吃街 – a service that delivers traditional Chinese Soup Dumplings directly to your doorstep. They make the product fresh daily and ship it within one to three business days after your order is placed. This shipping setup ensures your dumplings remain safe and frozen while traveling with blocks of dry ice.

Once shipped, your dumplings arrive fresh at your home within two days.

A real treat

If you have never had Chinese Soup Dumplings, you are in for a treat. If you have, you know what you are missing. The selection includes just the buns or a complete kit if just starting out. The kit comes with a bamboo steamer, two bags of 50 dumplings each, and three dipping sauces.

Unboxing

Chinese Soup Dumpling Kit as delivered by XCJ © Jim DeLillo

I tried the kit. The unboxing was unceremonious, if not big. Moreover, the insulated shipper that arrived on my doorstep was a large white cube about twenty-four inches on each side. Opening the container revealed a Styrofoam insert. Inside were the products and the steamer surrounded by paper, plastic, and the required dry ice. I felt terrible for the environment, but there aren’t many alternative methods for cold-chain shipping.

The dumplings are in colorful red and white resealable plastic bags. In addition, three jars contain sauces, and the bamboo steamer is secured with plastic wrap.

Cooking

Steamer basket on stove top with rising steam © Jim DeLillo

The instructions for cooking are easy enough. Line the bamboo steamer with parchment paper or a cabbage leaf and arrange the dumplings, leaving about an inch between them. However, I needed a big pot for the steamer. My standard pasta pot didn’t fit. So, I grabbed my big stew pot and put a colander upside down, placing the steamer on top. After that, I added a couple of inches of water, brought it to a boil, and covered it. Ten minutes later, my dumplings were ready.

Part of enjoying the Xiao Long Bao–XLB is creating a ritual at the table. The bamboo steamer takes center stage. When ready to eat, guests carefully help themselves to doughy pouches, beginning the culinary procedure I described earlier.

Chinese Soup Dumpling with crisp chili dipping sauce © Jim DeLillo

The three dipping sauces tasted authentic and were a choice of chili crisp, classic vinegar, and umami (ginger and scallion in light oil). My favorite is using both the chili and vinegar sauce at the same time.

These mail-order Xiao Long Bao morsels’ taste, texture, and experience were worthy of the best traditional Chinese restaurants. Most importantly, without burning my mouth, I delighted in sipping the savory soup, using my chopsticks to dip the doughy meatball in the sauce, and shoving it into my mouth. I smiled.

The encounter thrilled my senses. I could have XLB at home.

Chef Brian Yong

Chinese Soup Dumpling in steamer basket © Jim DeLillo

As Chef Brian Yong explains, these are No Ordinary Dumpling. He takes special care to ensure the dough has the proper consistency, creating a smooth texture–one that is elastic, tender, and workable. Therefore, it gives the dough its distinctive mouthfeel. Chef Yong achieves this through proper selection and sourcing of the Mondako flour. This flour is milled from a blend of winter wheat (typically higher in protein content) and spring wheat (typically lower in protein content).

Chef Yong’s alchemical magic is the result of significant testing and experimentation. Meanwhile, water, yeast, oil, and kansuin (lye water), are carefully combined in measured increments until the right outcome is achieved. In fact, he leaves out the kansui for the dumpling dough, which can result in a hardened texture better suited to noodles.

I know where to get my fix of Chinese Soup Dumplings — right on my doorstep.

Where to Buy:

https://thexcj.com/collections/national

CUSTOMER SERVICE: (206) 495-6244

Note: The author received a complimentary sample of the XCJ Xiao Long Bao kit for evaluation. All opinions are his own.

Prints of Jim DeLillo's photographs are available at:

http://jim-delillo.artistwebsites.com/

This story was previously published in https://fwtmagazine.com/xiao-long-bao-chinese-soup-dumplings/

Be sure to read Jim Delillo's other featured stories on Vocal

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About the author

Jim DeLillo

Jim DeLillo writes about tech, science, and travel. He is also an adventure photographer specializing in transporting imagery and descriptive narrative.

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Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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Comments (19)

Sign in to comment
  • JoAnn Ryan22 days ago

    Looks yum!

  • BEER BRAND2 months ago

    hmm Momus varieties... nice one

  • Wow wow, my favorite, see and want to eat

  • Lee Zeng Berg2 months ago

    Dumplings, my favorite!

  • La hole2 months ago

    Chinese cuisine is still very special

  • cly mumford2 months ago

    A very appetizing feeling at first glance

  • Pavlak Montoro2 months ago

    😀😀😀

  • test2 months ago

    Well written

  • Jaden2 months ago

    Wow I'm hungry!

  • El Cabri2 months ago

    It's so delicious.

  • Mcgrotha Brinker2 months ago

    Well written

  • Ma Jia La Shi2 months ago

    Love to eat dumplings

  • Marl Gore2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing, It looks delicious!

  • Swt Sadie J. TV2 months ago

    I Absolutely love these dumplings. I'm a little gun shy on trying to make them myself. They are so very delicate. Tfs. Love ❤️

  • Haas Tash2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing

  • Matras Dohrmann2 months ago

    👍

  • Fei Fei2 months ago

    Looks very appetizing

  • test2 months ago

    It looks delicious.

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