Friday, May 11, 2012

Steamed Shanghai Dumplings (Shao Lung Bao)

If done right, Shao Lung Bao are absolutely delectable - savory ground pork dumplings that should pop with piping hot juice when you bite into them. Ouch, but oh so delish...

I've tried a couple recipes before but could never quite replicate that quintessential juicy component in the filling. I finally adapted Jaden Hair's recipe by making a soup stock from pork bellies, Virginia ham, and chicken wings, letting it congeal into an aspic-like concoction and then adding it to the ground pork filling mixture. The dough for the dumpling wrapper is a basic hot water dough, consisting of very hot water kneaded into all-purpose flour and a bit of veggie oil. 

In the end, it's not a complicated recipe, but the prepping and rolling out of the dumpling wrappers is somewhat tedious and time consuming. But, if you've got an hour or so to spare, it'll be so worth the while.


STOCK/ASPIC (make ahead the day before): 
1 lb. chicken wings
2 lbs. pork belly (about 4 pcs.)
2 oz. Virginia ham, cut into 3-4 pcs.
20 cups water
4 slices ginger
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 large scallions, cut into 3 sections
1 tbsp. rice wine

PORK FILLING (for 90 dumplings):
1 lb. ground pork
2 cups finely chopped Chinese (Nappa) cabbage
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine
1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 scallions, minced
2 tsp. ginger, minced
1 pkt. unflavored gelatin

DOUGH (recipe should be tripled for the above amount of filling - best to make dough in 3 batches):
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. hot (boiling) water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 cup. Chinese black vinegar
1/3 cup very finely julienned fresh ginger
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1. STOCK/ASPIC: Combine all stock ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium low to low) and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Continue simmering the broth for about 2 1/2 hours until stock is reduced to about 8 cups. Strain the stock, return to the pan and stir in 1 packet of unflavored gelatin until dissolved. Let stock cool then pour into a casserole dish or baking pan; cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight to let it set. 

2. FILLING: Place the chopped cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze excess water out from the cabbage with both hands. In a large bowl, combine drained cabbage with ground pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, 1 tsp. salt, sugar, white pepper, rice wine, sesame oil, scallions, and ginger. Take the aspic out of the frig and run a fork through it to break up into small pieces, then add to the pork mixture, stir well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. DIPPING SAUCE: Julienne 1/3 cup of fresh ginger (I like to peel the ginger root, shave thin slices with a veggie peeler, and then julienne the slices super thin with a cleaver). Mix together with the remaining sauce ingredients and set aside.

3. DOUGH: Place 2 cups of flour in a large bowl; gradually pour in boiling water while stirring vigorously with chopsticks (or a wooden spoon). Add the oil; stir until mixture is moist and well-combined. On a well-floured surface, knead the dough until it is soft and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add additional flour as needed. Shape dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 30 minutes (this is for 30 dumplings; repeat two more times to make a total of 90 dumplings - I find it easier to make the dough in 3 separate batches).

Remove plastic wrap from the dough and divide in two. Shape each half into a sausage-like cylinder, about 1" in diameter, and cut each cylinder into 15 pieces (repeat two more times for a total of 90 dumplings). Dust the surface of your counter, board or whatever you're planning to roll the dough on with flour; take one of the dough pieces, press down with the palm of your hand, then roll with a rolling pin into a 2 1/2" round (or as thin as possible, so dough won't be too thick and chewy when cooked). 

4. DUMPLING: Place 1 healing tablespoon of pork filling in the center of the round; fold dough over to make a half circle and pinch & pleat edges together. Seal the dough well (otherwise, the broth will leak out during cooking). Place dumpling on a baking sheet lined with parchment and dusted with flour. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.

Line a steamer with nappa cabbage leaves or a slightly damp cheesecloth (to prevent dumplings from sticking). Set steamer on wok with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and steam about 8-10 minutes. Serve hot with the vinegar-ginger dipping sauce.

Chicken wing tips.

Pork bellies.

Virginia ham.

Combine all stock ingredients and bring to a boil.

Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

Strain the stock.

Stir in 1 packet of unflavored gelatin.

Pour the stock into a large casserole dish & let cool. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight to let it set.

2 cups chopped nappa cabbage.

Sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt over the cabbage, mix & let sit for 10 minutes.

Squeeze out all the excess water from the cabbage.

Pork filling.

Soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil & white pepper.

Black vinegar-ginger sauce.

Break up the aspic with a fork.

Mix the aspic together with the pork filling.

Add hot water gradually to the dough, stirring vigorously with chopsticks (or fork, if you prefer).

Add 1 tbsp. vegetable oil and mix well.

Remove dough and knead for about 5 minutes on a floured surface.

Shape dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Cut dough into 2 pieces.

Roll each dough half into a cylinder and cut into 15 pieces.

Roll each dough piece into a thin round.

Place 1 heaping tbsp. of filling into the center of the dough round, then fold the dough over the filling, pleat the edges.

Seal the dumplings well.

Place dumplings on a parchment or plastic wrap-lined baking sheet dusted with flour.

Steam on a nappa cabbage-lined steamer for 8-10 minutes. Don't place the dumplings too close together (at least 1" apart) because they will expand during cooking and may stick together.


  1. Wow, and I haven't even had breakfast yet. We have Chinese friends over here in Sweden and they have the same idea I do for breakfast. Yogurt and Muesli are out, any other food is in.

    Mmmmmmmmmmm - that sauce looks hot and spicy.

    *sigh* Northern Europeans burn their lips on Catsup.

    1. LOL! I'm ok with yogurt for breakfast, but not on a regular basis (my preference is Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey).

  2. Hey nice recipe!!we usually buy these frozen at the chinese supermarket but I'm so glad you posted this! homemade is probably tastier than store bought!
    Just wanted to point something out...
    I'm chinese and these are called shao long bao and it's written like 小笼包。
    Thanks for the amazing post!

    1. Thanks, Anonymous! They are a bit time consuming, but definitely better than store-bought. I do have the Chinese name "Shao Lung Bao" in the post title - just not in Chinese (I understand and speak some Mandarin, but never learned to write the characters :)