Ah, the soup dumpling (Xiao Long Bao). What's better than an uber-delicate little sack of dough filled with local pork and the most savory broth you've ever tasted.I traveled to China over the summer with family, and my sisters couldn't wait to check out the World Expo in Shanghai. I had other plans. We were, after all, in the soup dumpling capital of the world. I talked to a few locals and did some online research, setting out to try the very best soup dumplings the city had to offer. While I found fabulous Xiao Long Bao at unassuming strip malls and in the corners of little grocery marts, I constantly found myself leaving the meal baffled: How the heck do they get that delicious broth inside the flimsy dumpling?
Now this is where you're a little bit glad you discovered how these dumplings are made after you got home. Most varieties are created by wrapping solid meat gelatin inside the skin alongside the meat filling. When the Xiao Long Bao are steamed, the layer of gelatin melts into a savory soup. As I mentioned, soup dumplings are traditionally filled with pork, but other variations include crab and vegetarian fillings (we found mixed mushroom to be quite common and delicious). Now we're curious: Is there a good spot to get Xiao Long Bao in your city? Have you tried any interesting flavor combinations? We'd love to hear about it!
Megan is a freelance writer and recipe developer. Her cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings, will be available in bookstores nationwide Dec/2013. Megan also owns the Seattle-based artisan cereal company, Marge Granola.
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