Thursday, August 9, 2012

Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) aka Soup Dumplings

Meet Mr. Lee.  At least, I am pretty sure his name is Mr. Lee.  Notice his son and his super bashful wife:

I've been going to his breakfast shop for the past two years.  While his shop serves many Taiwanese breakfast staples, his soup dumplings have made me a regular.  For the uninitiated, a soup dumpling is a type of dumpling which originates from Shanghai.  They are intended to be eaten in one bite and are filled with meat and liquid.  In Mr. Lee's case, the meat is ground pork perfumed with ginger and, I suspect, a bit of rice wine.  The liquid is stock which is cooled so that it gelatanizes.  This is then folded into the meat.  When the dumpling is steamed and, consequently heated, the stock liquefies and turns to soup.  You have to be careful or you're likely to burn the hell out of your mouth.  They are typically served with vinegar and slivers of ginger.  Here's a freshly steamed order of Mr. Lee's dumplings:

There are many ways to eat these but I think my Shanghainese friend's method is probably the best. Use your chopsticks to place a dumpling on a soup spoon.  Bite off the tip of the dumpling:

and blow some air into it to cool it down.  Garnish with ginger and a bit of vinegar.  Eat!

I would like to bring attention to some of the virtues of Mr. Lee's dumplings.  1. The wrapper is thick enough to have a nice mouthfeel and to ensure that the dumpling doesn't fall apart when you lift it from the steaming tray.  However, it's not so thick that you feel like you are eating a noodle.  2. The amount of soup is really great.  Some places serve you soup dumplings with too little soup.  Have a look at how much soup there is in one of Mr. Lee's dumplings:
It's about 2-3 teaspoons. 

Anyhow, I made a video of Mr. Lee filling and wrapping the dumplings.  He's a magician!! 
Pretty amazing, right? BTW, he wasn't particularly pleased about the first dumpling. I think I made him nervous!

Anyhow, I've eaten a lot of soup dumplings here in Taiwan and I love what Mr. Lee and his wife are doing in their unassuming little shop.  If you'd like to support them, here's the location:

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