China

Well, now I’m six countries behind on this thing, so I guess I better keep playing catch up…

Long story short, we really dragged our feet on this next meal.  We had the amazing opportunity to go to China in August to volunteer at an unofficial FIRST Robotics Competition scrimmage.  Ironically, the next country on our list at that time was China.  Somehow, we had a hard time getting excited about eating MORE Chinese food after a week there…

But, we finally got around to it, and we cooked a dish my brother had told us about–xiao long bao.  Also known as soup dumplings.  They are the inverse of what you usually might expect (dumplings in soup).  In this case, the soup is inside the dumpling!  We were very intrigued by the concept, and it was different enough from the food we ate in China that we could go along with it.  This was a pretty involved recipe and included a dipping sauce, so didn’t make anything else.

Xiao Long Bao (recipe)

The first step was making the broth for the soup.  We used the remains of a rotisserie chicken (and ate the good part for an easy dinner ???? ), along with ham, salt pork, ginger, green onions, garlic, and rice wine.  The smell took us straight back to China.  No chicken feet in the soup here, though…

After simmering for multiple hours and straining out the chunks, we added gelatin and put it in a plan to chill.  The idea is that the soup solidifies when chilled so it can be stuffed in the dumplings, but upon heating it will re-liquify.

The next day I broke it up into pieces (these pieces ended up being too big, but I didn’t realize that until later).

The rest of the dumpling filling consisted of chopped up shrimp and pork with more rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, etc.  This was mixed with the gelatinous soup:

Meanwhile, Tyler worked on making the dumpling dough.  That wasn’t very exciting, so I didn’t take many pictures.  I followed a similar dumpling making process as I did for the momos for Bhutan… Put the filling in a small circle of dough, then attempt to twist it shut at the top.

We invested in a bamboo steamer (who knew they sold these things at Target???), which was lined with cabbage leaves to prevent sticking.  I didn’t do very well with the 1-2″ spacing between dumplings.

After about twelve minutes of steaming, they came out looking like this:

In the mean time, we also put together the dipping sauce.  An ingredient was Sambal/hot chili and garlic sauce.  We couldn’t find that, so we made our own:

The quantity was overkill… we needed two tablespoons.  It was added soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger.  It also was supposed to be mixed with black vinegar, which we couldn’t find.  I researched substitutes but didn’t write down what I did (oops).  I think it was a combination of two things… maybe balsamic vinegar with something else.  It wasn’t very photogenic sauce.

So, all said and done, we had a nice looking meal.  We served it with some Chinese green tea.

The dumplings were delicious the first night!  Sadly, most of the soup escaped during the steaming process, but at least the meat filling was good.  And I think some of the broth flavor stuck around, even if the liquid didn’t.  They went very well with a cup of green tea.

We saved the rest of the dumplings (un-steamed) and steamed the another night for leftovers.  I don’t know if they weren’t as good after a couple days, or if we were just regressing to being done with Chinese food, or what, but we really didn’t enjoy them as much the second time around.  Oh well.  The important part is that we broke our fifty day international cooking break and got back into the project!