I long for the day London gets a Din Tai Fung. I'm still convinced we still might, because bloody everywhere else has; Dubai, LA, Hong Kong, Macau, Sydney, Melbourne - even Seattle has TWO branches! Come on! Anyway, if you haven't been to Din Tai Fung, you must; they make some really good siu long bao (soup dumplings). Delicate steamed little dumplings of different flavours, filled with soup to pop in your mouth. It's a real art, getting the skins thin enough so they're not doughy, but robust enough to hold the delicious broth and filling. I haven't found anywhere in London that matches their quality, though I haven't attempted the higher end Park Chinois-type places, admittedly.
What's a girl to do when the craving hits? Make my own.
I won't lie. It's not a quick process, and I knew that on the undertaking. The reason for this is that you need to make a stock out of chicken bones and pigs trotters so that it heavily gelatinises, and you can then whip it into the dumpling filling. Have you ever wondered how they get that soup in the dumplings? This is it; when the dumplings are cooking, the meat jelly melts into the soup. Phwoar. Meat jelly. So it's really a 2 day affair where you need to make the stock, solidify it, and then the graft happens.
I also decided to add the complication of making my own wrappers. This was so that they would be pliable enough for me to pleat them into buns. My bun-pleating went all sorts of horribly wrong - @mayluuluu I am not - so I stuck to what I knew, and decided to turn them into potsticker soup dumplings instead.
It worked damn well, but you definitely need a really good non-stick pan for this, lest anything sticks and you burst your precious dumplings and thus rid them of their juice. Disaster. If all goes to plan, you should be rewarded with these beauties, ready to be dressed with soy sauce, a touch of vinegar and chilli oil. Crunchy bottomed, steamed top and bulging with soup. Pretty exciting stuff.
Potsticker Soup Dumplings
Makes around 30
For the broth, and the day before:
1 pig trotter
400gr chicken wings
3 slices of ginger, lightly bashed
The whites of 4 spring onions, chopped roughly
A few white peppercorns
Put the pigs trotter and wings in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add a hefty pinch or three of salt, and bring the water to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes and discard the water. Now clean everything really thoroughly under cold running water; this helps keep the broth scum-free.
Put everything back into the pan, cover again with water, add the ginger, spring onion and peppercorns, and simmer on a low heat with the lid on for at least 3 hours. You should have at least a litre of broth by the end of this, as you're keeping the lid on. Remove from the heat, leave to cool, and fish out the trotter and chicken wings. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl, then line the sieve with muslin or kitchen towels and strain again. Then simmer gently for half an hour without the lid to reduce down by about a third. Remove, and taste - you'll need to add around a teaspoon of salt at this stage, but add it incrementally and keep tasting, in case it gets too salty. My neighbour's cat very much enjoyed the chicken wing meat stripped from the bones. Waste not want not.
Place the broth in the fridge overnight.
For the filling:
300gr fatty minced pork
2 inches of ginger, grated into a bowl, with 1tbsp water in it
The greens of 4 spring onions, minced
A large pinch of white pepper
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp light soy
A large pinch of salt
A few leaves of Napa cabbage
Dipping sauce & garnish:
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp chilli oi
In a large bowl, add the pork, salt, oyster sauce, light soy, white pepper and spring onions. Squeeze the ginger pulp and add the ginger water to the pork via a sieve. Mix the pork in one direction continuously with chopsticks until it starts to become a sticky lump. You'll need to do this for at least a few minutes.
Take the meat jelly out of the fridge, and you'll only need half. You can freeze the other half. Chop into cubes, and mix again into the pork, stirring one direction continuously, and eventually whipping the pork up with the jelly until everything is amalgamated and no jelly lumps remain.
You can make your own wrappers (double the quantities in that recipe) which is a bit of a pain and it takes a long time, or use ready bought, the meat-receiving side wettened. Fold them like so (YES IT'S ME being all awkward and that, sorry). Do make sure the folds and top are well sealed.
Place the dumplings on the cabbage leaves (the leaves are so that they don't stick to the plate) while you make the rest.
Either freeze them now, or cover them and place in the fridge (maximum a day, really) or cook them. To do so, add a tablespoon of oil to a non-stick pan on a medium heat and add the dumplings, flat side down. Fry for 3 minutes until golden, and then add around 5 tbsp cold water, plus the saucepan lid so that they steam. Let them steam for 5 minutes, then remove the lid, evaporate the water off, and let the bottoms fry again for another minute, at which point they should be bronzed.
To serve, garnish with snipped chives, mix the dipping sauce together, and for god's sake - let them cool for 5 minutes, unless you want boiling hot soup squirting straight down your gullet.
As an aside...
If you live in London and can't be arsed to make these, I can make them for you! 30 of them! But wait. What's that? Yes, I DO want something in return. SPONSOR ME!
In November I'm cycling 500km across Ghana with Child.org over 6 days and I'm fundraising for them. All proceeds go to the charity and its projects; my trip will be entirely funded by myself.