There’s a method to eating soup dumplings: You place the dumpling on your soup spoon and gently bite off the doughy nub in the center, releasing a stream of hot soup. Sip the soup out of the thick dumpling wrapper and then eat the pork filling within, drizzled with black vinegar, if you want, to cut the subtle sweetness. There’s a method to making them, too: A clear, expertly seasoned aspic is added to the filling; when the dumplings are steamed the aspic melts, becoming the heady broth that gives this classic Shanghai dish its name. Ask your butcher for the pork skin to make the aspic. If it’s not available, a fatty cut of pork such as pork belly can be substituted.
- 8 ounces ground Kurobuta pork
- ¾ tablespoon cornstarch
- 1½ tablespoons Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 scant teaspoons sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
- 8 ounces (about 1 cup) Shanghai Dumpling Aspic (recipe follows)
- 2 teaspoons minced scallion
- 1 tablespoon plus ¾ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- Shanghai Dumpling Skins (recipe follows)
Shanghai Dumpling Aspic
- 2 ounces pork skin, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 ounces chicken bones (the backbone and wing tips from one chicken)
- 1 small slice fresh ginger
- 1 (3-inch) piece of scallion
- ¾ teaspoon Shaoxing wine
Shanghai Dumpling Skins
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
Put the pork and cornstarch in the bowl of a food processor and mix until the pork resembles a paste. Transfer the pork mixture to a large bowl; add the wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and white pepper and mix thoroughly. Gently fold in the aspic, scallion, and ginger and stir to combine; do not overmix. Cover and transfer the filling to the refrigerator until ready to make the dumplings.
To wrap, place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of one dumpling skin. Hold the dumpling in one cupped hand (you can also use a very small prep bowl to hold the dumpling) and use the other hand to make small folds around the circumference of the dough, pleating the edge of the dough like an accordion, and moving in a circle until reaching the end, all the while twisting the top together so the pleats spiral around. At the end, the dumpling should be completely sealed; it will resemble a little coin purse. The dumpling should be circular and well pleated with a small piece of dough sticking up in the center.
To cook, steam on a piece of cheesecloth in a bamboo or metal steamer over a wok of simmering water until cooked through, about 8 minutes.
To make the Shanghai dumpling aspic: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, combine the pork skin and chicken bones and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately remove from the heat. Drain and return the pork skin and chicken bones to the pot; add 2 cups water, the ginger slice, scallion, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and very gently simmer for 2½ hours.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and strain the liquid into a bowl. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate overnight. The aspic will gel and become very thick as it chills.
To make the Shanhai dumpling skins: Put the flour in a medium bowl and add 6 tablespoons warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the oil and stir to combine. When you can no longer incorporate more flour by stirring, turn the dough out on a work surface and knead the rest of the flour into the dough until it is well blended, soft and smooth, and bounces back slowly when pressed, about 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll each piece into a sticklike cylinder about 9 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cover the two pieces with damp paper towels and let rest for 15 minutes.
Slice each cylinder into pieces ½ inch wide; roll each piece into a ball and cover with a damp paper towel until ready to use.
To form the wrappers, very lightly flour your hands, a small rolling pin, and a wooden work surface. Using the heel of your hand, gently press down on each ball to flatten. Then, using the rolling pin, carefully roll out a thin round, 3 inches in diameter. Keep the work surface dusted with flour while rolling out each piece of dough.