Soup dumplings, darling pork-packed pillows, differ from their landlocked cousins in one detail: They’re bursting with broth. Posing a puzzle worthy of the trivia app HQ: How does the soup slip inside?
The dumpling novice ponders the possibilities: a splash of liquid and lightning-fast folding? A scalding syringe? Magic?
Correct. In an act of culinary sleight-of-hand, the broth is cooked to a quiver, cooled to a gel and cubed. The cubes are tossed with pork and wrapped into the raw dumpling. As the packet steams — big reveal — the meat cooks and the cubes melt … into soup.
Ingenious and delicious, both. Leaving only the question of technique. A: Nibble a small hole, slurp out the soup, dip the dumpling and down it. Small bite; big win.
Beginner Soup Dumplings
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 6 minutes
Makes: 16 dumplings
Expert soup dumplings start with homemade broth and hand-rolled wrappers. This version takes a couple of shortcuts — and still steams up delicious.
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon gelatin
1/2 cup pork, beef or chicken broth
4 ounces ground pork
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon Chinese rice wine
1 pinch each: salt and white (or black) pepper
16 wonton wrappers (4 ounces total)
1. Set: Drop water into a glass measuring cup. Sprinkle with gelatin. Bring broth to a boil; pour over gelatin, whisking to dissolve. Pour into a small baking pan and chill until jiggly, about 30 minutes.
2. Mix: Meanwhile stir together all remaining ingredients (except wrappers). When broth is set, cut into tiny cubes or scramble to bits with a fork. Stir cubes into pork.
3. Fold: Set four wrappers on a work surface; brush edges with water. Settle 1 tablespoon filling in the center of each. Bring the four points of each wrapper up to meet in the middle, forming four pyramid-shaped dumplings. Firmly press seams together. Are these the 18-pleat round dumplings of soup-dumpling fame? No. Will they work just fine? Yes. Fill remaining dumplings.
4. Steam: Line a steamer basket with parchment paper or a few leaves of bok choy or lettuce. Settle in dumplings. Steam over boiling water until dumplings are cooked through, about 6 minutes.
5. Serve: Set one dumpling on a big spoon. Nibble or poke a small hole. Slurp out soup. Drizzle dumpling with sauce and down it.
Pour 1/4 cup dark (chinkiang) vinegar into a bowl. Scatter with fine shards of ginger.
Provenance: Adapted from Imperial Lamian Restaurant, Chicago.