That Crazy Thing I Did: Chapter Xiao Long Bao

How wretched is my life in London without decent xiao long baos?

I was craving these soupy, meaty babies a while back, sooooo  incredibly badly that one Saturday, I rummaged my pantry for flour, minced pork, Chinese lettuce yada yada and decided to make xiao long baos. Pronto. Without a trusty recipe, and with a hell lot of guts.

There are currently two food items that I consider treacherous in my culinary experiments – macaron, that goes without saying, and xiao long bao.

These dumplings are expected to pack lots of flavour in that one little dome of meat, ooze a dam of sweet-savoury liquid velvety goodness, and mind you, they have to be contained in the thinnest of pouches to be even considered decent. An impossible feat, if you ask me. I must have been crazy when I decided to make them, but that’s what living in a foreign land does to a foodie, it drives you to desperation and forces you to create miracles in your kitchen.

Xiao Long Bao Strike 1

I spent, I don’t know, two hours, trying to make 40 of these bloody baos. Making the dough wasn’t difficult. Making a good dough that rolled out thinly (think less than a millimetre…) was extremely tough. Getting the meats to fit inside the wrappers wasn’t rocket science. Trying to pleat the wrapper into nice folds was ARGH. The F word wasn’t far from my lips (and I don’t like to spew vulgarities), until I went on Youtube to look for a ‘How to pleat xiao long bao’ video, which saved my husband from my wrath.

Xiao Long Bao Strike 1

Or so M thought. When the baos came out of the steamer and I took the first bite, I wanted to kill, seriously. I had already pummelled and pulled the dough so thinly, and you, damn skin, are still playing coy, thick and rubbery?! At least the meat was good, that was a saving grace.

Until I find the inner xiao long bao peace, I’ll leave it at Strike One, get my fill in Singapore when I return (which is really really soon!), and then come back with a vengeance for Strike Two.

Sorry there isn’t a recipe here. The skin was inedible and I don’t think anyone should try what I did at home.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

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23 Responses to “That Crazy Thing I Did: Chapter Xiao Long Bao”


  1. 1 miss ene July 6, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Heh, this post made me LOL. I don’t think they sell frozen XLBs in Singapore or I’d be happy to mail you some! I must say you’re very very brave to attempt making it. Bravo :)

  2. 3 beidi July 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    when are u coming back? let’s meet there’s michie and the other guys too and we can OD on XLBs together woot!

  3. 4 Sylvia L July 6, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Good attempt, especially the shaping- it’s tough to make the skin paper thin and not breaking at the same time – perhaps you should share the recipe for the filling! :) Love reading your culinary adventures!

    • 5 The Pleasure Monger July 6, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      Beidi: Coming back in august! To OD on XLB sounds perfect!

      Sylvia: Thanks! Pleating got a lot easier after watching the video. Yes it was so tough to make it thin! I made it pretty thin, it was almost translucent, but once it was cooked, it thickened again, not sure why… For the filling, I didn’t actually record the amounts, but I used minced pork, and marinated it in shao tsing wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, pepper and salt. Also cheated and added a little chicken stock powder. I think the right way to do it is to make jelly cubes out of meat stock, so that gives the marinated meat extra flavour, but I was too lazy to do it. =p

  4. 6 foodtable July 8, 2010 at 7:07 am

    The pictures look good. So London’s C-Town doesn’t have these? Or they aren’t very good maybe?

  5. 8 foodtable July 9, 2010 at 5:47 am

    i see. that’s frustrating. well, i hope you get some good xlb soon.

  6. 9 elaineteo July 13, 2010 at 11:43 am

    WOW!! this post really makes me go wow, well done!! nevermind about the dough, at least the meat is nice! =)

  7. 11 cathy x. July 15, 2010 at 8:20 am

    my guess is that the flour particles soaked up some of the steam and swelled during the cooking process which is why they came out thicker than when you put them in. rubberiness of the cooked dough is usually attributed to overworking gluten in the flour. some doughs also contain fat which helps to stop the gluten from forming so easily because it coats the flour particles and stops them from combining with water which is when gluten is formed. the jellied stock is quite easy. if you’re in a real hurry you can just set seasoned stock with gelatine although pork trotters are full of gelatine and make a wonderful jelly. i think i read somewhere that famous shanghai chef jereme leung makes his xiao long bao soup with pork skin!

    • 12 The Pleasure Monger July 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

      hi cathy, thanks for your advice! yeah i thought it was gluten forming too, this is my first foray into understanding flour and gluten formation, now that you explain it here, i’m much clearer on what went wrong! thank you!

  8. 13 Elizabeth July 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I really admire your courage to make these! I heard that it takes years of training to master it though. Try try again! but they look really cute. xD

    Maybe post up the recipe for the filling?

    • 14 The Pleasure Monger July 15, 2010 at 10:08 am

      Hi Elizabeth, thank you! I am going to try them again, once I get my motivation back (everytime I make difficult things and it fails, I need time to recover from it….lol)! I didn’t measure out the portions for the filling marinade when I was making this, the next time I make them, I promise to measure them out! But if my memory serves me correctly, I used sesame oil, shao xing wine, soy sauce, salt, pepper etc, rather standard ingredients to marinade pork for Chinese dishes. I also used fattier minced meat, rather than lean, for more flavour.

  9. 15 Aneta July 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Have you tried rolling them out on the thinnest setting of a pasta machine? Could be worth a try.

  10. 17 Cheryl Collett, Itty Bitty Foodies - Yummy Adventures with Kids! November 18, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I get my fix here in Dallas and have to drive at least 30 minutes out just to get some decent ones! Good on you for trying!!!

  11. 19 devourslowly November 23, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Love your post! I haven’t had a good Xiao Long Bao in the 20 years I have been in New Zealand… damnation! I would love to make them at home but I am not v good with my Asian spices :-(

    • 20 The Pleasure Monger November 24, 2010 at 10:47 am

      Hi devourslowly, I don’t think the flavouring is particularly hard to master, so fear not! I think you’ll be just fine! The problem might come with the skin of the Bao, as it needs to be very thin and yet tough enough to hold all that juice in!

  12. 21 tesorolawson June 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    In our place, it is known as momo….
    i did tried making it in February and it turned out pretty good…. it was my boyfriend who taught me how to work on bringing a nice shape… after all the efforts, we had a hearty dinner.

    It’s worth learning how to prepare them… love the post!!


  1. 1 Pandan Chiffon Cake – The First of More to Come « The Pleasure Monger Trackback on January 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm

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Read about my food-gasmic adventures in San Sebastian here! Also please come by and check out the prettiest cake I've made over here!
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