Steamed Shanghai Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Shanghai Soup Dumplings, or xiaolongbao (小笼包)—perhaps the most perfect single bite of food ever conceived by man—does not require much introduction. This tantalizing, dreamy snack is probably the most famous dish to come out of Shanghai: paper-thin skin enveloping perfectly seasoned pork filling and rivers of hot, flavorful soup. If you want to make more of these, you can multiply this recipe as needed! It's not really a good idea to freeze these, as they're so delicate.
Recipe type: dim sum
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 18-20 dumplings
For the aspic:
  • ½ lb pork skin, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 lb pork neck bones (you want neck bones that still have meat on them!)
  • water
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1 scallion, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
For the dough:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons warm water
For the filling:
  • 1 lb ground pork (70% lean 30% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • A pinch of ground white-pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 heaping cup of your aspic, diced into ½-inch pieces
To serve:
  • Chinese black vinegar
  • julienned ginger
  1. Step 1: The Aspic
  2. In a small pot, add the pork skin and pork bones and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, and immediately drain and rinse off the bones and the skin. This gets rid of any impurities. Rinse out the pot and put everything back in. Add 4 cups of water, ginger, scallion and wine. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  3. After 2 hours, turn off the heat, allow the soup to cool, and strain the liquid into a bowl. As to the leftovers in the pot, you can discard it or go the Chinese route, which would be to drizzle some light soy sauce over everything and start grazing). Once the liquid is completely cooled, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Step 2: The Dough
  5. In a mixing bowl, add the flour and the warm water 1 tablespoon at a time. Work and knead the dough for 15-20 minutes. The dough should be very soft and smooth. Cover with a cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Step 3: The Filling:
  7. Take your ground pork and put it in the food processor. Pulse for 30-60 seconds until the pork resembles paste. In a mixing bowl, add the pork and all the rest of the ingredients except the aspic. Whip everything together thoroughly, for about 2 minutes. You want everything to be extremely well combined, and the pork should look like a light, airy paste. Gently fold in the aspic, and do not over-mix. Cover and transfer the filling to the refrigerator until ready to make the dumplings. If you’re ready now, you can put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow it to firm up and make assembling the buns easier.
  8. Step 4: Assembly
  9. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll the dough into a long cylinder/cigar, about an inch in diameter. Cut the dough into small equal pieces weighing about 11 grams each (the dough chunks should be a size resembling that of gnocchi). Roll out each piece into a round disc about 3 - 3 ¼ inches diameter. Keep everything under a damp cloth.
  10. Prepare your bamboo steamer. You can line it with cheese cloth, napa cabbage leaves, or these lovely bamboo steamer discs, which can be found in some Chinese restaurant supply stores (if using these, you must brush the discs with oil first!).
  11. When all that is prepared, take out the filling. You’ll be making each bun one at a time. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of your dumpling skin. Pleat the dumpling as shown in the video. It should have as many folds as you can muster: 12-20 folds should do it. Watch the video in our Carrot Ginger Pork Bun post. The technique is very similar. For this one, you’re just making more folds. Make sure the top is sealed. If the filling ever gets too wet or hard to handle, put it in the freezer for another 15 minutes and start again.
  12. Place the buns in the lined steamer basket, about 2 inches apart.
  13. Step 5: Steaming
  14. In a metal steamer pot or wok, boil water. If using a wok, put the water at a level so that when you put the bamboo steamer into the wok, the water rises about ½ inch up the bottom of the bamboo base. You never want the water to touch the dumplings inside, though, so make sure not to fill it too high!
  15. Once the water is boiling, put the bamboo steamer in the wok or steamer pot, cover with the bamboo steamer lid, and steam over high heat for 8 minutes. Immediately remove the bamboo steamer from the pot and serve.
  16. Step 6: Eating
  17. Ok, so there is definitely a proper way to enjoy these dumplings. Put away the soy sauce because it has no place on the table right now. What you want is Chinese black vinegar. Pour some out into a small, round dish or bowl, and top with some very thin matchsticks of ginger.
  18. Take out your two utensils—chopsticks and a Chinese soup spoon (a fork would just butcher these and the soup would dribble out all over the table. It would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions).
  19. Carefully, slowly peel the xiaolongbao off of the steamer basket and dip it into the vinegar. Gently transfer the dumpling to your soupspoon and take a tiny bite out of the skin on the side of the bun to make a little hole. Proceed to slurp the soup out of the bun (Carefully. It’s HOT). Then, with a little more vinegar, finish the whole thing off in one bite.
  20. Repeat.
Recipe by The Woks of Life at