Shanghainese soup dumplings are a culinary phenomenon: a bite of pork and a spoonful of soup all within a neatly pleated wheat wrapper. You’re probably curious: how does the soup get in there? Over the years, I’ve come up with a fair share of outlandish theories – at one point I was convinced the dumplings were injected with a soup-filled syringe. But all my conspiracy theories were finally laid to rest two weeks ago when the high priestess of Nan Xiang Dumpling House, Chef Huang Jian Ping (黃建萍), came over to make soup dumplings from scratch. In anticipation for Asian Feastival, an epic culinary event in Queens on September 6th Labor Day Monday (check out asianfeastival.com for the complete rundown), we decided to put her off-site dumpling-making capabilities to the test and invited some friends over to witness her pork and dough sorcery.
A special thanks to Roboppy for taking photos!
Pulling up to the curb, Chef Huang arrived by car with Nan Xiang’s owner, Tai Viem Ma, and Asian Feastival advisor and guru, Alex Peng, with a bag of dough, a bowl of pork filling, a rolling pin, and a stack of bamboo steamers packed into the trunk. Once we carted all the materials to the roof, she began to set up her dumpling operation.
Hailing from the town of Wu Shi (無錫) in the Jiang Su (江蘇) province located in the northeast area of China, Chef Huang has been pinching, twisting, kneading and pleating dough and pork filling into bundles of soup dumpling perfection since she was 18 years old. Nowadays, she can practically make them with a blindfold and a hand tied behind her back. According to Mr. Ma, he was able to recruit her from China because she was just one notch below the very best in China; top-tier dumpling makers are barred from leaving the country, since their skills are considered a national treasure.
Now, here’s a breakdown of how to make soup dumplings, from soup to nuts:
With a butter knife, fill the wrapper with the filling. The secret of the soup lies in the paste-like pork filling, which consists of a secret mixture of pork, seasoning and its jus in gelatin form, the last of which melts into a liquidy soup when the dumpling is steamed. Then comes the hard part: cup your hand to make a pouch, then using your other hand, apply nimble pinching and twisting movements to seal off the top. Chef Huang emphasizes that as a food safety measure, your finger should not touch and contaminate the pork filling, only the wrapper.
A metal circular plate resembling a big, thin metal washer is placed on top of a big stockpot of hot boiling water, funneling the steam through the small hole and upwards through the bamboo steamer to cook the dumplings. It took a few tries to get the correct time it required to steam the dumplings — 12 minutes was just enough time to steam a bamboo steamer filled with 6 dumplings, but the stove temperature varies so adjust accordingly.
And there you go, the secrets of the soup dumpling, thanks to Chef Huang, Mr. Ma and Alex Peng, who made this all possible. Come taste Chef Huang’s masterpieces for yourself at the Asian Feastival in September. If you just can’t wait, pay Chef Huang a visit at Nan Xiang Dumpling House for a steamer full of some of the best soup dumplings outside of China.
Nan Xiang Dumpling House
38-12 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354