I've been fortunate over the years to write about food for a number of newspapers and magazines, During this period, I've met many professional chefs and home cooks and come to admire the passion and care so many people bring to the table. I've particularly enjoyed trying out new recipes, some of which were more promising than others. But -- as far as I'm concerned -- it's the people, the cultural context in which food is prepared, and the creativity and passion of people who love to cook that makes writing about food such a joy.
It is truly gratifying to share my recipes with readers. Just as our minds open to new worlds through the enjoyment of books, our bodies learn about new cultures through the pleasures of the table.
During a trip to Shanghai last year, I decided it would be fun to look into the Jewish food scene there. I knew that Baghdadi Jews had settled in Shanghai during the nineteenth century and that Jews from Europe had found refuge there during World War 2. When I arrived, though, I was surprised to find only one source of what could truly be called "Jewish cuisine," at a Chabad in the suburbs.
I wrote a few stories on where to eat in Shanghai in order to avoid the pork and shrimp that pervades Chinese recipes. I also developed a few recipes for traditional Shanghai dishes that could be made in a kosher chicken.
麵 Shanghai Soup Dumplings 麵
Shanghai Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)
I’ve had Shanghai soup dumpling a few times, most notably at Joe Shanghai’s restaurant in New York, and marveled at how the chef managed to serve soup inside the dumpling. Turns out the secret is adding gelatin to the soup, letting it harden, then mincing it up and adding it to the meat filling. When the dumpling is steamed, the soup resumes its liquid state. What an ingenuous idea! This is a popular street food and is sold in little restaurants around Shanghai. In this recipe, traditional pork and crab fillings are replaced with veal or turkey.
These are a bit of work but your reward is a surprising slurp of gingery soup followed by a delicious meat-filled dumpling. I’d recommend enlisting friends to help in the final stage—assembling and sealing the dumplings. It’s a good idea to consult youtube for instructions on sealing the dumplings and eating them off a spoon without dumping soup on your lap.
The dumplings should be steamed in a bamboo steamer basket over simmering water. These are available at Asian food stores or you can create your own steamer by placing a plate on a can inside a large pot, adding an inch or two of water, then placing a cover on the pot. Have parchment paper ready for lining the basket or plate.
1 package of dumpling wrappers (available at Asian food stores), defrosted.
1 tablespoon cooked smoked turkey (or other salty, smoky meat), minced (I used smoked turkey from the deli counter)
3 pieces ginger, 2 inches by ½ inches, crushed with the flat of a knife to release flavor
2 green onions cut in two inch slices, crushed with the flat of a knife to release flavor
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
1 ½ teaspoons gelatin
1 piece ginger, roughly 2 inches by ½ inch
1 green onion, minced
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper
½ pound of ground veal or turkey (not lean)
¼ cup of Chinkiang vinegar or 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons cider vinegar.
Ginger (left from meat filling recipe)
To Make Soup Filling
1. Put the stock, ginger, scallion and chopped turkey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for eight minutes or until it’s reduced by half (yields about 2/3 cup). Strain the soup and discard the solids. Let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Return the soup to the pot and sprinkle on the gelatin. Heat to medium-high, stirring the soup until the gelatin dissolves. Bring the soup to a boil and turn off the heat.
3. Pour into an 8 by 8 inch pan (like a brownie pan) and let it solidify in the refrigerator. You can do this a few hours or the day before making the dumpling.
4. Once the soup is solid, mince.
To Make Meat Filling
1. Grate half the ginger with a microplane or grater. Julienne the other half into small pieces and set aside for the dipping sauce.
2. Mix the grated ginger with the minced green onion, sherry, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, salt and white pepper. Swirl to form a creamy mixture with bits of green. Add the meat and blend with a fork.
3. Set the bowl aside for 15 minutes, covered, to let the flavors develop (Don’t go over 15 minutes or the mixture may break down).
4. Stir in the gelatinized soup.
To Make Dipping Sauce
Combine the vinegar and the julienned ginger. If it’s too tart, add water.
Assembling and Steaming the Dumplings
1. Line the steamer baskets with parchment paper.
2. Take a wrapper in your slightly cupped hand and position a scoop of the meat/gelatin filling in the middle. Use the thumb and index finger of the other hand to pinch and pleat the edges of dough to form a closed sack. Some perfectionists claim you need about 32 pleats. Do as many as you can. Be careful to pinch and twist the dough at the end to close the dumpling so the soup doesn’t escape.
3. Put each dumpling in a steamer basket, about an inch apart, sealed side up. If you have extra dumplings, store them on a floured parchment-lined pastry board or cookie sheet.
4. Steam over boiling water (the water shouldn’t reach the level of the basket) for 6 to 8 minutes. The dumplings will puff up a little and become slightly translucent when ready.
5. Serve with dipping sauce.
6. To eat, place the dumpling on a large spoon and pierce with a chop stick or your teeth before slurping the soup.
Make 24 dumplings.
Adapted from: TheSpruce.com