Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shanghai Soup-less Buns

One of our favorite places for lunch is Yank Sing and our favorite dim sum is their signature dish-Shanghai pork dumplings, also called Shanghai stuffed soup buns. They are sealed dumplings filled with seasoned ground pork and miraculously, soup that pops in your mouth when you bite into it. The key to getting the soup inside is stuffing the dough with a cube of aspic, a jelled, concentrated broth made from simmering pork and chicken bones. The aspic itself takes some time not only to cook, but also to jell, so I took the opportunity of being at home for a few hours over the weekend to make it. After 4 cups of liquid was condensed to 1/2 cup, I strained and chilled the aspic. Today, I had thought the tough part was already done in the preparation for soup buns, but I was thrown for a loop. We mixed the ground pork with the seasonings and using a method from the February, 2005 issue of Gourmet that I kept for this sole purpose, I cut up the aspic and combined it right into the pork mixture. After the tedious job of hand rolling a few of the dumplings and stuffing them with the pork and aspic, we decided to do a trial steaming of 6 of the dumplings to make sure we weren't rolling the dough too thick or putting too much or too little filling in them. A 10 minute steam revealed some beautiful, fragile dumplings that were similar in appearance to Yank Sings. We dipped them in vinegar and placed them on our tongues anticipating the signature pop of the dumpling followed by a flow of rich broth to all corners of our mouths...and there was nothing. No flavorful elixir flowed from these buns. We were both disappointed. It was a failure, but not a complete one. We still have more filling so tomorrow we plan to try using more of the pork mixture in each bun. It's all trial and error, but luckily along the way, we've got plenty to eat.

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