Why This Recipe Works
- Rolling the dough to the perfect thickness makes wrappers that are thicker than classic steamed soup dumplings, but thinner than the many overly doughy versions out there.
- A combination of baking powder and yeast in the dough makes for a quick process and light texture.
- Searing and then steaming the buns yields a crisp browned bottom while cooking them all the way through.
Is there anything better than xiao long bao, a.k.a. soup dumplings, a.k.a. one of the most delicious dumplings* in the world? Bursting with hot soup and seasoned meat, they're pretty hard to top. Unless, of course, you're talking about sheng jian bao, the breadier, pan-fried cousin of XLB.
Just like XLB, sheng jian bao hail from Shanghai and are filled with a flavorful, juicy pork filling. What sets the two apart is how they are cooked. Soup dumplings are always steamed and bursting with soup, while sheng jian bao are a little less soupy and are steamed and pan-fried—all in the same pan.
The method of both pan-frying and steaming in the same pan is genius. You get the best of both textures. The dumplings are crisp on the bottom and tender everywhere else. It's the same cooking method used to cook gyoza, Japanese potstickers.
You'll begin the sheng jian bao by making the filling. Just like with any pork dumpling, if you want it to be juicy, you need fatty pork. One of the best cuts for that is pork belly.
Napa cabbage and shiitakes are added for both texture and flavor along with seasonings like Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, garlic, scallion, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and white pepper. You can make the filling a day ahead and keep it refrigerated.
Next is the dough. The wrapper for sheng jian bao is a little thicker and less stretchy than what you'd use for xiao long bao.
I make it by combining all-purpose flour with baking powder, cornstarch, yeast, sugar, and salt, then mixing in warm milk.
I knead the dough into a ball, then let it rest for 30 minutes.
Then I divide it into four portions...
...cut those sections into smaller portions, and roll them out into 3 1/2-inch rounds.
One of the problems I find here in the U.S. when eating sheng jian bao is the dough tends to be too thick, too doughy, and the dumplings too big. Sheng jian bao are not supposed to be as delicate as soup dumplings, but they also aren't meant to be twice as big and thick. For this recipe, the dough ends up tender and just the right thickness.
Once the dough is rolled out and you have the filling made, it's time for the part that most novice dumpling makers dread: wrapping.
Explaining how to wrap a dumpling using text instructions is probably one of the least helpful ways to do it. For this step, I'm going to direct you to this video from Christine's Recipe. As you can see, it's a process that involves pleating, pinching...
Even if you're not great at wrapping dumplings, do give it a try. If you're not happy with the results, you can always flip the dumpling over and pan-fry it seam-side down.
To cook your sheng jian bao, get a pan with some oil in it nice and hot. Then arrange the dumplings in it, being careful not to crowd the pan, since the dumplings will expand as they cook (work in batches if necessary).
Once the bottoms of the dumplings are lightly golden brown, which takes about 30 seconds, pour a little water in the pan, cover, and cook until the water evaporates. The water steams the dumplings, and, as it evaporates, the bottoms of the dumplings fry and brown even more, eventually becoming crispy.
These are best enjoyed hot, straight out of the pan when they are at their peak of juiciness. If you love soup dumplings, you need to give sheng jian bao a try.
They might not be as famous as their cousins, but sheng jian bao are just as tasty and delicious.
Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-Fried Pork Soup Dumplings) Recipe
Xiao long bao, Shanghai-style soup dumplings, have become legendary for good reason, but their doughier pan-fried cousins deserve wider recognition.
For the Pork Filling:
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage (from about 2 or 3 leaves)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 pound pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour, then drained, squeezed dry, and finely chopped
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
For the Dough:
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lowfat or whole milk
Vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, for greasing and cooking
For the Pork Filling: Place Napa cabbage in a bowl, add salt, and mix until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Squeeze cabbage of excess water and return to bowl.
Place pork belly in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add Napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, scallion, garlic, and pulse 2 times until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add cornstarch, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, vegetable oil, sugar, and white pepper powder to the ground pork. Mix well and set aside in the refrigerator. The filling can be made a day ahead.
For the Dough: In a large bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, salt, sugar, baking powder, and yeast together. Warm milk in a microwave, about 30 seconds. Stir half of the milk into the flour, combine with a spatula, then stir in the remaining milk until thoroughly combined. Knead until dough comes together, about 5 to 10 seconds. Transfer dough to a clean work surface and knead until the dough is smooth. Grease a bowl with oil, transfer the dough to the bowl, and cover with plastic wrapper. Let rest for 30 minutes.
To Assemble the Buns: Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Cut dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out one portion of dough into a 6-inch snake, and cut into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, flatten it with the palm of your hand, and roll the dough out with a small rolling pin until it is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.
Place about 1 tablespoon of the pork filling in the center of the dough round. Fold the dough up and around the filling, pleating and pinching around the top until sealed.
Place finished buns on a lightly greased plate, cover plate loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. The buns can be frozen at this point by spreading them on a parchment-lined baking sheet dusted with flour and freezing; transfer frozen buns to a zipper-lock bag for long-term freezer storage.
To cook fresh buns, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the buns in the pan, leaving 1/2 inch of space between each bun (work in batches if necessary). Pan-fry the buns until they start to turn lightly golden brown on the bottom, about 25 seconds. Pour 1/4 cup water into the skillet and cover immediately. Cook until the water completely evaporates, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the lid on the pan until the sizzling stops, about 30 seconds. Remove the lid, plate the buns, and serve immediately.
To cook frozen buns, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the frozen buns in the pan, leaving 1/2 inch of space between each bun (work in batches if necessary). Pan-fry the buns until they start to turn lightly golden brown on the bottom, about 25 seconds. Pour 1/4 cup water into the skillet and cover immediately. Cook until the water completely evaporates, about 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the lid on the pan until the sizzling stops, about 30 seconds. Remove the lid, plate the buns, and serve immediately.
Food processor, rolling pin, nonstick skillet
Make-Ahead and Storage
The buns can be frozen after the room-temperature rest in Step 7 by spreading them on a parchment-lined baking sheet dusted with flour and transferring to the freezer. Once frozen, move the buns to a zipper-lock bag for long-term storage.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 4g||6%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||7%|
|Total Carbohydrate 8g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|