If I have one addiction, it’s my pho dependency. When it’s freezing out and my boyfriend and I are suffering from a case of the Canadian winter blues, I prescribe pho. When the thought of making a meal is just too much for either of us, I suggest pho. When our fridge is inhabited by nothing but questionable apples, I think pho. I swear it’s a sickness. I can’t go seven days without it! I even sought out pho when we were in Barcelona and Paris. But as addictions go, a pho addiction is fairly nondestructive, but it is a bit monotonous for the poor man who has to have dinner with me night after night. As a result, I’m always looking for ways to get my pho fix without putting my dude to sleep. Today’s Pho Soup Dumplings are one such mutation.
Soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, are generally the first thing I order when I sit down at a Dim Sum restaurant. As with anything I can’t get enough of, I’ve always wanted to make them at home but they seemed too labor-intensive, even for me. Typically when you’re making soup dumplings you make the broth from scratch using collagen-rich animal parts and a great deal of patience. My lack of patience and laziness (pigs feet require a special trip) left me woefully unqualified to take this kitchen project on. So, for the longest time, these perfect bundles remained a restaurant-only indulgence.
Luckily, I came across an ultra-convenient shortcut in one of my many Lucky Peach magazines. Gelatine sheets! Yes, adding bloomed gelatin sheets to effortless over the counter stock would give me the meat jelly of my dreams. I, of course, amped up my store bought beef stock by simmering it with the tell-tale spices of pho. But after an hour of gently simmering the broth in a cocktail of star anise, ginger, and black cardamom, I followed Lucky Peach’s directions to a tee. And behold, pho-flavour beef gelatine ready for dumplings.
For the meat filling, I went the pho bo (beef pho) route and opted for ground beef instead of the ground pork typically used in xiao long boa. I flavored the meat with the herbs you would typically use to garnish a bowl of pho, as well as hoisin, soy sauce, and sambal oelek. I cannot stress enough how well this worked out. The pho-centric soup base and meat filling wrapped in a Chinese dumpling skin confused my brain in the most wonderful way. These Pho Soup Dumplings really tasted like a bowl of pho, but with the pleasing contrast of textures that make xiao long bao so appealing.
Okay, now for the hard part: folding your dumplings. I’m not going to lie if you’ve never folded this kind of dumpling before you will curse, laugh and cry your way through it. I would offer advice but I am very much a beginner, myself. I feel I am only qualified to tell you it’s not impossible to fold these Pho Soup Dumplings. See this video for a hand-holdy walkthrough of the process. And watch this video for #dumplinggoals – I still can’t believe it’s in slo-mo.
Go forth and try your hand at these exceptionally tasty Pho Soup Dumplings. They are well worth the curse words.
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1/4 white onion
- 2-inch knob ginger
- 4 pods black cardamom
- 4 pods star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 7 black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon demerara sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2 sheets of gelatine
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 pound (0.4-0.5 kg) lean ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
- Fresh ground pepper
- Place onion and ginger unpeeled on a baking sheet under a broiler. Broil for 10 minutes. Peel off the skin and place the onion and ginger on a piece of cheese cloth. Add the black cardamom, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds. Wrap the cloth into a bundle and secure it with some butcher's twine.
- Place broth, spice bundle, soy sauce, sugar and fish sauce in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave the broth to simmer for 1 hour or until reduced by half.
- Bloom gelatine sheets in cold water until soft. Wring out the sheets to removed excess moisture and add them to the broth. Remove the broth from the heat and stir until the gelatine dissolves.
- Pour the broth into a hotel pan or a casserole dish and refrigerate for 1 hour or until set.
- Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine. Add hot but not boiling water to the flour mixture and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and silky. This should take some time. Don't be discouraged if your dough is lumpy, just keep kneading.
- Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for an hour before using.
- Place all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir using chopsticks, so you don't over-mix. A light film will form on the side of the bowl when the meat mixture is mixed enough. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Roll your dumpling skin dough into an 18-inch snake. Cut the snake into 18 1-inch pieces. Form each piece into a circle-shape using your fingers. With a well-floured rolling pin or better yet a dumpling dowel, roll each piece into a circle about 4-inches in diameter. It should be slightly see-through. Make sure the edges are particularly feathery.
- Take the soup base out of the refrigerator and cut it into cubes using cross-hatch motion. Add the cubes to the filling and stir lightly until just combined.
- Place 1 tablespoon of the finished filling into the centre of a dumpling skin and pleat in a circular motion until sealed. Repeat until all of the skins are filled. See this video for tips.
- Place finished dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with napa cabbage leaves or parchment steamer liners. Fit the steamer in a wok with 3-inches of boiling water. Steam dumplings for 8 minutes. Serve finished dumplings with black vinegar, chilli oil and soy sauce.