You could eat those frozen Xiao Long Bao in exactly 12 minutes
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Every Lunar New Year, I make jiaozi using a recipe from my mother. The instructions contain the following sentence: “If you mince the pork yourself, make sure it is not too lean; need that fat,” and I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’ve never in my life ground my own meat. Although my dumplings aren’t as good as my Aunt Meng Tao’s, at this point my puckering is fine and my pork and shrimp filling is faultless (it’s very greasy, Mom). If there’s a bag of jiaozi in my freezer, it’s usually homemade.
Xiao long bao, however, is another matter. Of course, you can technically make soup dumplings at home. You can also technically make croissants, but we all have lives to lead and Euphoria to look at. Who has time to patiently boil pork skin and bones to make the rich, gelatinous “soup” filling – jiggly at room temperature, runny when heated? After at least two hours on the stove, it needs to be chilled for several more until set. And unlike jiaozi or wontons, store-bought wraps aren’t really an option. You’ll have to hand roll each piece of homemade dough individually and then master the delicate stretch and fold technique used to seal the baozi (Din Tai Fungthe famous dumplings require exactly 18 folds). I can make my own mix of babka and Japanese curry, but the xiao long bao is too much work even for me.
Fortunately, there is Xiao Chi Jie xiao long bao-or XCJ XLB, if you’re naughty. The Seattle-based company started out as a neighborhood restaurant, but when the pandemic hit, it turned to selling its cult-favorite soup dumplings frozen to steam at home. Each sachet contains 50 frozen xiao long bao the size of a tangerine. Put a few in your steamer (I prefer a traditional bamboo pile for that dim sum parlor smell, but you can customize your own setup), get your tablespoon, chopsticks, and black vinegar ready, and in 12 minutes your XLB is ready. I am a supporter of pork and shrimpif you’ve been paying attention, but the limited edition Year of the Tiger Crab and Pork Flavor is great too.
My mom can grind her own pork, but she’s a practical woman, not above cookie dough or store-bought salad dressing. I know she would approve of the bags of xiao long bao tucked away in my freezer, right next to my homemade jiaozi.