Fiona can make XiaoLongBao!

Unbelievable, isn't it! Xiao long bao (small steamer basket buns) are a delicious Shanghainese specialty beloved by everyone. Their thin but strong wrapping holds the most aromatic
mouthful of hot broth and pork, and I had wondered long and hard about how such a volume of liquid might manage to be encased in a soft dumpling wrapper. Since I first visited Shanghai I've been dreaming of making xiao long bao , but I considered them well beyond the reach of the average amateur cook (myself). But then I discovered a cooking school right here in the French Concession specialising in teaching foreigners the art of making dumplings.

Firstly, make a wheat flour and water dough. Knead the hell out of it to make it strong but stretchy. Divide into walnut sized pieces.

Roll out the dumpling wrappers until 6cm across.

Now for the really disgusting part. Fill your wrapper quite full with the secret mixture. This secret mixture (don't keep reading if you have a weak stomach. Or you are vegetarian) is pork mince mixed with a thick jelly made from boiling pork skin for hours, until it sets. At room temperature it's the colour and consistency of lard, yet is totally fat free! There has to be an advantage to outweigh the thought of eating dissolved pig skin. At high heat the jelly dissolves inside the dumpling, mingles with all the other ingredients and makes an amazingly delicious soup. And yes, I still keep eating them even though now I you ever think about those horses hoofs when you eat raspberry jelly? No!
So now, easy peasy, just pleat those little dumpling wrapper edges, oh, about eighteen times until it forms a tight spiral. Pinch to close. Steam for 10 minutes. Can you believe I made these little beauties?

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