Chinese Soup Dumplings (Xiǎo Lóng Bāo): What They Are and How to Eat

If you haven’t tried Chinese Soup Dumplings, you’re missing out.

For many novices, it’s a mind-blowing experience the first time they try Chinese Soup Dumplings. It’s not just the dough stuffed with meat that’s a winning combination. It’s also the special ingredient – the soup that spills out as you bite into one.

What is a Chinese Soup Dumpling (xiǎo lóng bāo 小笼包)?

Chinese Soup Dumplings (xiǎo lóng bāo 小笼包) are a type of steamed bun with a pleated wrap that is associated with Shanghainese or Wuxi style cuisine. They’re made with a thin flour dough and stuffed with meat and aspic. Aspic is the “soup” part of the dumpling; it’s a savory jelly made with meat stock that liquifies when heated. It’s possible to make a vegetarian version of these dumplings, but the most common filling is pork. Some people also use seafood.

The Chinese traditionally cook the dumplings in xiǎo lóng, or small bamboo steaming baskets (thus the name xiǎo lóng bāo where bāo means “to wrap”). Chinese Soup Dumplings are served with Chinese black vinegar with thin slices of ginger.

Note that Chinese Soup Dumplings are not the same as jiao zi (potstickers/dumplings) which do not contain soup and hold a different shape. The recipe for jiao zi is different than for Chinese Soup Dumplings.

Chinese Soup Dumplings
Chinese Soup Dumplings from Din Tai Fun in Shanghai.

How to Eat Chinese Soup Dumplings

There is a proper way to eat Chinese Soup Dumplings. Get a pair of chopsticks and a Chinese soup spoon. Do NOT use a fork as this will poke holes into the dumpling, and the soup will escape. A Chinese soup spoon works better than a western spoon because it has a large flat surface – perfect for holding the dumpling and catching the soup.

A properly made Chinese Soup Dumpling will hold the soup until it is bitten. Use chopsticks to grab the top of the dumpling from the steamer basket. Dip it in Chinese black vinegar before transferring it to the Chinese soup spoon. The top of the dumpling where the pleats come together is thicker, so it’s less likely to break and inadvertently release the soup.

Take a small bite out of the side of the Chinese Soup Dumpling to release the steam as the broth may otherwise scald. Some soup may spill out onto the spoon. Just slurp it out, and sip out the rest from the hole in the dumpling. Proceed to consume the rest of the dumpling.

Chinese Soup Dumpling Din Tai Fung Bicultural Mama
Kitchen staff at Din Tai Fun in Shanghai create Chinese Soup Dumplings from scratch.

Making Chinese Soup Dumplings

Making Chinese Soup Dumplings is like an art – not just for the taste buds, but also for aesthetic (round with perfect pleats) and functional reasons (no one wants dumplings that fall apart). Creating them at home is possible, but time-consuming. For those who want to attempt it, here’s a recipe from The Woks of Life.

An easier option is to leave it to the experts. Many Chinese restaurants offer Chinese Soup Dumplings on their menus. Some specialize in them. A popular restaurant found in many countries that specializes in these dumplings is Din Tai Fung. At these restaurants, patrons can watch the kitchen staff create Chinese Soup Dumplings from scratch. It’s incredible to see how quickly they make each one, and how perfect they all look. The flavor is even better.

Don’t miss out on this must-try dish. Once you try Chinese Soup Dumplings, you’ll always crave them!

Chinese New Year takes place on February 16, 2018. Celebrations include eating symbolic foods, such as dumplings. Read more about Chinese New Year here. This post was written as part of Multicultural Kid Blog’s Chinese New Year Series. 


Chinese New Year | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fourth annual Chinese New Year blog hop! Lunar New Year, more commonly known as Chinese New Year, starts on February 16. It is the beginning of the Year of the Dog, and we have lots of great ideas for celebrating it with kids! Don’t miss our series from last year, 2016 and 2015, and you can find even more on our Chinese New Year Pinterest board:


Participating Blogs

Creative World of Varya on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Earth Dog Year Fun Facts
Bicultural Mama: Chinese Soup Dumplings (Xiǎo Lóng Bāo): What They Are and How to Eat
Crafty Moms Share: The Year of the Dog
Miss Panda Chinese: Lucky Dumplings Symbolic Meaning, Names, and Recipe
Creative World of Varya: Fun Facts About Teaching in China
the gingerbread house: Simple Chinese New Year Lantern Craft for Kids to Make
ChrissyJee.com: Healthy Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year


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