If you’re like us, your favorite part of a meal at a Chinese restaurant is the “dumpling course.” And if you’re a fan of the traditional dumplings — bite-sized balls of dough filled with meat, vegetables, tofu, cheese or other fillings — you’ll definitely want to try soup dumplings, which feature a little broth tucked in with the meat. Soup dumplings boast a taste and mouth-feel unlike any other: Pop one in your mouth and you’ll experience a blast of warm broth and seasoned ground meat that will have your tastebuds doing a happy dance.
Soup dumplings used to be only available at Chinese restaurants that specialize in dim sum, a meal with an array of small dishes, including dumplings. But excellent quality frozen soup dumplings are now available at grocery stores and Asian specialty markets — and they’re easy to prepare if you know a few tricks.
We asked two professional chefs for their best tips for cooking frozen soup dumplings to perfection. Keep scrolling for their advice.
What are soup dumplings?
Soup dumplings are a type of steamed Chinese bun prepared in bamboo baskets. These dumplings are known as “Xiaolongbao” in Mandarin, which means “little basket bun.” Mike Futia, founder and editor-in-chief of GrillFrenzy.com, notes that soup dumplings traditionally contain a filling made of pork (sometimes with a mixture of crab meat and roe, the bright orange eggs found in female crabs), aspic (a gelatinous material made from a collagen-rich broth) and various seasonings. However, these days you can find soup dumplings filled with ground beef, chicken and/or shrimp.
The filling is placed onto a thin, round dumpling skin, which is wrapped around the mixture and pleated to seal the dumpling. After the dumplings are shaped, they’re steamed to melt the aspic inside so it turns into a liquid broth. Once cooked, these savory dumpling have a tender exterior and a soup-like interior.
Should I thaw soup dumplings before cooking?
Chef Nathaniel Lee, of MealPrepify.com, recommends thawing frozen soup dumplings overnight in the fridge. This step ensures the dumplings cook more evenly than if they were completely frozen. You can thaw frozen soup dumplings in their original package or place them on a plate uncovered.
How do I cook frozen soup dumplings?
To cook frozen soup dumplings, you can steam or pan-fry them depending on your preference. (Cooking them in the microwave isn’t recommended.) Each method has its benefits, but Futia’s number one rule is to give the soup dumplings enough room to cook. “They can stick together or to the surface they’re cooked on [if it’s overcrowded], and you might end up tearing them when trying to remove them, causing the soup to leak out,” he notes.
Below, he shares the three ways to cook frozen soup dumplings and tips for achieving delicious results every time:
How to steam soup dumplings if you love them soft
This is most traditional way of preparing soup dumplings because it preserves the integrity of the dumpling structure and the soup within it. You can steam the soup dumplings in a bamboo steamer, such as YUHO Asian Kitchen’s 8-inch Bamboo Steamer Basket (Buy from Amazon, $22.58) or any type of steamer basket you have on hand.
- Line the bottom of the steamer with 2 to 3 lettuce or cabbage leaves to prevent the dumplings from sticking.
- Place your desired amount of dumplings in the steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover with lid.
- Steam the dumplings for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Place your desired amount of thawed dumplings in a microwave-safe dish.
- Microwave them on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until they’re heated through.
How to pan-fry soup dumplings if you prefer a little crunch
You can also pan-fry the bottom of soup dumplings for a crunchy exterior.
- Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat.
- Once oil is heated, add your desired amount of soup dumplings and fry until the bottoms are crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, carefully add a splash of water and cover.
- Let the dumplings steam until water has evaporated.
How do I ensure my soup dumplings are fully cooked?
According to Lee, the best way ensure frozen soup dumplings are thoroughly cooked is to check the dough. “If it is soft and not translucent, then the dumplings are ready to eat,” he says. “You can also gently press the dumpling to see if the broth comes out. If it does, then the dumpling is cooked through.”
Be sure to keep an eye on the dumplings, as overcooking them can make them tough and rubbery.
What dipping sauces do you eat soup dumplings with?
Soup dumplings are delicious on their own, but they’re even better when served with condiments. Top picks include soy sauce for a salty kick, chili oil for spiciness or black vinegar for a rich, fruity flavor. You can also find ready-made dumpling sauces like Dumpling Daughter’s Spicy Sweet Soy Sauce (Buy from DumplingDaughter.com, $8.99), which boasts an aromatic, sweet and spiced taste.
How do you eat soup dumplings?
Now’s the fun part: eating the soup dumplings. While you’ll love savory and hearty flavors of these dumplings, the hot soup inside could burn your mouth if you’re not careful. So rather than biting into entire dumpling all at once, take your time to savor it.
In the video below, Chef Dr. Tom Lo, professional chef and partner at Chi Restaurant and Spy C Cuisine, guides you through the right way to eat soup dumplings to avoid the pain of a scorched tongue. All you need is a pair of chopsticks, a soup spoon (Buy from Amazon, $11.99) or regular wide spoon and black vinegar if you’d like (Buy from Walmart, $12.99).
- Using chopsticks, gently place one dumpling onto the spoon. Pour a small amount of vinegar onto the dumpling.
- Lift the dumpling and take a tiny bite out of one side to release the soup. Allow the soup to drain into the spoon.
- Carefully sip the hot soup before eating the rest of the dumpling in one bite.
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