Ever wondered how Din Tai Fung‘s legendary 18-fold soup dumplings aka xiao long bao 小笼包 are created? Well, I always have, so naturally, I was very excited to attend a special workshop at Din Tai Fung’s newest outlet in 313 @ Somerset!
The workshop started with demo by a master chef. A delectable soup dumpling starts with two simple basic ingredients: flour and water. This is a specially imported flour.
After kneading the dough, let it rest. When it has rested enough, the dough would look smooth and shiny. It would also be pliable enough to work with.
Cut the dough into sticks.
Roll each stick out into a thinner rod.
Divide the dough into 5-gram portions. The margin of difference can only be +0.1 or -0.1. This is to ensure consistency as well as quality.
Experienced chefs would be able to measure out the exact portion without the use of a weighing scale, but random checks are carried out regularly.
Press each piece down on the cut-side. This way, when you roll them out into wrappers, they’ll be circular.
Also, the edges should be thinner than the center. This way, after crimping the edges, the fold of skin at the top of the dumpling won’t be too thick.
The chef even showed us the special hand posture they use when shaping the dumpling. I tried bending my fingers into that position. It’s not easy!
Now, for the most exciting part! Holding our breaths, we carefully watched the expert fold 18 delicate pleats to seal the dumpling.
I’ve always wanted to know: Why 18 pleats? Why not 17, or 19?
The reason is: Fewer than 18, and the dumpling won’t look as good. More than 18, and the fold of skin will be too thick.
For this demo, instead of actual meat filling, the chef used red bean paste. That’s because raw meat filling is very tricky to handle, and we’ve not reached that level of expertise yet. So, beginners like us would practice with red bean paste.
Ta-dah! Doesn’t that look exquisite?
After steaming, this is what the actual xiao long baos would look like.
This is a typical scene at a bloggers event.
We had to shoot photos, listen to the commentary, and take mental notes — all at the same time!
Ok, after the demo, it was our turn to have a go at making xiao long bao ourselves!
Everything was already weighed and laid out for us. We just had to try rolling out the wrappers and wrap the dumplings.
That’s me rolling out the dough wrapper. Do you see that clear plastic disc next to the dumplings? We have to roll the wrapper out to the same size.
Guess which ones were made by me? The ugliest ones, of course, haha! The one on the right was made by the chef. See how tight and neat his pleats are.
Well, of course there’s no way I can reach his standard. Do you know how long Din Tai Fung chefs train to reach this level of skill and finesse? Two years!
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The art of xiao long bao is more than just creating those 18 pleats. A lot of work also goes into making the filling of flavorful broth and tender meat. That’s why most of us don’t make xiao long bao at home. It’s too tedious!
After our hands-on session, we were treated to a preview of Din Tai Fung’s new dishes at 313 @ Somerset.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 to see the dishes we sampled. Early birds will have a chance to win vouchers!