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Shanghai steamed soupy buns

By Nina Simonds
Globe Correspondent / January 21, 2009

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Makes 28

Many dumpling shops use a flour and water dough to make the dumplings. This version uses a leavened dough, which tends to hold the soupy filling better. Allow several hours for the filling to chill before wrapping.

Sesame oil (for brushing)
1 pound ground pork butt or shoulder (better a little fatty than too lean)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Savory aspic (see recipe)
Dumpling dough (see recipe)
Flour (for rolling)
1/2 cup Chinjiang or Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon thinly shredded fresh ginger
1. Have on hand a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, a large wok or round Dutch oven, and 1 or 2 Chinese steamer trays with a lid. Line the steamer trays with parchment paper. Brush the paper lightly with sesame oil.

2. With a cleaver or large knife, chop the ground pork until very fine and fluffy.

3. In a bowl, combine the pork, soy sauce, scallion, chopped ginger, and sesame oil. Add the savory aspic and stir until evenly mixed. Transfer to the baking dish and set aside until cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

4. Cut the pork mixture into 28 squares.

5. Roll the dough under your palms into a snake-like roll about 12 to 14 inches long. Cut in half and cut each half into 14 pieces. Cover the dough with a lightly damp kitchen towel.

6. On a lightly floured counter, set a piece of dough cut edge down. Flatten and press it into a circle. Using a small rolling pin or your fingers, roll out or shape the dough until it is about 3 inches in diameter. The edges should be thinner than the center. Continue with the remaining pieces of dough.

7. Place 1 portion the meat filling in the center of a circle. Holding the dough in one hand, press gently down on the filling with the thumb, use your thumb and index finger of the other hand to fold and pleat the edges of dough. Rotate in a circle as you work; pleating the dough to enclose the filling. Pinch and twist edges together to seal in a topknot.

8. Arrange buns about 1 inch apart on the oiled paper in the steamer trays, pinched side up.

9. Fill the wok or Dutch oven one-third full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the buns to the steamer trays. Steam buns, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until doubled in size and firm to the touch (see note, below).

10. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the black vinegar and shredded ginger. Serve the buns with the dipping sauce.

Note: Stack the steamer trays on top of one another and cover the top with the lid. During steaming, alternate the position of trays to ensure even cooking. If only one rack is available, refrigerate the second batch of dumplings until ready to cook; steam cold buns 11 to 13 minutes.