Recipes III: Shanghai-style Xiōngbù Bao

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Dear Patrons,

Herein lies an unconventional Easter-themed update but I cannot resist the temptation to tie in the theme of the rabbit to the past Carte du Jour 251: The Tigress and the Hare along with a very special "Recipe". 

Happy belated Good Friday and have a wonderful Easter Sunday, everybody!

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These notes I have written down to the best of my ability as the Matron had been quite dismissive in sharing her knowledge with me. Her grand-daughter did reiterate that it was more due to her assiduous nature and not wanting to be interrupted in her kitchen rather than some attempt of keeping culinary secrets. We begin with the dish she calls "Xiōngbù Bao" or "Breast Dumpling".


The jelly-like filling that makes up the soupy dumpling broth is referred to aspic or "jelly broth". The special main ingredient is harvested from the severed mammaries of the subject, comprised mainly of the skin, meat and breast fat. Due to the richness and fattiness of the contents, I noticed the Matron adding strips of rib meat I believe was to to balance the texture depending on personal preference. The subjects breasts I had been told by the grand-daughter may also contain traces of milk for a creamier broth which I found both creative and fascinating.

These contents were then diced and added into a cast-iron Dutch oven filled with purified water and added with an aromatic blend of Shaoxing rice wine, salt, sugar, light soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, ginger and Szechuan peppercorn seeds and then put to boil for about 5-8 minutes. The contents had then been refrigerated overnight. A pool of liquid had congealed and a layer of fat formed at the top which were then scraped off that only the gelatinous part remains. The fat scrapings were kept later to be added into the mix if a texture rebalancing of the broth and filling were to be needed. These jelly-like broth substance again were diced into smaller portions and chilled once more in the fridge for another 2 days.

Szechuan Rump

During this time, the Matron had prepared large portion of rump roast carved from one of the hindquarters of the young woman which had been left marinading in rice wine and fat and chili sesame oil. Usually one would trim the fat from the rump but the Matron had left most of that in, using the rich textures to coat the tougher rump meat and rendering it tender. As the richness of the flavour would still be empowering, she made ready a serving of rice to even out the rich nature of the dish. With this dish the Matron used a recipe of spicy Szechuan peppercorns along with Bell Peppers and roast cashew nuts along with a combination of shallots, dried chili, sugar, oyster sauce. The details of this recipe I will include in an addendum as I return to the unique recipe at hand, which is the Breast Dumpling.


It was time for the "secret sauce" which makes the Matron's Breast Dumpling dish unique. First, she prepared a batch of ginger water adding to that some seasoning and some ground strips of rib meat. The mixture was beaten until everything had been fully absorbed and the meat becomes springy. And then, the aspic jelly and some green onions were added into the mix until once again the concoction had been stored in the fridge again while the dumpling's dough itself is being assembled.


Slowly some purified water had been drizzled into the dough and mix. Hot water first, and cold water later. Then, the dough was knead by  hand until a firm consistent smooth texture is formed. The matron had let the dough rest for a while and later rolled the dough into a long log-shape which were then cut in half and worked on one at a time until ultimately, each pair ended up as one very thin wrapper. Here is when the filling of the aspic jelly had been added into the dough and wrapped by making pleats tightened into a nub. I was reminded that it very much looked like a pair of breasts topped with a nipple at the end. I'd noticed she left a small opening at the top to release the steam without causing the buns to burst. Inside a bamboo steamer, she laid the buns on a pair of parchment paper and let steam.

The firm breast-fat and meat jelly filling under the heat of the steam will eventually transform into liquid broth inside the thin dough wrapping like soup inside a paper basket. It only takes a little less than 10 minutes of steaming before the dumpling is considered cooked. Finally, the "nipple" of the dumpling had been closed off by being coated with brown sugar and syrup which had been caramelized in a style of brulée with a torch and then served.

Chinese black vinegar and ginger slices make for great companion flavor enhancements for this dish.


II. ALTERNATIVE RENDERINGS (2 color alternate versions)


III. SUPPLEMENTARY SKETCHES (5 black & white sketches)

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