Last week we took another cooking class (although the first one was a baking class with Colette) at Sur la Table at The Grove/Farmers’ Market. David was interested in knowing how to make XLB or what we (in my culture call xiao long baos 小籠包). They’re soup baos (not to be confused with English or American dumplings or Chinese dumplings 餃子) filled with pork filling that’s usually mixed with green onions, ginger, soy sauce, and sometimes leek or or other vegetables. They are a type of steamed bun (baozi) from the Jiangnan region of China, especially associated with Shanghai and Wuxi. It is traditionally prepared in xiaolong, small bamboo steaming baskets. Xiao long bao originated in Nanxiang, a suburb of Shanghai in Jiading District. The inventor of xiao long bao sold them in his first store in Nanxiang next to the town’s notable park, Guyi Garden. From there the xiao long bao expanded into downtown Shanghai and outward.
I thought the class was going to be similar to the macaron class that we took last month, but it definitely was a little more different than I thought. We were introduced to our chef, Rochelle that was going to be teaching us that day. I had in mind that the class was going to be closer to 3 hours and we’d learn how to make the skin from scratch then the filling, but it wasn’t so. Most of the ingredients were already prepped ahead of time. The skin’s dough was already made and ready. Chef Rochelle taught us how to roll out the skin before following with the filling lesson. Like the skin, the filling ingredients were mostly prepared for us. They included: gelatinous (created from the pig’s collagen) soup, ground pork, black vinegar, ginger and green onions. We peeled minced the ginger and diced the green onions before throwing it in the black vinegar with the gelatinous soup and ground pork.
After, Rochelle taught us how to pleat the soup baos– something that wasn’t new to me. I realized the class was very similar if not exactly the same as when I made dumplings at home with my family when I was a kid. I didn’t quite learn as much I wanted since everything I already knew. It wasn’t that I wanted to, but because of my prior experience, I excelled at pleating the baos that I ended up helping the other attendees as well. Even David found pleating difficult so he helped with rolling out the skin instead. We sort of created an assembly line of sorts where David rolled the skin and I put in the filling and finished it off before they were put into the steamer.
The ones we made looked nice, but when I took a taste-test bite I found the skin far too thick, but the filling was tender and juicy though and the ingredients for it was easy enough to purchase so perhaps I might try it again at home. The class ended up being only 2 hours long and we didn’t really get into HOW to actually make the skin so I was a little disappointed with that. Overall, I felt like I didn’t learn much from this class, but it was fun though! Rochelle was funny and very outgoing and made sure everyone was included in the class. Sur la Table classes are definitely something to try out for those that are interested in learning how to make new recipes!
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