I have seen many a tourist fall victim to the piping-hot soup inside a xiao long bao. When eating these little dumplings, always cradle them in a soup spoon before biting into them and slurping up the molten stock. Trying to eat them using only chopsticks will almost definitely result in a hot-soup-in-your-lap situation. So cradle, bite, slurp. If the soup is still too hot after you bite into the dumpling, let it leak out into the spoon, where it can cool down ever so slightly.
First, make the jellied stock. Put the stock and agar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl or plastic container and refrigerate until set, about 4–6 hours. I like to do this the day before.
To make the mince filling, combine the drained soy mince, spring onions, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and ginger in a bowl. Take the jellied stock out of the fridge and cut it into small cubes, then stir into the mince mixture.
Line the base of a steamer basket with Chinese cabbage leaves or baking paper and set it over a pan of boiling water. Take a dumpling skin and put it on the palm of your hand. Place a scant tablespoon of the mince and jelly filling in the middle. Use the fingers of your free hand to wet the perimeter of the wrapper, then gather up the edges and pleat together at the top of the dumpling, pressing the wet edges together to seal.
Working in batches, place the dumplings in the steamer basket, leaving about 2.5 cm between them. Steam for 10 minutes, then serve warm, with a dipping sauce of black vinegar or soy sauce and slivers of ginger.
* I do not recommend using shop-bought dumpling skins for soup dumplings, as they are too thin.
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