What Are Soup Dumplings Called In China? – Xiao Long Bao

Chinese cuisine is easily one of the most popular in the world. This is mainly because most of their foods and recipes date back centuries, so they have had time to develop and become world-class dishes. The foods range from savory stews, and savory pastries, to sweet desserts, fresh salads, umami-packed soups, and others.

Soup dumplings are something of a staple in China and in many other parts of Asia. They make an excellent snack, accompaniment, or dish on their own. The recipe is fairly simple, but they are delectable and full of flavor when they are made well. So, what are soup dumplings, what are they called in China, and how can you make them at home? Here goes.

What are Chinese Soup Dumplings?

xiaolongbao shanghai
xiaolongbao shanghai

Chinese soup dumplings, otherwise referred to as Xiao Long Bao in China, are a type of Dim Sum made from different types of filling that range from beef, mutton, pork, chicken, mushrooms, and other savory foods. Traditionally, it is made from pork or shrimp. The filling is placed inside a paper-thin sheet of kneaded dough made from wheat, then it is steamed.

One of the features that make it a unique dumpling is that it contains savory soup inside. Typically, dumplings are made using a dry but moist filling. This particular type is referred to as soup dumplings because it contains some soup inside the dumpling.

Why is it called Xiao Long Bao?

small steamed bun

The name Xiao Long Bao loosely translates to a small basket bun. The main reason why these small buns are referred to as such is the fact that the contents are put in a thin doubt sheet which is then shaped into a tiny round structure that resembles a basket. Additionally, they are served in small traditional baskets, hence the name.

The sealing technique is quite intricate, and it takes a bit of time to master so as to deliver the desired effect.

Types of Xiao Long Bao

crab soup dumplings
crab soup dumplings

As earlier mentioned, Xiao Long Bao is traditionally made from savory meats, particularly pork and crab meat. For this reason, there are two main types of Xiao Long Bao, and they are pork soup dumplings and crab soup dumplings.

Xiao Long Bao History

Who invented Xiao Long Bao?

According to legend, the Xiao Long Bao is said to have been invented by a Chinese restaurant owner called Huang Mingxian. He is said to have come up with the creative filling by adding aspic to the meat. When the bun was steamed, the aspic would turn into soup, hence the soup inside a dumpling. It is said that the perfect xiao long bun has 18 folds at the top to seal the entire bun and to keep the soup from spilling.

When was the xiao long bao invented?

According to legend, Huang Mingxian invented the now popular xiao long bao in 1870. He went on to perfect the recipe with time, and that is how it became the masterpiece it is today.

Where did xiao long bun originate?

This bun originated in Changzhou which is a city in the Jiangsu province located in the eastern coastal part of China. It has, since its invention, gained popularity and is now enjoyed in different parts of China, Asia, and the whole world.

What is Xia Long Bao made of?

pork soup dumplings

As earlier mentioned, this bun is made of pork filling and rich aspic, all wrapped up in a paper-thin pouch made from either leavened or unleavened wheat dough. The bun gets its flavors from aromatics such as garlic, ginger, scallions, and others.

How is Xiao Long Bao made?

Below is a detailed recipe.


For the aspic;

  • Chicken backs
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Spring onions
  • Shaoxing wine (optional)

For the xiao long bao

  • Ground pork 450g
  •  Shaoxing wine 1 tbsp
  • Sesame oil ½ tsp
  • Salt ¾ tsp
  • Sugar ¾ tbsp
  • Light soy sauce 3 tsp
  • Water 3 tbsp
  • Ground white pepper 1 pinch
  • Minced ginger 1 tbsp
  • 1 cup aspic, finely diced

For the wrapper

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Warm water 6 tbsp


  1. Start by preparing the aspic.
  2. Add the chicken backs into a Dutch oven or a heavy cooking pot. Add your aromatics and cover the pot.
  • Roast the chicken backs over the fire until you have about ½ cup of aspic.
  • Set the pot aside to cool, and once the liquid is congealed, scrap the fat off, then collect the gelatin and slice it into small pieces.
  • Prepare the filling.
  • Start by making a batch of ginger water.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ginger water, pork, and other seasonings. Beat everything well until it is incorporated and the meat becomes somewhat springy.
  • Add in the aspic and spring onion and mix well.
  • Prepare the dough
  • Add the flour into a bowl and pour in the warm water one tablespoon at a time as you knead. Knead the dough for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and smooth.
  • Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the dough into small pieces of 10 to 11 grams then roll each piece into a thin disc of 3 to 3 ½ inches in diameter.
  • Assemble the xiao long bao
  • Into each dough disc, add a tablespoon of filling, then wrap the buns by making pleats along the circumference of the dough. Be sure to leave a tiny opening at the top to allow steam to go out as the buns cook.
  • Place the finished buns in a bamboo steamer basket and cook the buns for about 15 minutes.

How to eat Xiao Long Bao

To eat these dumplings, use a soup spoon to carefully lift one. Make a small hole on the side to let the soup run out. Take a bite of the dumpling and slurp the soup on the soup spoon. If you do not mind piping hot dumplings, you can have them in one bite with the soup inside. This may, however, scald your mouth.

Are Xiao Long Bao healthy?

Yes, they are. They are protein and calcium-packed, and they are great to have for breakfast.

What is the difference between Xiao Long Bao and Dumplings?

The main difference is that xiao long bao contains soup inside, but dumplings are mainly served over soup, and they are dry (but moist) inside.


If you are looking to have a taste of China, this is an easy way of getting there. Xiao long bao are easy to make, they are delectable, and can be had at any time of day. They definitely are worth the fuss.

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