PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

Behind the scenes at San Francisco's Dumpling Time, which serves super-sized xiao long bao

Sharon McDonnell
August 21, 2017

Dumpling Time, which opened in San Francisco in May, serves a twist on Shanghai-style soup dumplings (xiao long bao): a giant dumpling the size of the bamboo steamer it’s served in. They call it the King-Dum, and it comes with a fat straw to suck out the hot soup. The four-inch-wide, six-ounce dumpling, stuffed with ground pork belly and soup, sells for $8. 

Edgar Agbayani, executive chef for the restaurant group that owns Dumpling Time, says he thought up the catchy name for the super-sized dumpling with some friends. “Kash Feng [the co-owner] gave me free rein with the menu from the start. The pre-requisite was that the dumpling have a thin skin, thinner than at other restaurants. I first tried making it with a charcoal bamboo skin, but the black color was too intimidating, then a green spinach skin, but decided to go with the traditional skin.”

Dumpling Time was kind enough to reveal the keys to its King-Dum on a recent visit. Here's how they make these massive soup dumplings.

photo by sharon mcdonnell

First, the soup filling, which is chicken broth mixed with gelatin, is made the day before, cooled into big slabs, and ground into chunks.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

Flour and water is mixed so the dough reaches the desired springy consistency.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

Dumpling chef Alan Luong shapes the dough into long logs in the glassed-in prep area. Then, he cuts the dough logs into small slices. 

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

He rolls out the dough slices into round crepe-like shapes with a thin roller.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

He folds the soup-gelatin mix into the raw pork belly, coarsely ground into quarter-inch pieces and seasoned with salt, sugar, ginger, and chopped green onions.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

He places a round ball of pork-soup filling in the center of each round dough wrapper.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

He closes the dough wrapper and makes 18-19 pinches on the sides.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

Each King-Dum is placed in a bamboo steamer basket that fits the opening on a seven-eyed steamer, surrounded by continually running tap water.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

Check out the normal-sized soup dumplings next to the king-sized variety.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

The King-Dums steam for 12 minutes. When done, they expand to fill the entire basket.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

The King-Dum is ready. After sprinkling rose and carnation petals on top, and placing a dish under the basket to catch leaking soup, Chef Agbayani beams at Dumpling Time’s star menu item.

PHOTO BY SHARON MCDONNELL

The proper way to eat a King-Dum: Sip the soup first. Man, it’s hot.  

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