Chinese soup dumplings are an absolute masterpiece. We’re so passionate about them we even wrote a guide on how to eat them properly a few years back. But, unfortunately for most of us, this is a food that has to be eaten on the spot, fresh out of a steamer, because otherwise they don’t fare so well, especially frozen. And since eating at a restaurant has been such a dicey situation this year, I haven’t been able to treat myself to any for a long time now. (That being said, Trader Joe’s frozen version is very palatable, though the dough is thick.)
Food & Wine delves into how one company, Xiao Chi Jie, is refining the art of shipping them directly to your door. This is a total novelty, because soup dumplings’ thin skins mean that the at-home reheating process can cause them to tear open while the liquid in the center deflates.
Xiao Chi Jie first started in Bellevue, Washington. The company got its start making sheng jian bao, a pan-fried cousin to steamed xiao long bao dumplings. The operation figured out how to freeze the dumplings, going on to deliver them locally. As a year went by, Xiao Chi Jie eventually transformed the process with packaged goods that could be packed on dry ice and shipped across the country. After a ton of trial and error, including testing with different meats and vendors, the dumpling makers discovered that the actual key was to talk to customers and find out what was working and what wasn’t. Because they make dumplings in small batches, the next shipment can be adjusted quickly, and if any mistakes happen, the group immediately sends out another batch.
Co-founder Caleb Wang told Food & Wine that, unlike the makers of mass-manufactured versions, which are frozen rapidly with liquid nitrogen, Xiao Chi Jie is able to use a slower freezing process, which in turn allows the brand to use a thinner, more delicate dough than big factory-level operations use. The company is planning on delving into vegetarian dumplings next, a task that will pose its own challenges. The gelatin that holds the original dumplings together is meat-based, so to find a suitable way to do this is going to take some work. Great. Now I’m craving soup dumplings.