A Guide on How to Eat Soup Dumplings

by Ella

Soup dumplings, also known as xiao long bao, are a delectable and popular dish in Chinese cuisine. Originating from the Jiangnan region of China, these delicate dumplings are prized for their thin and translucent wrappers, juicy fillings, and most notably, the flavorful hot soup that awaits within. Eating soup dumplings is a culinary art that requires a delicate balance of technique and appreciation for the complex flavors they offer. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to eat soup dumplings, from handling the dumplings with care to savoring the unique taste experience they provide.

The Art of Handling Soup Dumplings:

1. Use Chopsticks:

When eating soup dumplings, it’s best to use chopsticks to handle them delicately. Using chopsticks allows you to pick up the dumplings without puncturing the thin wrappers, ensuring that the flavorful soup inside remains intact.


2. Be Gentle:

Soup dumplings are delicate creations, so handle them with care to avoid tearing or spilling the precious soup. Gently pick up the dumplings from the steamer or serving plate to maintain their shape and integrity.


3. Avoid Squeezing:

Resist the temptation to squeeze or press the dumplings before eating them. While it may be tempting to check for the soup inside, squeezing the dumplings can cause the soup to leak out, robbing you of the delightful taste experience.


The Ritual of Dipping:

1. Soy Sauce and Vinegar:

Dipping sauce plays a crucial role in elevating the flavors of soup dumplings. A classic dipping sauce consists of dark soy sauce, vinegar, and slivers of fresh ginger. The dark soy sauce adds depth and umami, while the vinegar provides a tangy contrast to the rich and savory dumplings. Add a touch of ginger for a hint of spiciness and freshness.


2. Customize to Taste:

Feel free to customize your dipping sauce by adjusting the ratio of soy sauce to vinegar to suit your taste preferences. Some may prefer a more robust flavor with a higher proportion of soy sauce, while others may favor a tangier sauce with more vinegar.

The Soup Dumpling Eating Process:

1.“Open the hatch” method

Place the soup dumpling on a spoon

Carefully bite the top off the dumpling – creating a small hole for steam to escape

Using a small spoon, pour vinegar into the dumpling through the newly created hole

Slurp up some (or all) of your new vinegary broth from the top of the soup dumpling

Finally eat the dumpling and remaining soup, and enjoy!

2. “Double dip” method

Pick up the soup dumpling and dip the base of the dumpling into the vinegar

Flip it over, dipping it again in the vinegar on its side

Place the soup dumpling upside down in a spoon, so the flat surface is facing up

Take a small bite from the edge of the soup dumpling and suck out the soup

Finally eat the remaining soup dumpling in one bite. Delicious!

3. “The dunk” method

Delicately pick up the soup dumpling and dunk the base into the vinegar

Place the soup dumpling on a spoon. To mix things up, place a few slivers of ginger on the dumpling before you eat it.

Eat in one go, letting the juices explode in your mouth … But be careful; it might be HOT!

Here is NOT TO DO to eat a soup dumpling:

Never just lift it up and put the whole thing in your mouth without draining the broth out first – your mouth WILL burn

Never try to use a fork and stab it like you might a regular dumpling – all that precious soup will be lost and you will be very sad

Never eat it in more than one bite. This bad boy is designed to be enjoyed in one bite! Of course, this rule doesn’t apply for bigger soup dumpling (or those giant ones that come with a straw, which I think is ludicrous, but let’s not get me started on that)

FAQs about soup dumplings

Q1. What are soup dumplings, and what makes them unique?

Soup dumplings, also known as xiao long bao, are a type of Chinese dumpling with a unique twist. Filled with flavorful broth, minced meat, and seasonings, they boast a delicate and thin wrapper. When steamed, the broth inside turns into a savory soup.

Q2. What dipping sauce pairs best with soup dumplings?

The dipping sauce that pairs best with soup dumplings is a classic combination of dark soy sauce, vinegar, and slivers of fresh ginger.

Q3. What is the proper technique for picking up soup dumplings with chopsticks?

The proper technique for picking up soup dumplings with chopsticks involves delicately gripping the dumpling’s top between the tips of the chopsticks, ensuring a secure hold without puncturing the thin wrapper. Gentle handling helps prevent spills and maintains the delightful soup-filled experience when eating the dumpling.

Q4. How do you avoid burning your mouth when eating hot soup dumplings?

To avoid burning your mouth when eating hot soup dumplings, let them cool slightly before taking a bite. Gently blow on the dumpling to release some of the heat, and take small, cautious bites. This allows the flavorful soup inside to cool down gradually, preventing burns and ensuring an enjoyable dining experience.

Q5. What are the different types of fillings you can find in soup dumplings?

In soup dumplings, the most common filling is a flavorful combination of ground pork, seasonings, and sometimes minced vegetables like ginger or green onions. However, variations exist with fillings such as shrimp, crab, or a mix of meat and seafood, offering a diverse range of taste experiences.

Q6. Are there any cultural traditions or etiquette associated with eating soup dumplings?

Yes, there are cultural traditions and etiquette associated with eating soup dumplings. In Chinese culture, it is customary to eat soup dumplings with chopsticks and a soup spoon. When eating the dumpling, it is polite to slurp the soup from the dumpling carefully before consuming the rest of the dumpling.

Q7. Are there vegetarian or vegan options for soup dumplings?

Yes, there are vegetarian and vegan options for soup dumplings. Instead of meat-based fillings, vegetarian versions often use a combination of vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, and other plant-based ingredients. Vegan soup dumplings may exclude animal-derived products like eggs in the wrapper dough and use plant-based alternatives for the soup and fillings.

Q8. How do you know when a soup dumpling is cooked properly?

A properly cooked soup dumpling will have a thin, translucent wrapper that holds its shape without being doughy or undercooked. The filling inside should be tender and fully cooked, and when you bite into the dumpling, the hot soup should burst out, providing a delightful and flavorful experience.

Q9. Can you freeze uncooked soup dumplings for later use?

Yes, uncooked soup dumplings can be frozen for later use. After assembling the dumplings, place them on a parchment-lined tray and freeze until firm. Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag for longer storage. When ready to cook, steam the frozen dumplings directly from the freezer, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time.

Q10. What are some variations of soup dumplings found in different regions or cuisines?

Some variations of soup dumplings found in different regions or cuisines include:

1. Shengjian bao: Pan-fried soup dumplings from Shanghai, China.

2. Xiaolong tangbao: Miniature soup dumplings also from Shanghai, China.

3. Wonton soup: Chinese wontons with a savory filling served in a clear broth.

4. Mandu-guk: Korean soup with dumplings called mandu.

5. Manti: Turkish dumplings often served with yogurt or tomato sauce.


Eating soup dumplings is a delightful and immersive culinary experience that demands a delicate touch and a keen appreciation for flavors. From handling the dumplings with care to savoring the rich and savory soup inside, each step is an integral part of the journey. By following the techniques and tips outlined in this guide, you can confidently enjoy the art of eating soup dumplings like a pro. So, the next time you sit down to savor these delicate creations, immerse yourself in the experience, and relish the delightful taste journey that soup dumplings have to offer.



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