Tenderly: My Quest for Vegan Soup Dumplings

I dreamed about meatless soup dumplings for years. I even fantasized about opening a food truck dedicated to the delicacy. Iā€™d perfect a version of the classic xiaolongbao, of course, but I also imagined little sacs of salty miso soup, filled with scallion, tofu, and seaweed, and pockets of sweet, luxurious onion soup. Last winter I finally purchased a little bamboo steamer at a kitchen supply store in Chinatown. I brought it home and installed it in the cabinet next to the bowls, where it sat untouched for months, a monument to my dormant culinary ambitions.

This summer I decided to actually follow through: First, to finally recreate the gush of salty, fatty broth when you bite into a soup dumpling, and the exquisite burst of black vinegar and ginger on the palate; and second, to test my reckless and thoroughly unfounded theory that agar agar, like a magic incantation, will transform most any soup into a dumpling filling. Read more…