Types of Sauce for Soup Dumplings
A soup dumpling without sauce to pair with it is like Bert without Ernie—sure, you can have one without the other, but they just work better together. That’s why it’s a great idea to find a sauce for soup dumplings that perfectly suits your palate.
Here’s a primer on what you need to know to zhuj up your soup dumpling experience with the perfect sauce.
Flavor Profiles of Soup Dumpling Sauces
Soup dumplings themselves are a savory, meaty, umami experience with light but complex flavor profiles in their own right. However, several different flavors complement the fillings in our soup dumplings perfectly, each one adding a unique depth to your Xiao Long Bao experience.
The law of “opposites attract” is hard at work here. Because soup dumplings have a pleasant rich flavor in their own right, topping them with an acidic sauce made with vinegar is a great way to balance out the flavors. That way, the acidity cuts through the umami flavor in a way that allows it to still shine through in every bite.
This combination is responsible for the same reason Buffalo wings are so deliciously addictive. Using spicy sauces like chili oil with soup dumplings allows the savory flavors in the broth and filling to shine. Together, they create a flavor experience with more than enough sass to keep things interesting with every bite.
We count mala (麻辣) as a different flavor subset that is distinct from ordinary spice. Derived from Sichuan peppercorn and chili, in addition to the spicy heat involved, there are also tingly, numbing elements that make mala a flavor all its own.
Sichuan peppercorns are tiny powerhouses that are responsible for that tingling sensation in everything from chili oil to mapo tofu.
A Note on Soy Sauce
Contrary to some common misconceptions, soy sauce typically isn’t a great pairing for soup dumplings on its own.
While we’re certainly not going to stop you if you do (more power to you), the salty flavor of soy sauce tends to clash with the salty, rich broth inside the soup dumpling. Therefore, the delicate flavor of the dumpling quite literally gets lost in the sauce.
If you’re looking for a balanced flavor that provides elements of the salty experience though, we offer an alternative that won’t compete quite as much with your late-night dumpling snack. Let’s start with one of our favorites.
Some of Our Favorite Sauces for Soup Dumplings
Black Vinegar for Soup Dumplings
These two are like the Jay-Z and Beyoncé of the dumpling world—a true power couple. They’re also the most traditional way of enjoying soup dumplings, alongside thin slices of fresh ginger.
Zhenjiang black vinegar (鎭江香醋) originated in the eastern Chinese city of the same name and is made with black sticky rice and other grains. It’s also had 1,500 years to perfect itself into a condiment that adds acidity and a subtle sweetness to countless Chinese dishes. While it was once reserved only for royal officials and the ridiculously wealthy, it’s now considered a kitchen staple that can be found in practically every Chinese parent’s kitchen arsenal.
If you’re a sucker for a good soup dumpling like us, you also might have a jar of black vinegar waiting in the wings. If you’ve been enjoying your dumplings plain, we offer our own brand of classic black vinegar that will be your new go-to.
This tangy sauce slices through our umami-packed dumpling filling like a hot knife through butter, making for a perfectly balanced pair and an out-of-this-world dining experience, whether it’s time for an early brunch or a 3 a.m. late-night munchy.
Ginger Scallion Oil
Originating in Guangzhou, ginger scallion oil is a great way to get a taste of Cantonese cuisine in a few drops of sauce. After all, it perfectly captures the flavorful, fragrant dishes that are popular both in the region and in Chinese communities worldwide.
If you want to turn your soup dumplings into an umami explosion, it’s hard to go wrong with ginger scallion oil. Infusing the bold flavor of ginger with green scallions, this sauce goes with just about every situation under the sun and brings out the best in your dumpling experience.
We have our own take on this sauce, where we took a cue from Hainanese chicken rice sauce to bring out the flavors in our soup dumplings. And, it paid off—it’s now our best-selling condiment!
Using soybean and sesame oil as a base, chili crunch oil (or “chili crunch” for short) is a Sichuan-inspired blend, featuring 12 unique spices—with an extra-crunchy texture—that creates a tingly, spicy sensation that spreads over the whole tongue. It’s been popular all across China for centuries, where chefs from different regions all put their own spin on the recipe.
Since then, this fragrant, spicy oil has been enjoying a long spell in the limelight, and with good reason. It has earned a reputation in the West as being “delicious on anything,” including curries, pizza, and even the occasional charcuterie plate. The same holds true in China. Some fans will use it for everything from sauce for dumplings to part of their hotpot recipe.
However, we can’t help being a little biased—we love pairing our soup dumplings with chili crunch. Our handcrafted chili crunch is among the best, with its savory roasted flavor; bright, garlicky aroma; and tantalizing crunch.
Spicy Tomato Sauce for Soup Dumplings
If you’ve ever had Tibetan or Nepalese momos, this option might taste familiar. Following the idea of using acidic flavors like vinegar, a tomato-based sauce will cut through the umami of the soup dumplings the same way. This tomato sauce is spicy, tangy, and garlicky in a way seldom achieved by anyone other than Tibetan grandmas who have been making it alongside beef or chicken momos their whole lives.
However, this spicy tomato sauce is also pretty easy to make at home if you want to try crafting your own version of the recipe. You’ll just need these ingredients:
- Tomato puree
- Minced garlic cloves
- Minced ginger
- Fresh chopped chilis
- Salt and sugar to taste
Simply blend the ingredients like a salsa and you’ll be on your way to a deliciously hot paradise. The tomatoes add an acidity that balances out with the rich, meaty filling inside a soup dumpling for a flavor experience that is both unusual and unforgettable.
This one might sound like fighting fire with fire since peanut butter has savory elements to it as well, but we’ve tried it—and it works beautifully, especially when you pan-fry our soup dumplings. The creamy savory elements of the peanuts are just one level of the flavor depths in this sauce.
Combine our chili crunch with creamy peanut butter, light soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic to provide a vinegary contrast with just enough of a sweet-and-spicy kick. This will take your dumplings up a notch while impressing your date if you bring them back to your place after date night. Talk about a way to show that you’re partner material!
Tangy-Spicy Dumpling Sauce
Think of this as the Swiss Army knife of dumpling sauces—it’s a multipurpose sauce that works with everything from jiaozi (饺子) and shumai (烧卖) to our soup dumplings. It’s spicy, sweet, and salty, with just enough tang to bring it all together.
The Woks of Life created this sauce for themselves using sugar, rice vinegar, chili oil, soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil.
This sauce is also the exception that proves our rule about using soy sauce for soup dumplings. Sure, it’s in the recipe, but it’s just one of the key players alongside our chili oil and rice vinegar. It all combines into a deep flavor that makes every bite of our soup dumplings into a symphony.
Let Your Dumplings Take a Dip Today
Don’t have any of the sauces we mentioned here at home? We can help you fix that—pick out your favorite sauce or order all three members of our Sauce Trio and start completing your dumpling experience today!