Shu Mai with Pork and Shrimp

Dim Sum aficionados will certainly be familiar with the dumplings most commonly known by their Cantonese name ‘Shu Mai’. They also appear on menus as shui mai, shu mai, sui mai, shui mei, siu mai, shao mai, siew mai, or siomai, but in Mandarin they are simply known as shāomài, and their name in Chinese (燒賣), simply means ‘cook and sell’.

As dumplings go, these are amongst the most easily formed, simply being a basic open ended pouch containing a filling. There are plenty of regional variations, but the Cantonese versions are generally based on pork and shrimp. Other additions, can include mushroom, scallion, ginger, and even chopped scallops. Some are quite large, being more than a mouthful, but I like mine on the smallish side…

The Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Basic Hot Water Dough made with 1 cup of flour;
  • ½ lb. Ground Pork;
  • 1 dozen medium-large Shrimp;
  • 2 stalks scallion;
  • 1 dried Shiitake Mushroom;
  • 1 tbsp. Oyster sauce;
  • 1 tsp. Sugar;
  • ½ tsp. Salt;
  • ½ tsp. White Pepper;
  • Extra flour for rolling (not shown).

The Method

First, rehydrate the mushroom by soaking it in hot water for half an hour or so, then mince it finely. Mince the scallion as well. Reserve 3 or 4 shrimp and then chop the rest finely into a smooth paste, using a food processor if desired. The remaining shrimp should be chopped somewhat finely, with the largest chunk being no larger than 3 or 4 millimeters across.

Next, mix all the filling ingredients (ie: everything except the dough) into a smooth, homogenous blend and set it aside. For ease of use, you can let it sit in the fridge to chill, or even pop it into the freezer for twenty minutes or so. This will make it easier to handle later.

To make 2 dozen shu mai with this amount of dough requires about a large marble, or hazelnut size ball of dough for each one. I find it easy to pull off the appropriate amounts for each one and have them ready in advance. You can also divide up the filling ingredients into equal portions too, if you like. With this amount of filling, you will be using about a tablespoon or so in each dumpling.

When you are ready to form the dumplings, roll out each portion of dough into a rough circle about three inches across and place a portion of filling in the center.

There are different ways of forming the shu mai but photographing all the methods would be a bit of a nightmare so I am just going to show this version, which produces a fairly nice result…

First, start at one side and pull up the edges and crimp to for a pleat.

Continue all around the dumpling, crimping until you enclose the filling.

Finally, use your finger and thumb to squeeze the dumpling into a nice cylindrical shape

Shu mai almost always have a little garnish added to the open top. In Dim Sum restaurants, you often see a single pea, or else a little dab of crab roe added. I don’t have either so I am using another fairly common garnish, which is finely minced carrot. It isn’t critical, by any means, but blanching the carrot helps it keep its color during the steaming.

I often like to steam dumplings on lettuce leaves but I had none for this experiment and some oiled sheets of foil worked just as well for keeping them from sticking (albeit not as pretty or flavorful). I steamed the dumplings for nearly 15 minutes and, although it is not shown here, I steamed two tiers of nine dumplings each. I froze the last 6 for another time…

The Verdict

Quite honestly, I have to say that these shu mai are not only the best I have ever made, but the best I have ever tasted (restaurant offerings included). The wrappers were perfect (not to thick and chewy and not too soft), and the filling was nicely subtle and very tasty.

I served these with a very simple dipping sauce made of Tamari soy sauce mixed with a little rice wine and vinegar and it went very well. A chili based sauce might have been nice (and my wife said she would have liked it) but, to be frank, I thought that anything that robust would be too much or this filling.

Basically, I was really, really (really) pleased with this…

34 thoughts on “Shu Mai with Pork and Shrimp”

  1. D’oh, another thing I was going to make, but a blogger I subscribe to beat me to it!

    Nice shu mai, and if I haven’t said so, love your blog – one of my favorites to read, including the entries about your environs. 🙂

  2. we call this ‘siomai’ in my country, our dip is made of soy sauce and freshly squeezed ‘calamansi’ (citrus resembling lime but smaller), siomai is one of our favorite snacks.. i love siomai.. also, if i make this at home, i could buy siomai or wonton wrappers which is available in most groceries.

    1. I’ve heard of calamansi but not seen it yet. The Cantonese pronunciation, which seems to be most common here in Canada sounds something like ‘shoo my’ …. is ‘siomai’ pronounced the same way?

      1. You are so lucky being able to go pick stuff from your own garden (come to think of it, you are lucky to be able to *see* a tree).

        Now that I see the picture of the Calamansi it strikes me that I have probably seen them in markets down south. I’ll keep my eyes out next time I am in Ottawa.

      2. That’s actually the Mandarin pronunciation for it. I mean it’s still a common and acceptable pronunciation, but in Cantonese, it would be romanized via Jyutping as siu mai, pronounced more like that as “ss-you my”.

        I know because I am a student in the Mandarin language (unfortunately not currently, but my level is considered intermediate, and I am planning on continuing with learning the language, but the required resources are no longer available at my school, but they will be to me next year because i will have graduated, and it is available at the college I’m going to attend), the main variety of Chinese. I do know a thing or two (like this) about Cantonese, but still not much. Also, the two languages are actually about as different as English and Icelandic are from each other, which is actually an OK example, because Icelandic and the other Germanic languages diverged in a way very much like mandarin and Cantonese.

        The two languages sound totally different too. Mandarin should sound relatively calming, whereas Cantonese usually sounds quite violent, not unlike Vietnamese. Since Cantonese is more common in Chinatowns than Mandarin, westerners are more familiar with the aggressive sound of Cantonese, and therefore recognize that as stereotypically “Chinese”. In reality, Mandarin is much more commonplace in the world overall, because Mandarin is the official language for all of mainland China.

        I hope this is helpful,
        Jeff

    1. The only kind of wonton skins available here are the frozen ones made with egg. They are okay for deep-fried things but not so good for steaming. Whenever I am in Chinatown in Ottawa, the stores have freshly made wrappers of many different kinds… I get envious 😦

    1. Having to roll the dough is the time-consuming part, and the least fun … The rest is just practice and not really that hard after the first couple of tries. I have a post on some Jiaozi type dumplings coming up shortly. The folding technique is a little trickier but prettier. I may do some *very* simple dumplings this week and post them…(even simpler than shu mai).

  3. Your preparations always looks perfect. Makes a delicious outcome. I agree with your wife too, I think I would like to try it with a chili based sauce. I would like to prepare these, but am a little hesitant. Not so good with dough! And I wouldn’t want frozen either.

    1. Actually, making this type of dough is simplicity itself, Rolling it out is tedious but not particularly demanding and that just leaves actually folding the wrappers… This takes a bit of practice depending on the style of dumpling but mostly the techniques are fairly easy to master if you do more than a few batches… I have had more than my share of wonky, lopsided results but the beauty of it all is that even the weird looking ‘mistakes’ still taste good 🙂

    1. I’ve made with with just pork more often than with shrimp in the past now that I come to think of it … I make pot-stickers more often than shu mai and I just used a filling I commonly use in those for my last few batches of shu mai … I gather the combo is still quite a common one in Cantonese cookery though.

  4. Thanks for sharing, you are really inspiring me to make more Chinese dumplings! These sound delicious!
    25 minutes seems a lot for steaming, when I steamed a closed variety for 12 mins the dough was already overcooked.

  5. Impressed that you made your own dough like others have said! Shape looks good.I love shumai but I am fussy with what I like. I go out for dim sum often. I have never made my own. You have inspired me to give it a try.

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