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…
- 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).
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…
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…