Shumai 烧卖 is the well-known Dim Sum along with barbecue pork bun 叉烧包 and shrimp dumpling 虾饺. The quality of these “Cantonese Big Three” Dim Sum dishes is often used as the golden rule to gauge the standard of a Dim Sum restaurant.
Shumai has remained my favorite Dim Sum through the years. My mother-in-law loved to make a large tray of Shumai at home. She used a large round metal tray to hold the Shumai instead of the bamboo steamer because she wanted to make as many Shumai as possible for everyone in the family to enjoy. Her Cantonese Shumai is made with chopped shrimp and pork, which I still remember vividly.
She never documented the recipe, so I determined the quantity and ingredients. Ultimately, I have developed the shumai recipe precisely what I want and shared it with you in this article.
1. Step-by-step: How to make Cantonese shumai
a. Preparing the filling
- Pork is the main ingredient for the filling. Adding some pork fat to the lean pork can make the filling more juicy and flavorful. I use pork belly, which contains a certain amount of fat, which is ideal for this purpose.
- Soak the dried Chinese mushroom in water. When the mushrooms turn soft, cut them into small dice.
- Remove the shell of the shrimp, clean, and devein. Marinate the shrimp meat with one teaspoon of salt and baking soda for 5 minutes. Wash away the salt and baking soda under running water until the water runs clear. Place them in a colander to drain out as much water as possible.
- Combine the pork, mushrooms, and shrimp in a large mixing bowl. Add all the ground white pepper, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, sugar, oyster sauce, cornflour, and salt. You may add some light soy sauce and rice wine, which are optional.
- Lift the filling and throw it back into the bowl repeatedly for five minutes. The filling texture will change from a wet and loose mixture into a sticky and firm mass, like a meatloaf or burger patty.
- You may use store-bought ground pork (絞肉), but the texture and mouth-feel would be the same if you cut the meat into tiny pieces (切肉). To do this, keep the pork belly in the freezer until half-frozen, then slice it to 2mm (1/8 inch) thick. Cut the slices into strips, the tiny dice. (For simplicity, use the food processor (pulse mode) to mince the pork and prawns. But cutting it manually is still the best way)
- Chicken powder (similar to chicken bouillon cube) is not necessarily based on my recipe testing result, which I intentionally omitted (I know many restaurants use it!).
- Prawns in Shumai should be crunchy. Marinating the shrimp with salt and baking soda for a few minutes will make the shrimp meat more crunchy.
- Then, wash the prawns under running water until the water runs clear.
- The traditional method to make the shrimp and meat mixture firmer and springier is to throw the filling back into the bowl.
- You can omit the shrimp to make pork dumplings.
- Some cooks like to add some green peas and water chestnuts as part of the ingredients, which is optional.
- The Chinese word 烧卖 is mostly translated as Shumai. Other spellings that mean the same dim sum are shao mai, shrimp shumai, shu mai.
b. Wrap the shumai
- After mixing the filling, please leave it in the refrigerator for an hour until it firms up. Then, it is easier to wrap the Shumai with chilled filling.
- Try to purchase the round wrappers, for example, wonton skins. Otherwise, you can cut off the four corners of the square wonton wrapper to make it roughly a circle. It is sold in most Asian grocery stores.
- Place 18g (2/3 oz) of shumai filling in the middle of the wrapper. This amount is for the wrapper I use, which is 8cm (3 inches) in diameter.
- Rotate the Shumai and squeeze it at the waist. Press down the meat with a metal spoon to level it.
- If the Shumai skin’s fold protrudes out to the sides, you can use water to seal the fold.
- Make sure the bottom of the dumpling is flat so that it can sit steadily on the bamboo steamer baskets.
- Put some fish roe or green pea on top to garnish, which is also optional.
- If you use wonton wrappers (or skins) to make Shumai, use the extra-thin dumpling wrappers and avoid using dry-out skin. Thick wonton skin will result in sub-quality Shumai with tough skin.
- Make sure to press the meat down so there is no space inside the shumai, and the filling is stuck securely onto the dumpling wrapper. Otherwise, the shumai may fall apart during steaming.
c. Steam the shumai
- Place a piece of parchment paper into the dim sum steamer. I use non-stick baking paper, so there is no worry that the shumai will stick to the paper. Otherwise, you may apply a thin layer of oil to it.
- Place the shumai on the baking paper in a steamer basket with a small gap in between.
- Place the steamer basket on a steamer rack.
- Cover and steam over high heat for 8 minutes.
- You can freeze the Shumai if you do not intend to steam it immediately. The frozen shumai can be steamed directly without defrosting. However, you need to increase the steaming duration to 10 minutes.
- This shumai recipe is so good that you do not need a dipping sauce.
When I was young, my father would bring my family to a Dim Sum restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant was busy. I watched the old lady maneuver the Dim Sum Cart through the tight space between the rickety tables, calling out Shumai and Har Gau she served. A gossipy old woman dominated the conversation with her shrill voice, and a well-dressed gentleman was quietly reading the newspaper and sipping his Pu-erh tea. There are people who enjoy Yum Cha (tea drinking) for breakfast and savor the delicate flavor of an array of delicious Dim Sum.
I just wanted to indulge in the heavenly Shumai, barbecue pork bun, and shrimp dumplings.
2. The origin of Shumai
The Shumai recipes I referred to are all Cantonese-style Shumai. Although this version of Shumai has become world-renowned, Shumai originated from Inner Mongolia in China. The recipe of this delicacy has been passed down since the Ming dynasty and brought to other regions of China. The original shumai from Inner Mongolia is filled with meat (lamb) and vegetables but has evolved to become the current recipe widespread in Southern China and Hong Kong.
3. How to store shumai
If you intend to make the shumai in advance, arrange the wrapped shumai on a tray with a small gap in between. Place the shumai in the freezer until frozen. They will not stick together; you can transfer them into a freezer-safe airtight container. Shumai can be kept in the freezer for a month without noticeable deterioration of taste.
4. My ultimate Cantonese Shumai Recipe
My ultimate Shumai recipe is straightforward, easy, and involves only three steps. I have stripped off unnecessary steps and made it simple and quick.
- 40 g of prawn meat, coarsely chopped
- 1 Chinese dried mushrooms, rehydrated and diced
- 100 g of pork belly, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon cornflour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 4 wonton skin
Please refer to the section 'Step-by-step: How to make Cantonese shumai' for the detailed instruction.
- Marinate the prawn meat with 1 teaspoon of salt for 5 minutes. Wash away the salt under running water until the water runs clear.
- Place the prawn in a colander to drain away as much water as possible.
- Combined all the ingredients and pound it on the plate repeatedly under it forms a firm mass, like a meatloaf or burger patty.
- Place the filling on the wonton skin. Rotate the Shumai and squeeze it at the waist. Press down the meat with a metal spoon to level it. Flatten the base of the Shumai so that it can sit steadily on the steamer.
- Steam over high heat, lid on for 10 minutes.
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VonShef Premium 2 Tier Bamboo Steamer with Stainless Steel Banding Includes 2 Pairs of Chopsticks and 50 Wax Steamer Liners, Perfect For Steaming Dim Sum Dumplings Buns Vegetables Fish Rice, 10 Inches
Havista Dried Premium Flower Shiitake Mushrooms, 6 Ounce
Nasoya All Natural Won Ton Wraps, 12 Ounce -- 6 per case.
Rice Cooking Wine (Red) - 750ml (Pack of 1) by Shaohsing
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 201Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 434mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 18g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 3/19/2019
Other dim sum recipes
The three most common Cantonese dim sums are Char Siu Bao, Shumai, and Shrimp dumplings (har gow). If you are interested to know how to make the other two dim sums, here are the links to the recipe:
Char Siu Bao ( 叉烧包) is the most famous classic Cantonese dim sum. The soft and tender bun, the oozing soy-based thick gravy, and the meaty filling is weaved seamlessly into a perfect culinary wonder. This meat bun is always taking center stage in the dim sum spread in every Chinese dim sum house. The recipe is easy to follow, and you can replicate it easily at home.
Shrimp dumplings (蝦餃). This article shows you how to make shrimp dumplings from scratch, including the dumpling skin. It is dumplings with bright pink chunks of fresh shrimp veiled through the thin, stretchy, chewy, delicate, and translucent wrapper.
Some other shumai recipes that I have tried
Here is a list of Shumai recipes that I have tried. All of them are the references when I formulate the final version of Cantonese Shumai that I think is the best, in my opinion.
1. Dumpling Sisters – Siu Mai: Pork and Prawn Dumplings
Dumpling Sisters is the website managed by Amy and Julie hail from Guangzhou, China’s food haven, and grew up in New Zealand. Their recipe is straightforward yet elegant.
Amy and Julie used pork loin instead of pork belly. Pork loin is tender and does not need additional fat to tenderize the Shumai.
The filling is tasty, with a mild ginger flavor. While some Cantonese Shumai does not include fresh ginger, I would think this is a personal preference. Besides the ginger, it is very close to the taste of Shumai in any authentic Hong Kong Dim Sum store.
2. Serious Eats- How to Make Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai, a Classic Chinese Dim Sum Dumpling
This recipe is contributed by Shao Z., born in Guangzhou, the birthplace of Cantonese Dim Sum. She used a food processor (with pulse action) to blend the fillings, a brilliant way to simplify the process and get the result close to coarsely chopped pork by hand.
She suggested soaking the shrimp in cold water and baking soda for 30 minutes, then rinsing the shrimp under running water. Although she did not mention this step’s purpose, I think this is the method to make the shrimp taste crunchy.
I do prefer to have slightly more shrimp in the combination. However, the minute extra virgin olive oil in the recipe is insignificant to make it less authentic.
3. Mama Chong- 燒賣- 香港点心做法 Shumai／ Siu Mai Hong Kong Dim Sum Recipe
Mama Chong spoke in pure Cantonese with the classic Hong Kong accent in her YouTube videos. Her siu mai recipes are all about traditional Hong Kong cooking.
Her recipe has dry scallops, providing a unique flavor to the Shumai. Unfortunately, as it is expensive, most Dim Sum restaurants hardly include scallops in the siu mai recipe.
She mixed the seasoning with the pork for 15 minutes by hand, added the chopped prawns, and mixed for another 15 minutes. She said this method could tenderize the meat filling. Unfortunately, I did not have the patient as much as Mama Chong. I stopped short for less than 10 minutes, but the combination of the ingredients transformed from the initial lump of loose mass to a firm paste, much like the burger patty. I believe prolonged mixing can make the filling more compact and easier to handle during the wrapping process.
4. Josephine’s recipes- Dim Sum | Siu Mai 燒賣 Pork and Prawn Dumplings
I like Josephine’s recipe because it is delicious and easy to make. The siew mai recipe is straightforward- no prolonged mixing or requires baking soda to rinse the prawns. Just mix all the ingredients in one step.
She mentioned the best way to clean the prawns is to rub some salt on them and clean it under running water. I have made a slight variation, i.e., marinating the prawns with salt for five minutes before cleaning them under running water. This method helps to make the prawn meat more crunchy.
I like the inclusion of Chinese shiitake mushrooms in the siew mai recipe. The combination of ingredients is the best among the four recipes.
1. Dumplingsisters: Siu Mai: Pork and Prawn Dumplings VIDEO
2. How to Make Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai, a Classic Chinese Dim Sum Dumpling
3. Mama Cheung : 燒賣 一 香港 點心做法 ★ | Shumai / Siu Mai Hong Kong Dim Sum Recipe
4. 最好吃的蝦肉雞肉燒賣 | 美味家常點心食譜 | 【美食天堂 CiCi’s Food Paradise】
5. Josephine’s Recipes: Dim Sum | Siu Mai 燒賣 Pork and Prawn Dumplings