Gazing at the Dim Sum cart full of Shumai trundles through the narrow gaps between the tables and chairs in a crowded Dim Sum restaurant will guarantee to make your belly rumbles.
When I was young, my father would bring my family to the Dim Sum restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant was busy and bustling. I watched the old lady maneuvered the Dim Sum Cart through the tight space between the rickety tables, calling out Shumai and Har Gau she served. Gossipy old women dominated the conversation with her shrill voice, and a well-dressed gentleman reading the newspaper and sipping his Pu-erh tea quietly. There are full of people who enjoy Yum Cha (tea drinking) for breakfast savor the delicate flavor of an array of delicious Dim Sum. For me, I just wanted to indulge in the heavenly Shumai, barbecue pork bun, and shrimp dumplings.
This traditional Dim Sum restaurant is famous for the triumvirate of Shumai 烧卖, barbecue pork bun 叉烧包, and shrimp dumpling 虾饺. The quality of these “Cantonese Big Three” Dim Sum is often used as the golden rule to gauge the standard of a Dim Sum restaurant.
Shumai remains as 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 metal round 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. She showed me how to make Cantonese Shumai with chop shrimps and pork, which I still remember vividly until today.
She never documented the recipe, so I have to figure out the quantity and ingredients myself. I also referred to Cantonese Shumai recipes by chefs and bloggers and learned a great deal from them.
Cantonese Shumai Recipe
The Shumai recipes I referred too are all Cantonese style Shumai. Although this version of Shumai has become world renowned, Shumai is originated from Inner Mongolia of China. The recipe of this delicacy has 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 recipes widespread in Southern Chian and Hong Kong
Here is a list of Shumai recipes that I have reproduced it in my kitchen. I have learned a great deal of the techniques, type of ingredients, and seasonings along the way. All of them have the profound influence on 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 the Guangzhou, the food haven of China who grew up in New Zealand. Their recipe is straightforward, simple 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 ginger, I would think this is a personal preference. Other than 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. who was born in Guangzhou, the birthplace of Cantonese Dim Sum. She used a food processor (with pulse action) to blend the fillings, which is a brilliant way to simplify the process and yet getting the result close to coarsely chopped pork by hand.
She suggested to soak the shrimp in cold water and baking soda for 30 minutes, then rinsed the shrimp under running water. Although she did not mention the purpose of this step, I would think this is the method to make the shrimp taste crunchy.
I do prefer to have slightly more shrimp in the combination. The minute amount of extra virgin olive oil in the recipe is insignificant to make it anything less authentic.
3. Mama Chong- 燒賣- 香港点心做法 Shumai／ Siu Mai Hong Kong Dim Sum Recipe
Her recipe has dry scallop in it, which provides a unique flavor to the Shumai. Most of the Dim Sum restaurants hardly include scallop in the recipe as it is expensive.
She has a unique method to prepare the meat filling. She mixed the seasoning with the pork for 15 minutes by hand, add the chopped prawns and mixes for another 15 minutes. She said this method can 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 has 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 so that it is 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 recipe is straightforward- no prolonged mixing or requires baking soda to rinse the prawns. Just mix all the ingredients in one steps.
She mentioned the best way to clean the prawns is to rub some salt on it and clean it under running water. I have made a small variation i.e. to marinate the prawns with salt for five minutes before cleaning it under running water. I find that this method helps to make the prawn meat more crunchy.
I like the inclusion of Chinese mushroom in the recipe. The combination of ingredients is the best among the four recipes.
The ultimate Cantonese Shumai recipe (6.42 mins)
My ultimate Shumai recipe is straightforward, easy and involves only three steps. I have stripped of any unnecessary steps and make it real simple and quick to make.
Here is the recipe.
- 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
- 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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What I learned from the great mind of the chefs
Below is a list techniques of making Cantonese Shumai I learned after reproducing the four recipes above. Some of these tips are the original finding by the writers, and some are from my observations and understanding.
Here is a list of important points which are the backbone of developing my recipe.
Preparation and ingredients
- Use the food processor (in pulse mode) to chop the pork and prawns. You can pulse the pork and prawns separately as pork take a longer time to get minced. For the best result, use a knife to mince the pork manually. the filing of the pork that is minced manually is far better than than those blended in the food processor.
- After mixing the filling, leave it in the refrigerator for an hour until it firms up. It is easier to wrap the Shumai with chilled filling.
- Adding some pork fat to the lean pork can make the filling more juicy and flavorful.
- Chinese mushroom add texture to shumai
- Chicken powder (similar to chicken bouillon cube) is not necessary based on the result of my recipe testing, which I intentionally omitting it.
- Prawns in Shumai should be crunchy. To make it crunchy, remove the shells, marinate the prawn meat with salt for five minutes. Then wash the prawns under running water until the water runs clear. Subsequently, blow dry the shrimps with a fan. Pounding the shrimps and meats is the traditional method to make the shrimps and meat mixture become more firm and springy.
- Pounding the prawns and meat is the traditional method to make the prawns and meat mixture become firmer and springy.
- If the fold of the Shumai skin is protruded out to the sides, you can use some water to seal up the fold.
- If you use wonton skin to make Shumai, use the extra thin skin and avoid using dry out skin. Thick wonton skin will result in sub quality Shumai with tough skin.
- Line the steamer with baking paper to avoid the Shumai from sticking. I rate it as the third most important ingredients after pork and prawns.
- You can freeze the Shumai if you do not intend to steam it immediately. You can steam the frozen Shumai directly in the frozen form directly.
Technique and storage
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
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