Cantonese Siu Mai, 燒賣
I know many of you will disagree, but Siu Mai (pronounced Shumai) is the best dumpling of them all. It’s the One Ring, the Jimin of the K-pop boy groups, the Jacinda Ardern of Prime Ministers… You get the picture. Some of you will argue that Har Gow is the best dumpling, and that’s okay, it's also a damn fine dumplin'; I’m not here to change your mind. We can agree to disagree. We can still be friends. There's a reason why both dumplings are served on the same Dim Sum cart! They are dumpling buddies and they are better together.
This little dumpling can be traced back to China’s last imperial dynasty, known as the Qing dynasty (1636 -1912), where the dumplings’ ingredients changed with the seasons. As the dumpling made its way across China’s provinces, different types of Siu Mai were created. Cantonese Siu Mai is from Guangdong and Guangxi’s southern regions and is very popular as street food in Hong Kong. In the present day, Siu Mai’s main proteins consist of minced pork and shrimp.
What makes Siu Mai the best? It’s juicy, savoury, and aromatic; you get both shrimp and pork stuffed inside the iconic yellow wrapper, making it a bite-size piece of heaven. Growing up, when we gathered together as an extended family for Dim Sum, I was always seated at the kids’ table with my brothers. Even after I was married, the seating arrangements didn't change. Sitting at the kids' table when there was Siu Mai around, can be compared to fighting off racoons at the local dump. As soon as the bamboo steamers were placed on the table, it was every person for themselves; an absolute fight to get that little dumpling from the centre of the table into your mouth. I quite often lost. As an adult, I don't have to share my Siu Mai and can eat as many as I want! For the 2021 Lunar New Year, I ate them for lunch, dinner and later, as a late-night snack. #adulting
My recipe makes 75-80 dumplings. I make large batches and freeze them on a baking tray. After they are frozen, I transfer the dumplings into a freezer bag. If you don’t want to make that many, reduce the recipe by half.
1 pound minced pork (pork belly or pork shoulder); however, you can use ground pork.
1 pound shrimp, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup chopped bamboo shoot (optional)
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper (not black pepper, white pepper is milder)
2 packages of egg wonton wrappers (yellow) - round if you can find them, but square will work
1/4 cup fish roe or finely diced carrots for garnish
In a large bowl, add the minced or ground pork with the tapioca starch and water. Using your hands stir the pork until you reach a paste-like consistency. You can use a spoon if you like, but I like to "feel" my food. This will take several minutes, and if your arms get tired, rest for a minute or two before continuing. Add your sesame oil and stir to incorporate.
Add the bamboo shoot (if using), ginger, garlic, scallions, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, pepper and shrimp. Stir until combined and then set aside.
I like to use round wrappers when I can find them. If I can’t find them, I’ll use a cookie cutter or a pair of scissors to trim the wrappers into a circular shape.
Wrapping the dumplings
Don’t be intimidated. The dumplings don’t need to look perfect. Home cooking is not about how the food looks, but how they taste.
Place a small amount of filling and place it into the centre of your wonton wrapper, using a butter knife or a small spoon
Gather the sides of the pastry around the filling, while continuing to add more mixture - pushing down on the filling with the spoon/knife to ensure a tightly packed dumpling
Shape the dumping into a cylinder shape, making sure the dumpling is filled to the top. Use your work surface to flatten the base of the dumping then transfer onto a parchment-lined baking tray
Top each dumpling with fish roe or your diced carrots (I used diced carrots)
Place the tray into the fridge for an hour before steaming
When ready, steam in a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper OR a greased stainless steel steamer for 8-12 minutes - Do No-Boil or pan fry. This is a steaming dumpling only
Serve hot, with your favourite dipping sauce
If you need visual instructions on how to wrap the Siu Mai, I found one on YouTube.