Shrimp and Pork Shumai
Shumai are a Cantonese dim sum dish that made their way over to Japan over a hundred and twenty years ago. It's since become one of the most beloved dumplings in Japan, eclipsed only by gyoza.
Although there are many different styles of these steamed dumplings today, my Shumai recipe uses hand-chopped shrimp, pork, and cuttlefish to make these succulent shrimp and pork dumplings. The resulting Japanese-style Shumai is chock full of contrasting textures and tastes with a reservoir of juices that burst out of each dumpling with every bite.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- A mixture of various proteins, including shrimp, cuttlefish, and pork, provides a contrast in textures and tastes, along with a ton of umami to the filling.
- Adding finely minced pork fat into the filling mixture allows it to slowly render out as the Shumai steam. This enables the dumplings to baste themselves, keeping them juicy and tender while adding a ton of flavor.
- Hand chopping the filling ingredients creates texture variations that keep the dumplings exciting.
- Egg and potato starch help to gel and bind together the juices from the filling, which keeps them from leaking out as the Shumai steams.
Ingredients for Shumai
- Shrimp - There's no need to use fancy shrimp here as it's going to get chopped up. I used peeled frozen shrimp and used my toothpick method to clean and devein the shrimp.
- Cuttlefish - Cuttlefish are a mollusk closely related to squid, but they tend to be shorter and fatter with thicker meat that's more tender. In the US, I've seen cuttlefish sold as "calamari steaks" sometimes, but I've also seen this used to describe other types of squid. While I like the texture and flavor it adds to Shumai, you can substitute an equal amount of shrimp if you can't find it.
- Pork fat - This is my secret ingredient. By mincing up cold pork fat and mixing it into the filling, it allows the fat to slowly render as the dumplings steam. This keeps the Shumai nice and juicy while infusing them with the savory flavor of pork. I used a fatty cut of pork belly for this, but back fat will also work. If you want to make these lower fat, you can use ground pork instead.
- Scallion - Scallions add flavor and sweetness, but I only use the stems to keep the filling from becoming speckled. I used Japanese naganegi for this, but the white part of ordinary scallions or even onions will work.
- Egg - The egg white helps to bind the juices being released by the proteins in the filling, preventing them from leaking out into your steamer. This keeps the Shumai juicy.
- Potato starch - Potato starch also helps minimize the loss of juices in the filling by gelling some of the liquids as they leak out.
- Oyster sauce - This is the primary seasoning for my Shumai, and I like using it because it adds a ton of umami while balancing everything out with a mild sweetness.
- Soy sauce - Oyster sauce alone can make the Shumai a little too sweet for my tastes, so I usually add a little soy sauce to shift the balance back to the savory side.
- Ginger - I like adding ginger juice to the filling to take any fishy edge off the seafood. Ginger juice is made by grating fresh ginger and squeezing the juice out from the pulp. This allows you to add the flavor of the ginger without the fibrous pith.
- Shaoxing wine - Shaoxing wine is a Chinese rice wine with a malty caramel flavor and a boatload of umami that's a wonderful compliment to the seafood in the Shumai filling.
- Toasted sesame oil - I include some toasted sesame oil in my Shumai filling for the nutty flavor it adds.
- White pepper - I know not everyone is into white pepper, so this is optional. If you use white pepper, I highly recommend grinding it freshly, though, as the pepper loses its good aroma quickly once ground, and old white pepper can smell like a barnyard.
- Wrappers - If you can find them, it's best to use wrappers meant for making Shumai as they tend to be smaller and thinner than other types of dumpling wrappers.
- Garnish - In Japan Shumai are often garnished with green peas, but I'm personally not a fan. I prefer using tobiko (flying fish roe) as a topping and I usually add it to the cooked dumplings after they've been steamed. It won't have the same texture, but you can also use minced up carrots as a garnish as well.
How to Make Shumai
The first thing you need to do is chop up the seafood. For the shrimp, I like to chop up a third of it into chunks about the size of a peanut M&M. Then I mince up the rest into a chunky paste.
For the cuttlefish, clean it and then peel off any skin or membranes attached to the surface. Cut it into thin strips and then chop the strips up. Then you want to mince it up with a knife until you have a rough paste that's about the same texture as the shrimp paste.
Make sure the pork fat is very cold, or it will be challenging to get it cut small enough. Slice it up into 1/16-inch slices and cut them into equally thin strips. Then you want to turn the strips 90 degrees and cut them into 1/16-inch cubes.
Add all of these ingredients to a large bowl along with the scallions, egg white, potato starch, oyster sauce, ginger juice, Shaoxing wine, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and white pepper. Use your hand in a whipping motion to mix everything together until the mixture has a slightly frothy consistency. Cover and refrigerate overnight. This helps firm up the filling so it's easier to handle, but it also allows all the seasonings to marinate with the ingredients.
To make the Shumai, you'll need a steamer. I like using a bamboo steamer for these, but you can use a steamer basket or even improvise one by setting a round wire cooling rack over a few wadded-up balls of aluminum foil. Next, add some water to the pot for your steamer and bring it to a boil.
Line the steamer rack with lettuce leaves. You want it to be flat, so remove the thicker stems and overlap the leaves slightly, so the bottom of the rack is fully covered. The lettuce acts as natural parchment paper, keeping the dumplings from sticking, and you can also eat the lettuce once the Shumai are steamed.
To wrap the Shumai, make a hollowed-out fist with your non-dominant hand, and place a wrapper centered on the opening. Next, use a spoon to scoop a generous tablespoonful of filling into the center of the wrapper and use the bottom of the spoon to press it into the wrapper. This should force the wrapper down into the hole you've created with your hand, and the sides of the wrapper should form pleats around the edge of the Shumai.
Once you've filled the wrapper, turn the dumpling a few times in your hand, flattening off the bottom while setting the pleats. Place the Shumai onto the lettuce-lined rack and repeat the process until the steamer is full. Be sure to leave room around each dumpling because they will expand a bit while cooking.
When your steamer is full, cover it with a lid and set it on your pot of boiling water. If you're using a basket type of steamer, just lower the basket into the pot of boiling water and then cover the pot with a lid. Let you Shumai steam for 7-8 minutes, adjusting the temperature up or down to maintain a gentle stream of steam escaping from the lid.
Shumai is best when it's still hot so serve them right away.
Other Dumpling Recipes
Shumai (焼売) is the Japanese version of a Chinese steamed dumpling called Siu Mai (烧卖 - also sometimes spelled Shaomai or Sio Mai). Shumai is believed to have been introduced to Japan in the late 19th century, around the same time early versions of ramen began to spread around the country.
In 1908, a bento shop called Kiyoken opened its doors in Yokohama Station, selling a Shumai Ekiben. By the 1960's Shumai had gone mainstream and was included in school lunches around Japan. These days Shumai comes in a variety of preparations, including a deep-fried version called agé-shumai (揚げ焼売), one that's topped (or even wrapped) with threads of squid called ika-shumai (いかしゅうまい), and Ashikaga Shumai that's made with onions and potato starch (足利シュウマイ).
Shumai is a 2-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
shu like shoe
mai like my
Shumai wrappers tend to be smaller and thinner than wonton and gyoza wrappers, but they should work. The wrappers I used were 2.75-inches square (7cm). If you use larger wrappers, you'll need to add more filling to each dumpling (so the recipe will make less Shumai), and you'll also need to increase the steaming time to ensure they are cooked through. I recommend avoiding thicker potsticker wrappers that are any thicker than a credit card.
In Japan, Shumai is often served with hot mustard and rice vinegar, but I like serving these seafood dumplings with a sauce made from black vinegar with a little soy sauce and fresh ginger that's been sliced into thin threads. You could also make one of my gyoza dipping sauces or my chili oil.
- 390 grams shrimp (shelled & deveined)
- 100 grams cuttlefish
- 50 grams pork fat
- 50 grams scallions (white part only, minced)
- 1 tablespoons egg white (about ½ egg)
- 2 teaspoons potato starch
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons ginger juice
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 42 Shumai wrappers (or 24 wonton wrappers)
- lettuce (for lining the steamer
For dipping sauce
- 2 tablespoons black vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Ginger (peeled and cut into thin threads)
- 2 tablespoons tobiko
- Separate out ⅓ of the shrimp and chop it into chunks that are the size of large peanuts.
- Mince up the remaining shrimp until you have a rough paste.
- Slice the cuttlefish into ⅛-inch strips, and then chop up the strips. Next, mince up the chopped cuttlefish until you have a rough paste.
- For the pork fat, slice it up as thinly as possible. Cut the slices into thin strips, and then mince the strips up into cubes that are about 1/16-inch in diameter.
- Add the shrimp, cuttlefish, pork fat, scallions, egg white, potato starch, oyster sauce, ginger juice, Shaoxing wine, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and white pepper to a bowl and beat the mixture together with your hand until it starts to firm up and get frothy. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
- Line a steamer with a layer of lettuce leaves.
- To shape the Shumai, place a wrapper on the top of your hollowed-out fist, and then use a spoon to press the filling into the center of the wrapper to press it down into the hole you've made with your hand.
- Turn the Shumai a few times to set the pleats, flatten off the bottom, and then place the dumpling on the lettuce-lined steamer. Leave space between each dumpling and repeat until you've filled up the steamer.
- Bring a pot of water that will hold your steamer basket to a boil, and then set the covered steamer on top (or inside). Adjust the heat to maintain a steady stream of steam escaping and steam the Shumai for 7-8 minutes.
- To make the dipping sauce, mix the black vinegar, soy sauce, and ginger together in a bowl.
- Garnish the Shumai with a small mound of tobiko, and serve with the dipping sauce.