Shumai are a type of Chinese dumpling often associated with Cantonese cuisine. While many in the West have become familiar with it through dim sum (yum cha), it actually exists in many forms throughout China (and the rest of Asia). Steamed or pan fried, partially or fully enveloped in dough, filled with everything from pork to seafood to glutinous rice, it's not clear what the original shumai was, but the most common forms involve a filling of pork partially wrapped in a thin round of dough before being steamed.
When made properly, the plump, juicy half-wrapped dumplings, burst into a savory pool of flavor in your mouth as you bite into them. Unfortunately, many places puree the filling, giving them a hot-dog like texture, even worse, some places leave the shumai in a steamer until some unsuspecting soul orders a plate of the dry lumps of mystery meat.
In my version, I've used a mixture of shrimp, squid and pork fat. The shrimp are added both minced and sliced to contribute two different textures. The minced squid lends a tender creamy mouthfeel to the filling, and because neither shrimp nor squid have much fat, the pork fat keeps the dumplings from drying out as they steam.
Ideally you should prepare the filling a day in advance, so the flavors have a chance to meld, and the texture of the shrimp has a chance to firm up, but if you're in a rush, these can be made in one go. If you do make the filling in advance, make sure you wrap dumplings just before you steam them as the wrappers will absorb moisture from the filling and become mushy if you let them sit too long before.
Because two-thirds of the shrimp gets minced into the filling, the size of shrimp is not important, since smaller shrimp are less expensive and often come peeled, it's a question of cost and convenience. The other third of the shrimp are used sliced in half, so it's best if you can get large black tiger prawns. As for the squid, smaller squid tend to get tough when cooked, whereas giant squid (the type usually used for calamari steaks), stays tender, so it makes for a better choice when making shumai.
For velveted shrimp
- 250 grams large shrimp shelled
- 2 tablespoons egg white (about 1 egg)
- 1 teaspoon potato starch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 50 grams pork fat
- 500 grams small shrimp shelled
- 200 grams calamari steak
- 4 scallions (white part only, minced)
- 3 tablespoons potato starch
- 2 tablespoons egg white (about 1 egg)
- 1 tablespoon ginger juice (ginger grated and juice squeezed out)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 32 Shumai wrappers (or 24 wonton wrappers)
- napa cabbage (or lettuce, for lining steamer)
- Peel the large shrimp, then use a sharp knife to slice them in half from head to tail (center). If your shrimp are very large, you may need to cut them in half once again (far right). Remove the dark vein if present, then add the shrimp to a large bowl.
- Add 2 tablespoons of egg white, 1 teaspoon of potato starch, and ½ teaspoon of salt to the halved shrimp, then use your fingers to vigorously "whisk" the shrimp together with the egg until the shrimp are evenly coated with a white froth.
- If you're using a food processor, roughly chop the pork fat, and add it to the food processor. Process until finely minced. Add the small peeled shrimp and calamari, and pulse until there are no big chunks, but not to the point where it turns into a paste. If you are doing it by hand, finely mince the fat, small shrimp and calamari separately and add to a large bowl.
- Add the scallions, potato starch, egg white, ginger juice, Shaoxing wine, sugar, sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. Pulse the food processor until combined, or use your hand to "whisk" the mixture together thoroughly.
- Prepare a large steamer and line the bottom with napa cabbage or lettuce (this prevents the dumplings from sticking to the steamer). Bring the water to a boil.
- To wrap the shumai, form an "o" with your left hand (assuming you're right handed). Cover the "o" with a wrapper, then put a generous teaspoon of filling in the middle.
- Add a half shrimp on top, pressing the dumping into the "o".
- Add another teaspoon of filling, then use the thumb of your opposite hand to press the dumping all the way into the "o" shape in your hand, using your thumb to level off the top.
- Top with one more half of shrimp. Make sure the colored side of the shrimp faces up so it turns red when cooked. Make sure the top and bottom of the dumpling are flat, then repeat until you have enough dumplings to fill the steamer.
- Turn off the heat, then place the dumplings in the hot steamer, leaving enough space between the dumplings so they are not touching each other. Cover the steamer with a damp kitchen towel, then cover with the lid. Flip the corners of the towel back over the lid to keep them from catching on fire. The towel keeps the condensation from dripping on the dumplings.
- Turn the heat back on and steam the shumai over high-heat for 8 minutes. Serve with vinegar and Chinese mustard.
Tese are quote possibly my favorite dumplings! Great to have a recipe for them!
Snippets of Thyme says
These look delicious. My relatives want to go to Dim Sum this week while on holiday break and I was trying to explain to them shumai!
I love yum cha - it's our almost weekly meeting place for the family. Love the how-to pics, make everything looks so easy!
dixya @ food, pleasure, and health says
I am a huge dumplings fan and looking at these shu mai I cant wait to make it. Thanks for such a detail instruction for wrapping them
Peggy Garbe says
These are absolutely gorgeous! Lovely tutorial, as well =)
Simon @ SoyRiceFire.com says
Nice recipe! As you mentioned, there are many versions of shumai (or shaomai in mandarin) across China. The version from Shanghai, my hometown, uses ground pork, glutinous rice, and dried shiitake mushrooms. It's definitely one of my favorites.
Thanks for another great recipe! I could not find giant squid so I bought what I could find 5"-6" body only not including the tentacles. Research tells me to soak in milk to tenderize -to compensate for not having giant squid(?) they soaked overnight and I will be making the squid/shrimp mix this morning and the shumai this evening. Your recipe didn't specify if the tentacles are used or only the body. Would like your thoughts on tenderizing non-giant squid and the [non]use of the tentacles in this recipe.
FU. Just made, ate, and LOVED these. Every bit as good as those from our local dim sum restaurant. Although Marc warned us not to, I still did over process the squid/shrimp and ended up with a paste. But when I steamed them, they firmed up and again, just as delicious as my favorite dim sum restaurant. However, I was very precise with the quatities of squid and shrimp and every other ingredient that I used and the end result was quite a bit more stfuffing than that needed for 32 shumai. I used 2 rounded tsps. in each shumai per instructions. I only had enough shrimp to make 20 shumai, and I only used about 1/4-1/3 of the stuffing. I'll be having shumai again for dinner tomorrow . . . and maybe the day after . . . and maybe the day after that. Darn that briar patch. I would have preferred to freeze the stuffing for use in a distant future but I just wasn't sure if I could freeze it. Does anyone know? Finally, the only problem I had ws that when I took them out of the steamer, the wrappers on some of the shumai, tended to want to flop open. The stuffing stayed together like a little meatball but the wrapper just wanted to unwrap away from the stuffing. that has never happened at my dim sum restaurant. Any suggestions on how to maintain the wrappers around the stuffing?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Tatiemily, sorry for the slow response. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the shumai. Regarding the quantity of filling to wrapper, I should have been more clear, but when I said teaspoon I didn't literally mean a measuring spoon, but a small spoon used for mixing tea (as opposed to a big soup spoon). Each shumai should end up being about the size of a golf ball. As for freezing, I wouldn't recommend it as you'll lose a lot of water when you defrost it. If you want to freeze it you'll want to steam them first. You could also use the filling to make a dumpling soup (just drop spoonfuls of filling into a boiling soup stock and add some vegetables). Lastly, regarding the wrappers falling off, I've never had that happen so I'm not entirely sure what's causing it. One possibility is the type of wrappers you're using, and the other is that the filling wasn't packed into the wrapper enough. There shouldn't bee any air gaps between the wrapper and filling (see photo in step 9). Hope that helps.
Thanks Marc! How about the tentacles? Do you normally use those in making the stuffing? I didn't this time but If I can use them next time I will.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Tatiemily, sorry I missed that. So in your case because you weren't able to find calamari steaks it's probably a good thing you over-processed it. What I use here in Japan is actually cuttlefish (it's called mongo-ika), but I've never seen cuttlefish in the US and the texture of it is similar to that of calamari steaks, hence the recommendation. It doesn't get tough when you cook it and has a tender texture more like scallops (but without the fibres). I would not recommend adding the tentacles of squid as they are the toughest parts of the squid and will make your shumai chewy (unless you fully puree them). Hope that helps.