My Brother in law Mike, who is a very knowledgeable home cook, loves traditional Chinese food. So much so that my niece and nephew, although having fewer than a dozen years between them, can order all the tastiest dim sum by name. We tend to eat out quite a bit and he always recommends the finest food and restaurants whether we are craving American, Japanese, or Chinese food. Getting take-out or a seat at most places is not usually a problem, but whenever we try to get in at Kirin Seafood Restaurant, we are always too late. Known by many as having the best dim sum in Vancouver it’s the reason why getting a reservation without planning weeks ahead is so difficult. When my wife and I planned our wedding though, it finally afforded us the perfect opportunity to make a reservation for a day when we knew we’d be in town. We had been served dim sum before, but it was at Kirin that we were introduced to it in a formal way.
Siu Mai, otherwise known as shumai, shaomai or by various other spellings, is a traditional Chinese dumpling originating from Mongolia. The most popular Cantonese version of this dish is prepared with pork, shrimp, and mushroom. We will be using pork and shrimp for this recipe in addition to some Shaoxing cooking wine, sesame oil, ginger, and white pepper. We are omitting the mushrooms this time because we are also making Korean mandus at the same time with pork and shrimp and wanted to use mushrooms in that recipe instead so the two dishes would taste quite different.
We start with the pork. The best cut of pork for this recipe is probably shoulder. It has a sufficient amount of fat to balance out the leanness of the shrimp (and mushrooms when used) but even still, some recipes call for the addition of pork back fat in order to make the dumplings extra succulent. We cut the pork into cubes and then used a food processor to mince into our desired consistency. It’s nice to have pork that’s a little chunky compared to regular ground pork for this recipe as it provides a bit of bite. We blitz the peeled shrimps to the same consistency.
Next after combining the meats we are adding rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, white pepper, and tapioca starch. You can use corn starch if you’d like but we prefer tapioca starch as it has the same binding effect but a silkier texture.
After the siu mai filling is thoroughly mixed up, it’s time to form the dumplings! it’s best to use round dumpling wrappers for these as they come out prettier. To form a dumpling, make a ring with your thumb and middle finger and push a round wrapper down into it, as shown below. Then use a fork or spoon to fill the depressed wrapper. As you press the filling into the wrapper, apply pressure with your thumb and middle finger to make a ‘curve’ so there is more filling at the bottom and top compared to the middle. It should take on the shape of a beautiful woman from the side while the top will appear a bit like a flower. Garnish each with a pea or a carrot flower if you want them to be extra fancy. The photos shown here are unfortunately only from our test recipe somehow we seem to have misplaced our main post photos 🙁 but you can make carrot flowers by peeling your carrots and carefully cutting ‘V’s all around the sides before slicing them the normal way very thinly.
After you’ve formed all your dumplings it’s time to steam them. We could only find one bamboo steamer basket so we are trying to be a bit resourceful here by using our stainless steel pressure cooker basket as well which we first sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. It takes about ten minutes to steam each batch of approximately six-seven dumplings… far too long to wait between batches when you’re hungry as far as we’re concerned so you will want to use at least two bamboo steamers if you have them.
Although not a traditional step, we took the recipe one step further and browned the bottom of each steamed dumpling on a hot cast iron pan so they came out the texture of crispy potstickers and served them with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, garlic, scallions, sugar, and rice wine vinegar. This was heaven on a plate and well worth the time spent. We hope you enjoy your own dumpling making adventures!