If you visit Cantonese restaurants, you may encounter yellow flowers like steamed dumplings with pork and shrimp as filling. Topped with the fish role. What’s a lovely dessert right? The name for that beautiful dessert is Sui mai. It looks like a flower. We have lots of names for this dish, sui mai, shao mai and su mai.
In addition to the Cantonese version, we also have a northern version that use sticky rice and mushrooms as filling. It is full of aroma and can be turned into vegan.
Where does Shumai come from?
Originally shumai is a traditional Beijing snack. But nowadays you can see that it is served as dim sum in Cantonese cuisines. Or you can also find that it is sold at many breakfast stalls as a staple food. In Japan and other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, there also exist variations of shumai. It’s a delicious and popular snack enjoyed all over the world.
Why is it called shumai(烧麦, Shaomai)?
It is recorded that in the early day's shumai was sold at the tea houses, where the diners drunk a cup of tea with taking shumai at the same time. The name “捎卖” (mandarin pronunciation “Shaomai”) means being sold as a sideline with tea. Later the Chinese name “捎卖” was transformed into “烧麦” which is a much more elegant expression in Chinese, but the two names share the same pronunciation of “Shaomai”. And the English name “shumai” comes the Cantonese pronunciation of “烧麦”.
Different types of shumai
Although there are varieties of shumai, the appearance of shumai is quite alike. The main difference in shumai comes from the fillings, which differ from region to region. Generally, in the northern part, the fillings are mainly made of mutton, beef, or pork. Hohhot shumai is the typical one, the fillings of which mainly consist of mutton, scallion, and ginger.
In the southern part, the main ingredient of fillings is glutinous rice. And the glutinous rice is usually matched with various vegetables, pork, shrimp, crab meat and even egg yolks. The vegetables may contain corn, shiitake mushroom, carrot, peas, bamboo shoots, onion and so on. The most famous shumai in the south is Cantonese shumai, the fillings of which consist of ground pork, small whole or chopped shrimp, Chinese black mushroom, scallion and ginger with seasonings of Chinese rice wine soy sauce, sesame oil and chicken stock. It is the must-order of Cantonese dim sum.
In some restaurants, you can find that the top of each shumai is decorated with a green dot or a red dot. The green dot is usually a pea and the red dot may be a goji(枸杞, goji berry or wolfberry) or a small diced carrot. The crab roe and egg yolk can also be used to decorate the top part of shumai. The crab roe is often used for decoration of Cantonese shumai. And for the famous Hunan Juhua shumai, the smashed egg yolk is used to form the yellow petals of Juhua(chrysanthemum).
The shumai wrappers are made of wheat flour, hot water, and salt. The first step is to make a wheat dough with all the ingredients. And then cut the dough into small pieces and shape it into round and thin wrappers.
Cantonese dim sum shumai uses a similar wrapper to wonton wrappers. You can try to see whether you can find shumai wrappers in Asian stores. But it is completely ok to use the dumpling wrapper.
Usually, the dumpling wrappers are a little thick, so you can use a rolling pin to roll on the dumping wrappers to make them thinner. Also, you can use your hand to make pleats, which will help to form the flower shape on the top of shumai.
How to fold a Shumai
- Following is the step about how to fold a shumai.
- Place the wrapper in your left hand then add a spoonful of filling in the center.
- Create a circular shape with the thumb and index finger of your non-dominant hand and place the wrapper inside the opening.
- Tight the circular shape when rotating the shumai to make it smaller and closer.
- Then flat the topping with a scoop or other wooden tool.
How to steam
To cook shumai, you need a steamer. You can choose a stainless steel steamer or a bamboo steamer. Before steaming, you’d better put a steamer liner (paper liner or a silicone liner) on the steamer basket so as to prevent the shumai wrappers stick on the steamer.
How to store shumai
It is also quite easy for you to keep shumai in a freezer. What you need to do is to put the raw shumai in a box and then keep it in cold storage. Next time when you want to eat them, there is no need to unfreeze them. You just need to steam the shumai on the boiled water for about 20 minutes and you can start to enjoy them. The flavor will not be changed, just as same as the fresh steamed shumai.
How to reheat shumai
- Raw frozen shumai should be steamed for around 12-15 minutes, a little bit longer than fresh shumai.
- Steamed shumai can be reheated by steaming for another 5 minutes.
Ingredients for sticky rice shumai
Glutinous rice: Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is a type of short-grain rice that is especially sticky and has a chewy texture when cooked. We use it frequently in Chinese cooking. Glutinous rice can also be ground into powder.
Shiitake mushroom: these mushrooms have a meaty texture and a deep, umami-rich flavor that pairs well with the other ingredients in the shumai filling. They can also add a slightly nutty flavor and a subtle earthiness to the dish.
Onion: onion can enhance the flavor.
Light soy sauce: Light soy sauce is a type of soy sauce commonly used in Asian cooking. It can add an unami flavor to the dish.
Oyster sauce: if you want a vegan version, you can skip the oyster sauce.
Five spice powder: five spice powder can add some naughty spice aroma to shuamai. You can skip this too.
Lard: I also add a very small amount of lard to the filling to make it more aromatic and moist. You can skip this.
Prepare the sticky rice
Soak glutinous rice in water overnight. Then drain and steam the glutinous rice in a steamer for 20 minutes.
Make the filling
Heat the oil in a pan and add minced onion. Stir-fry until the onion starts to brown.
Add shiitake mushroom to the pan and continue stir-frying. Pour in 200ml of water and all the seasonings. Boil until the liquid is mostly evaporated.
Mix the cooked glutinous rice and mix well. Then our filling is ready.
Thin out the dumpling wrappers if necessary using a rolling pin. Place the filling in the center of a wrapper. Use your thumb and index finger to close the wrapper, pressing with your other hand to tighten and shape it into a shumai.
Transfer shumai to a lined steamer and steam for 12 minutes. Once cooked, the delicious shumai is ready to be served.
Shumai with sticky rice and shiitake mushrooms
- 1 steamer made of stainless steel or bamboo
- 200 g glutinous rice
- 80 g shiitake mushroom diced
- 100 g onion or shallots minced
- 10-15 pieces dumpling wappers
- 200 ml water
- 1 tbsp. Oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp. Light soy sauce
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Five spice powder
- 2 tbsp. vegetable cooking oil +1 tbsp. lard. You can skip lard for vegan version.
Prepare the sticky rice
- Soak glutinous rice in water overnight. Then drain and steam the glutinous rice in a steamer for 20 minutes.
Make the filling
- Heat the oil in a pan and add minced onion. Stir-fry until the onion starts to brown.
- Add shiitake mushroom to the pan and continue stir-frying. Pour in 200ml of water and all the seasonings. Boil until the liquid is mostly evaporated.
- Mix the cooked glutinous rice and mix well. Then our filling is ready.
Assemble the shumai
- Thin out the dumpling wrappers if necessary using a rolling pin. Place the filling in the center of a wrapper. Use your thumb and index finger to close the wrapper, pressing with your other hand to tighten and shape it into a shumai.
- Transfer shumai to a lined steamer and steam for 12 minutes. Once cooked, the delicious shumai is ready to be served.