Everyone loves dumplings, that’s just an undisputed fact. Not everyone feels confident making them from scratch though. These Cantonese Shumai are little juicy bundles of delight, they are a dim sum favorite for a reason after all, but they are also an excellent way to dive into dumpling making for the first time. There’s no complicated pleating, or fancy crimping, or exploding seams to worry about. They still look elaborately impressive, and the savory filling is umami perfection! Combining the classic flavors of pork and shrimp with some simple seasonings, these Shumai are so delicious, you’ll come back for them again and again.
Whether you’ve eaten ravioli, tortellini, wontons, gyoza, or potstickers, you’ve had a version of dumplings. Luckily for home cooks, Shumai are the dumping equivalent of a free form tart. They are virtually impossible to screw up and any less than perfect shapes only add to the charm. Plus, you get a mouthful of the best part, the amazing filling. Nothing is worse than biting into a dumpling and wondering what happened to the filling. Shumai will never disappoint you because they are jam packed. The open top means you can cram a generous amount without worrying about how you’re going to seal it closed. So let’s get your freezer stocked with some of these lovelies.
Making the Shumai Filling
Shumai are stuffed with a divine mixture of rich and juicy pork, savory shrimp, earthy dried shiitake mushrooms and some of my favorite flavor bombs like Shaoxing wine, white pepper, toasted sesame oil, and oyster sauce. Hopefully these items are already part of your pantry. If not, you can always substitute with some good (if slightly different) results. You can use other dried or fresh mushrooms for the shiitake. Dried shiitakes are best for intense authentic flavor, but some fresh shiitakes or portobellos would work fine too.
Don’t have any Shaoxing cooking wine? Try some dry sherry (my first choice), sake, or even mirin instead. If you don’t have any oyster sauce, a little fish sauce or even more soy sauce would work. And if you’re out of toasted sesame oil, my heart breaks for you as nothing can match the deep toasty flavor, but a little neutral oil can still boost the juiciness of your dumplings.
I start by submerging the dried mushrooms in boiling water until softened:
While I’m waiting for them to soften, I start making the pork mixture. Just a quick note on ground pork. When you go to the grocery store you are looking for a fatty grind, the kind you would use for making sausages. Please don’t buy lean ground pork. You will sacrifice flavor, juiciness, and happiness. A dry dumpling is a sad dumpling 😉
Mixing the pork until it is a fine paste is essential to get the right springy texture that is characteristic of Shumai. Once you add the flavorings, you’re going to want to mix and slap the mixture. At first the meat will break apart but as you continue to work it, it will get sticky and pasty. This takes about two minutes so keep kneading and mixing.
Mix it all thoroughly together and then the filling is ready.
Make the Shumai
To make the most traditional shumai, I seek out a Hong Kong style wonton wrapper. They are quite thin and have the yellow color shumai are famous for, but if you can’t find them, any wonton wrapper will work. I used the square wrappers because they are the easiest to find in my area but round would work even better. Take out a small stack of wrappers from the pack and keep the rest covered so they don’t dry out. Have a small dish of water ready to adhere the corners of the wrapper to the dumpling.
Start by putting a generous tablespoon of filling into the center of a wrapper, and then use one hand to cup and hold it upright (I put my fingers together to form an “O” ) while you use the other hand to gently push the filling down with a spoon or butter knife. Gently smooth the surface of the dumpling and then fold the corners of the dumpling down (if you are using square wrappers) and stick it to the side of the dumpling using a little water as glue.
Place the Shumai on the counter and continue shaping it so you have a nice compact mini cylinder. Finally, put the completed shumai on a tray and proceed with filling and shaping more Shumai until you have used up all of the pork mixture. You will yield approximately 30 pieces. Freeze any unused wrappers in an airtight container for future use.
Once your dumplings are completed, they are usually garnished with a little orange caviar for color. This is not necessary but a nice touch if you have it. Pro tip: Order 1 piece of Masago or Tobiko caviar from a Japanese restaurant sashimi style. You only need a small amount on each dumpling and this way you won’t have to deal with using out a full container of caviar. Alternatively, finely diced carrot can also be used to garnish the Shumai. Or go minimalist and don’t bother. The Shumai will still taste great.
Cooking the Shumai
Steaming keeps the shumai extra tender and juicy. Whatever type of steamer you have, make sure you spray it with nonstick oil spray before placing the raw dumplings so these delicate babies don’t stick to the pan. I fill my bottom pan with plenty of water and then bring it to a rolling boil on high before placing the steamer insert with the dumplings.
Cover with the lid and then steam on high until the dumplings are cooked through the center, about 10 minutes. If you’re not sure the dumplings are fully cooked, take the largest dumpling you see and cut through the center to check.
Continue to steam all the shumai and then it’s time to enjoy your labors. Generally these aren’t eaten with a dipping sauce, but rather served alongside bottles of soy sauce, vinegars, and chili oil so you can choose your own adventure. A bowl of this chili crisp would be most welcome too!
If one batch of Shumai is too much for one sitting, you can easily freeze them either raw or cooked. If you prefer to freeze them raw, place the tray in the freezer uncovered until the Shumai are frozen solid (3-4 hours). Then transfer them to a freezer safe bag or air tight container. When you are ready to cook them, steam them straight from the freezer, adding 3-5 additional minutes to the cooking time.
Looking for the fastest and easiest way to a meal? Then I suggest pre-cooking them before you freeze. Once the Shumai are cooked, let them cool to room temperature, place them in a freezer safe bag or airtight container, and freeze. You can reheat them either in the steamer or the microwave straight from the freezer. To mimic the steaming process in the microwave, put a couple tablespoons of water with the shumai and cover with plastic wrap before microwaving for a couple minutes.
Try these delicious Shumai and let me know what you think! I hope you love them as much as we do, and that you are inspired to try your hand at some of our other really popular dumpling recipes, like these Korean Mandu or these Mushroom Dumplings.
- 2–3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 pound fatty ground pork
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 ½ Tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 6 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp (you can use any size)
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped white portion of green onion
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 large egg white (save yolk for another purpose)
- 30 wonton wrappers / egg wrappers 8cm/3.5″ squares or rounds
- Oil spray for steamer basket
- 1 Tablespoon masago/tobiko caviar or very finely minced carrots
Soy sauce, vinegar (Chinese black or white distilled), and chili oil or paste
Make the filling:
- Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Submerge the mushrooms using a small plate/bowl and soak until soft, about 15-20 minutes.
- Squeeze out excess water and trim and discard the woody stems. Finely chop the mushrooms and set aside.
- Peel the shrimp and then chop it into small pieces with a knife. I keep the shrimp roughly chopped so you can taste the shrimp better in the filling.
- Place the ground pork, salt, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, and ground white pepper in a large mixing bowl.
- Mix the pork vigorously with your hands, slapping it around the bowl, until it becomes sticky, about 2 minutes.
- Add chopped mushrooms, shrimp, green onions, egg white, and cornstarch. Mix well.
- Have a small dish of water ready if you are using square wrappers.
- With your left hand (or right hand if you are left-handed), bring your thumb and fingers together to form an “O”
- Place the wonton wrapper over the “O”
- Take 1 heaping Tablespoon of filling and gently pack it into the center of the wrapper, pushing into the “O”.
- Use the back of the spoon or a butter knife to smooth the filling so it’s even with the edge of wonton. If you’re using square wonton sheets, wet the outside of the shumai lightly with water and fold the corners of the square down so it sticks to the side of the shumai.
- Place the shumai on the counter and use your fingers to shape it into a round cylinder.
- Set the shumai on a plastic wrapped tray or large plate and continue making shumai until you have used up all of the filling. (you may have some wrappers leftover. You can re-freeze any leftover wrappers that you don’t use.)
- Garnish the dumplings by adding a tiny bit of caviar or chopped carrots to the top of the shumai.
- Set up a double boiler or a bamboo steamer/steamer basket in a wok or large deep skillet with 3-4 cups of water and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
- Oil the surface of the steamer basket and place as many shumai as can fit into the basket without touching.
- Once the water is boiling, place the steamer basket into the steamer and cover with a lid.
- Steam the shumai for 8-10 minutes until the center is cooked through and a temperature reading is 165. (You can cut into the center of the biggest one to check.)
- Place the shumai onto a platter and continue to cook any remaining shumai, adding more water to the pot if needed.
- Serve the shumai right away with soy sauce, white/black vinegar, and chili oil.
*Shumai is generally not served with dipping sauce. Instead you are encouraged to make your own sauce with soy sauce, vinegar, and chile oil at dim sum restaurants.
* You can freeze any raw or cooked shumai:
If you’re freezing raw shumai, leave them on the tray and place the tray in the freezer. Freeze for several hours until they are frozen solid. Transfer to a freezer safe bag or container once frozen. When you are ready to steam, you can freeze them straight from the freezer, adding 3-5 minutes of cooking time.
If you are freezing cooked shumai, let them cool to room temperature first and then transfer to a freezer safe bag or container. You can reheat them by steaming or microwaving for a couple of minutes straight from the freezer. If you’re microwaving, add a couple tablespoons of water to the shumai and then cover with plastic wrap before microwaving. This helps preserve moisture by mimicking the steaming process.
Keywords: shumai, shrimp, pork, chinese, cantonese, dim sum, dumplings, wontons, lunar new year, holiday