A dim sum must-have dish, siu mai with pork and shrimp filling can be easily made at home. Learn the tips and tricks and make some!
Note: This is a revised version of my post published in 2019. It provides more tips, process shots and a video.
What is siu mai
On the menu of any Cantonese Yum Cha/Dim Sum restaurant, siu mai is no doubt among the most popular dishes. As a member of the Chinese dumpling family, it shares many characteristics with its cousins, such as Jiǎozi, wonton and potsticker. Yet it has its own unique features.
Essentially, siu mai (aka Shumai, Shāo Mài, 烧卖) are steamed, cup-shaped, stuffed parcels with an unsealed open top. It has many regional versions in China which mainly vary in terms of filling ingredients. They can be pork, beef, lamb, shrimp, glutinous rice, mushrooms, vegetables, etc.
Today’s recipe, the Cantonese-style siu mai, is filled with pork and shrimp. Not only are they delicious, but they also stand out for their iconic texture: tender, juicy, and wonderfully springy.
Before I explain the recipe in detail, here are some helpful tips to bear in mind:
- Use ready-made wrappers for an authentic look and convenience.
- Emulsify the filling to create the classic springy texture.
- Steam briefly over high heat to preserve the tenderness.
- Freeze a big batch of uncooked ones for later use.
Choose the wrappers
I’m a loyal fan of homemade dumpling wrappers (for Jiǎozi/饺子), but for today’s siu mai, I always use ready-made wrappers that are yellow-colored, thinner, and extra slippery. They create the restaurant-standard look and texture.
The round siu mai wrappers I use are made of the same ingredients as Cantonese-style wonton wrappers that are square-shaped. They both contain lye water, an alkaline solution that gives the dough a yellow color and springy texture.
So if you can’t find siu mai wrappers in your local Chinese stores, feel free to substitute them with wonton wrappers. Simply cut off four corners as shown in the image above. Do not discard the trimmings but add them to soups (e.g. Hot & Sour Soup, Egg Drop Soup, etc.).
To make classic Cantonese siu mai, you’ll need the following ingredients:
Traditional siu mai recipes call for a mixture of hand-diced lean pork and cubes of pure pork fat. To make it more home cook friendly, I suggest you use ground pork that has a high-fat content (mine is 20%).
If your diet doesn’t include pork, use minced dark cuts (thighs or legs) of chicken as a substitute. I find breasts a little too dry for this recipe.
Shrimp (prawn) is another key ingredient. It has to be raw (do not use pre-cooked ones) and chopped into chunks that create a nice bite (do not mince them).
Use dried shiitake mushrooms which have a much more profound aroma than fresh ones. Soak them beforehand to rehydrate then chop them into tiny pieces.
Some restaurants use crab roe/fish roe to garnish siu mai. I use finely minced carrots which create a very similar effect. Peas are a good choice too. I also use sliced carrots as a lining for steaming (explained in later sections).
Prepare the filling
As mentioned above, one of the distinctive features of siu mai is the springy texture of its filling. It’s often described as “Q Tán/Q弹” or “Tán Yá/弹牙” in Chinese which literally means “bounce off the teeth”. To achieve this, well-emulsified meat is the key.
Put ground pork, chopped shrimp, and all the seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Use a pair of chopsticks or a rubber spatula to stir the mixture in one direction vigorously until it turns into a very sticky mass. It’s a laborious process but totally worth the effort.
Apart from creating a springy texture after cooking, a sticky filling also helps you do well in the next step: assembling the wrappers and the filling into perfectly shaped siu mai.
🛎 Note: If you happen to have a stand mixer, use it to mix the mixture with a flat beater at medium speed. This delivers a very good result with little effort.
How to assemble
Since siu mai has an open top where the filling is exposed, the regular dumpling folding techniques don’t work. To assemble them with ease, follow these steps (watch the video above for reference):
- Place a generous amount of filling in the center of a wrapper.
- Form an “O” shape with the thumb and index finger of your non-dominant hand, then let the wrapper sit inside the hole.
- Use a frosting spatula, or the handle of a spoon, to top up and level the filling until the wrapper is filled to the rim. Remember to hold the siu mai with the right amount of pressure so that it becomes a nice cylinder.
- Flatten the bottom of the siu mai with your finger so that it can stand straight.
🛎 Note: Make sure you stuff the wrapper with enough filling so there aren’t any air pockets trapped in it. Also, the wrinkles of the wrapper on the rim should ideally be evenly spread out.
How to steam
In dim sum restaurants, siu mai are always steamed and served in stacks of tiny bamboo steamers (3 or 4 in each basket). Use any steamer available in your kitchen, whether bamboo-made or not.
To prevent sticking, I always put thin slices of carrots underneath when steaming dumplings. This natural, edible lining also works well for siu mai.
Alternatively, line your steamer baskets with perforated parchment paper (shop-bought or homemade with regular parchment paper). If you’re using a metal or plastic steamer, brushing a thin layer of oil also prevents sticking.
Before steaming, add a pinch of finely minced carrot on top of each siu mai. This is purely for decoration purposes so skip it if you don’t bother.
To steam siu mai, you’ll need to first bring water to a full boil in a wok/pot. Then place the steamer baskets over. Cover with a lid and leave to cook over high heat for 7 minutes.
🛎 Note: Don’t have a steamer? Here is a simple, alternative set-up: Place a small bowl in a wok or big pot. Add water (below the rim of the bowl) and bring to a boil. Then put a flat plate over the bowl with the siu mai on top.
Siu mai tastes great on its own, but feel free to serve them with a dipping sauce if you like. Dip it in black rice vinegar for an extra sour taste, or in homemade chili oil for a hot kick on the palate. For more ideas, check out my post on Dumpling Sauces.
Made ahead & store
Like other types of dumplings, siu mai is a great dish to make a big batch for future use.
- To freeze: Place uncooked siu mai on a tray in a single layer then freeze. As soon as they’re completely frozen, transfer them into air-tight containers/bags and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To cook: You can cook frozen siu mai directly (no need to defrost). Steam the usual way for 10-12 minutes depending on how many you’re cooking at a time.
Other dumpling recipes
Looking for more inspirations? Check out some of my dumpling collections:
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Siu Mai (Shumai, 烧卖)
For the filling
- 8 oz ground pork - see note 1
- 7 oz raw, peeled shrimp - cut into cubes
- 3 large dried shiitake mushrooms - rehydrated and minced (see note 2)
- 3 tablespoon water - in which the mushrooms are soaked
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
You also need
- 20 siu mai wrappers - or thin wonton wrappers (see note 3)
- 20 slices carrot - for lining
- Finely minced carrot - for garnishing
Prepare the filling
- Add all the ingredients for the filling to a large mixing bowl. Use chopsticks or a spatula to stir the mixture vigorously in one direction for 5 minutes or so until everything is combined into a sticky mass. You may use a stand mixer to speed up the process (with a flat beater on medium speed).
Assemble the siu mai
- Take the wrappers out of the package. Remember to cover them if not used immediately as they dry out easily.
- Put a tablespoonful of the filling in the middle of a wrapper. Then let the wrapper securely sit in the hole formed by the thumb and index finger of your non-dominant hand.
- Top up with more filling. Level with a frosting spatula or the handle of a spoon so that the wrapper is generously filled to the rim (watch the video below for reference).
Steam the siu mai
- Scatter the carrot slices in the steamer basket. Then place the assembled siu mai over the carrot (see note 4 for alternative methods). Garnish each siu mai with a pinch of finely minced carrot.
- Add 2 cups (500ml) of water to the wok/pan you plan to use for steaming. Bring it to a full boil then place the steamer baskets over (you may stack up multiple baskets and cook all at once).
- Leave to steam over high heat for 7 minutes. Serve immediately, on their own, or with a sauce of your choice (such as chili oil, black rice vinegar etc.).
Make ahead & store
- Right after assembly, place uncooked siu mai on a tray in a single layer. Put into the freezer. Once completely frozen, transfer them to air-tight containers/bags. Store in the freezer for up to three months.
- Steam frozen siu mai for 10-12 minutes (without defrosting).
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.