Shu mai (also known as “sui mai” or “shao mai”) is a bite-size steamed savory Chinese dumpling usually stuffed with pork or meat and served with a dipping sauce. Shumai is one of the most popular dim sum snacks.
Dim sum originated in Cantonese tea houses where families would gather in the mornings for brunch. Selections of steamed dim sum would be served from bamboo steamers on metal pushcarts from table to table, allowing patrons to select their choices. Dim sum also includes several fried and sweet specialties.
Chef Chris Cheung grew up in New York’s Chinatown. He is the owner of East Wind Snack Shops with two locations in Brooklyn. His specialties are cooked-to-order dumplings, spring rolls, and sauces as well as a special treat called “Dragon’s Beard cotton candy.” Follow @eastwindsnackshop on Instagram to see his dishes. General Info (eastwindsnackshop.com)
Cheung is the author of “Damn Good Chinese Food,” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2021). In it he pays homage to the cooking traditions of Chinatown, its culture, and its resilience. Through personal insights, stories, and recipes, Cheung walks the reader through restaurants, markets, and the dishes and recipes.
He shared this tutorial on making shumai with Santé Magazine.
“I like to think of these dumplings as the starter kit. There are different ways to wrap shumai, but your dumplings will look fine if you can form the skin around the meat since these are open-faced dumplings. Pleats are nice as you become more comfortable with folding, but these are great practice to just get a sense of how ground meat takes to the wrapper,” Cheung said.
Shumai filling is traditionally pork, but ground chicken, lamb, or even shrimp will work as substitutes. Cheung’s fillings are reminiscent of the salted egg minced pork pie his grandmother cooked.
“My mom and my aunts have mastered this Toisan classic, and they would scream, “ALWAYS HAND CHOP THE MEAT!” That is another ancient Chinese secret for dumpling filling,” he said.
For a proper chop, Chueng recommends purchasing a Chinese cleaver. He provides a handy resource section in “Damn Good Chinese Food.”
Shumai with Damn Good Dipping Sauce
Prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: 7 minutes.
Makes approximately 18 shumai
Cheung noted, ”This dumpling is cooked by simply steaming. Rub a little oil on the bottom of your cooking vessel so the shumai will not stick. Timing is a bit more important with these dumplings, as there will be minimal visual hints to let you know they are done. Firmness is a good indicator. Knowing there is a decent window of time before your dumplings start to overcook helps. Above all, stick one with a meat thermometer to make sure it’s 165°F.”
½ pound pork, coarsely ground or hand-chopped
½ cup water chestnuts, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons thin soy sauce
½ egg white
1 pack thin yellow wonton circle wrappers*
½ cup Damn Good Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)
*The wrappers that make these dumplings are best bought at the market but are available online as well. Buy the yellow round wonton wrappers. Twin Marquis is a popular brand.
Mix the pork, water chestnuts, ginger, cornstarch, oyster sauce, and thin soy sauce in a mixing bowl.
Separately, whip a whole egg white to soft peaks, but only use half.
When the pork mixture is well combined, fold in the egg white. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Assembling the dumplings:
Place 1 tablespoon of filling in wonton circle. Next, place the wrapper in one hand and begin to mold around the filling. Pleat the wrapper with your dominant hand and secure the pleats as you turn the dumpling in your grip with your non-dominant hand.
When all folds are secured, keep rotating the dumpling in your grip while you mold filling in the dumpling wrapper. Tap the top with your dominant index finger and middle finger and tap the bottom with your dominant thumb. This evens out the filling.
Place on paper-lined tray brushed with oil to store.
Space out the dumplings on an oiled level in steamer with daylight between them so the steamer is not overcrowded. Steam for approximately seven minutes and check for doneness with a meat thermometer (165°F).
Remove the dumplings from the steamer and place them on a serving platter.
Damn Good Dipping Sauce
1 cup thin soy sauce
½ cup mushroom soy sauce
½ cup Chinkiang vinegar
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons chili paste
1 tablespoon MSG
1 dry chili, minced
¼ cup sliced scallions
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
mix all ingredients well with a whisk
Chris Cheung’s Damn Good Places to Eat and Shop in NYC Chinatowns- Manhattan and Brooklyn
New York has Chinatown neighborhoods filled with great restaurants and shopping in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, all worth of visit. Here are Chris Cheung’s picks (check ahead for hours of operation):
Hop Kee- I grew up eating here. If you live in Chinatown, you eat here. the tourists eat here too. Anthony Bourdain was a regular here. Address: 21 Mott Street, Manhattan www.hop-kee-nyc.com
Ping’s– A true innovator and the “celebrity chef of Chinatown.” Address: 22 Mott Street, NYC Pings NYC (eatatpings.com)
The Roast- Great BBQ in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, best window of ducks ever! Address: 5124 8th Ave, Brooklyn, 11220, NY
Kings Kitchen in Brooklyn for worth the wait clay pot rice stuffed with preserved meats, and tasty seafood Address: 5223 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220
For great shopping check out HL Market on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 68 street in Brooklyn. Huge selections, so many veggies, great live seafood and big aisles of snacks! Address: 6722 Fort Hamilton Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11219