Siu Mai: Pork And Shrimp Steamed Dumplings

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Today is the Lunar New Year, and we’d like to wish you a HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!!  I won’t embarrass myself by trying to stumble through rounds of viciously mispronounced “Gung hay fat choy!!” but you know that I’m thinking it.  The only Cantonese that I’ve plundered my way through over the years is “hello”, “thank you”, “I am very smart” and a selection of salty language which I heartily enjoy pulling out of my pocket when we go for dim sum.  

Preparation for the Chinese New Year is an elaborate affair, starting in the month before the lunar new year.  There are new year visits to kin and friends, shopping for new clothes to ring in the year with luck and style, and one’s house is given a thorough scrubbing.  I think of cleaning as an unfortunate necessity that Mike gets to do, but I’m all over the other stuff.  Oh, and then there is the massive preparation and consumption of food.  I’m down with that one as well.  So, because the two of us borrow shamelessly from other cultures as any excuse to have a party, we had a group of our kin and friends over for dumplings on Saturday and raised a glass to the New Year!

Siu Mai:  Pork And Shrimp Steamed Dumplings

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 500 g extra lean ground pork
  • 300 g cooked shrimp *
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp mirin 
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger root
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup bamboo shoots
  • salt to taste
  • frozen peas for garnish
  • 2 packages of round dumpling wrappers, each 7 oz **

* The shrimp will be chopped up and steamed again, so you really don’t need to break the budget buying top quality seafood for these dumplings.  The little bags of frozen ‘salad shrimp’ are fine.

** Dumpling wrappers, aka dumpling skins or Shu Mai/Siu Mai wrappers are thinner than wonton skins and slightly yellow.  They are ideal for steaming but don’t hold up too well to frying.  If you can’t find dumpling wrappers then wonton wrappers are a good second choice.  The wrappers that I’ve used here are wonton wrappers, because after spending half an hour trying to get a parking spot at T&T (and failing) I gave up and went to the suspiciously quiet No Frills up the road instead.  This is all that they had, but it was enough to quell my parking-induced Saturday morning rage attack, so that’s good enough for me.

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Put the minced pork into a bowl and add the mirin, sesame oil, soya sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and cornstarch.  Press or grate the garlic cloves in as well, along with the ginger.  My all time favorite kitchen tool is my microplane (from a…hardware store?  Really?  No matter, it’s amazing) which makes short work of ginger, garlic, and just about everything else – including fingernails if you’re not careful.  

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If you’re using dried shiitake mushrooms, then you first need to reconstitute them through a relaxing soak in some hot water for a half hour or so.  Or, if you’re lazy like me (and your second choice grocery store doesn’t have dried shiitake) the canned ones are fine.  

Cut off the tough stems and then slice the ‘shrooms into paper thin strips before giving a rough chop and adding to the pork.

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Mince the bamboo shoots very finely (no larger than 1/8″, please) and add them to the mix.

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Finely chop the shrimp until it looks minced and entirely unrecognizable.  You can refer to this as The Seafood Formerly Known As Shrimp, if you like.  Or not.  You could not do that too.

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Add the shrimp to the pork mixture and mix it by hand until everything is combined and dispersed.  Ooh, that sounds a bit like a directive from the Chairman – “COMBINE AND DISPERSE!!!”  I likes. 

If you’re used to making meatballs, the texture here might throw you off.  It’s loose, slightly wet and very sticky.  Not to worry, however, the cornstarch will make quick work of that when they steam.  

There are some dishes which you can salt at the end of preparation and they’ll be just as good.  Unfortunately, dumplings aren’t one of them.  Check the seasoning of your filling by frying up a small patty with a little bit of olive oil, and add salt to taste.

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Lay your wrapper on the table and dollop a good tablespoon (or thereabouts) of filling onto the middle.  Gently gather up the edges, pleating them as you go, to make a crimped and frilly little bundle with an exposed top.  Finish the dumpling by pressing a frozen pea on top.

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Place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer basket in a single layer so that they’ll cook evenly. This is one of my smaller bamboo steamer inserts because the larger ones were busy cooking up steamed mushrooms with sesame pork filling  – post to come soon!  You may want to lightly oil the bottom of your steamer basket to make sure that the dumplings don’t stick.

Use a pot which is close in size to the bamboo steamer which needs to sit snugly on top.  Bring a few inches of water to a rolling boil and steam the dumplings, covered of course, for 10 minutes or until they’re cooked through and firm to the touch.

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Siu Mai can be served with a chili sauce, chili oil, soy sauce, or your favorite dumpling sauce.  The one below is just a mixture (without any measuring, my apologies) of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, chili oil, chili garlic sauce, and rice wine vinegar.  

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Siu Mai, like many Asian dumplings, freezes really well.  Just in case you can’t eat three dozen dumplings in a single sitting, they’re great to have on hand to steam up for an easy weeknight dinner.  Freeze them in a single layer, making sure that they don’t touch.  After they’ve had time to freeze through you can pack them into plastic freezer bags and they’ll keep their integrity for a couple of months.  You can also steam them directly from the frozen state, which is a great advantage in my opinion – just allow them extra cooking time to compensate.

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Do you ever have those moments where you think, “Gee, I need to tell somebody something” and then you get distracted by something shiny and totally think that you told them when you really didn’t?  Or where you THOUGHT the statement quite vehemently, you just didn’t actually say it out loud?  Well, it could be that we have a friend with a seafood allergy.  It could also be that I slapped the plate of dumplings down on the table then went shooting back upstairs to grab something else.  I’m guessing that somebody filled him in, however, because nobody got airlifted to the hospital in a state of severe anaphylaxis.  

Anyway, Friend With Seafood Allergy, we weren’t really trying to kill you.  Even though it must seem that way since we also sent you home with the leftovers……  

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!!!!!

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  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    For Chris, it will be the Year of The Epi-Pen.

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    It would be so much easier to just buy the ready-to-steam siu mai but no…you have to make your own…gold star for you!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Peter, I fully cop to buying manufactured dim sum for an easy Tuesday night dinner. I feel NO SHAME in that! But sometimes you just want to make it yourself, you know? And really, from a guy who makes HOME MADE PHYLLO DOUGH………

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    I got really flustered because I saw Mike’s comment, didn’t make the connection to “your friend” and thought you were talking about my Chris, who spends basically all of his time romping around with epi-pens.

    Do you think a bamboo steamer is better than a regular steamer? I’ve been wanting to do some more dim sum.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      That sounds…ominous. Romping around as in “allergic to all living organisms…and the sun” or like, “working in an allergy clinic”????

      When you say a ‘regular’ steamer, do you mean the steamer insert of a double boiler or a stand alone steamer? I find that a bamboo steamer is superior to a steamer insert because it allows for better circulation. There are a lot of really great countertop steamers on the market right now which do a righteous job. I stick with the bamboo steamer, however, because:
      a) it’s more traditional considering that the types of things that I steam are generally of Asian origin.
      b) a good countertop steamer is about $85. I got 3 sets (various sizes) of bamboo steamer wells from Chinatown for $20. I would prefer to keep that $65 and spend it on vodka.
      c) I break things that have cords. And batteries. And probably solar panels, although I haven’t tested that theory yet…..

  • Alison

    MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm. Maybe we could do dim sum in February? I could actually eat AND enjoy some of the wonderful dishes at that place we went to with your parents!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Hehehe…I am nothing if not an enabler. We can definitely do dim sum, or whatever your heart desires! I think that we should take advantage of the fact that you like tofu to restart the Tofu Tribunal.

    “But Mike, she’s a GUEST in our house. I HAVE to make what she likes, don’t I??!”

    Oh yes….if I had a goatee I would be stroking it right now….

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      You guys enjoy your tofu. I’m going to have steak, wrapped around Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  • http://www.thatsnotwhattherecipesays.com Laurie

    It’s so nice to find another couple who loves to cook together. My husband and I made Chinese dumplings a few weeks ago for the first time. It took us an hour and half to make 60 of them and we actually had to take turns because we got tired.

    Your bamboo steamer looks like a gadget we must have before we make dumplings again!

  • Susan

    As you are aware Tina, you are my hero. During awkward social occasions you have
    advised on how to dress to ensure I look my best, you have repaired the damage when I
    have gone too far and overall, inspire me to try a little harder when it comes to eating. You
    seem to always be on your game and you really do make me want to try a little harder.
    I have always known that there is no way that I will ever be as colour coordinated as you, or
    as prepared for all occasions as you always seem to be. That being said, I have always held
    onto the notion that since we are friends, I can align myself with you and maybe “borrow”
    some of your brilliance. Now that I know you can make these precious little dumplings, I
    simply cannot keep up with your brillance and have now chosen to worship you rather
    than fool myself into believing that I can one day be more like you.
    You are clearly a goddess.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Susan, the picture you paint of Goddess Tina is far more than I will EVER deserve!! You work harder (and longer) than most people that I know, and if I still worked 50h weeks PLUS a second job then I don’t think that the dumplings would be very forthcoming….as it is, most days come down to the decision: “oh jeez. I haven’t done laundry in two weeks and the piles are so high that I can’t distinguish between the clothes in the basket(s) that I neglected to unload and the used ones which smell like a barnyard. But I really want to make dumplings tonight. Meh, those socks look clean enough….”

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