We do declare, we never saw dim sum developing in Gourmandistan. But then, we didn’t foresee Pavel burying us in brassica, either. Gourmandistan’s dive into dim sum started with turnip cakes, because Steve wanted to whittle down our winter oversupply of daikon radishes. Kimchi wasn’t going to cut it, as (especially after it’s gone really pungent) a little goes a long way. Seeking another Asian avenue, Steve researched turnip cakes, and found the dish was simply a batter of rice flour, grated daikon, water and whatever flavors one wants to go in, steamed like a British pudding then fried crisp. Our first batch was a bit gummy, but a thinner batter and a bigger bamboo steamer soon turned out a very serviceable way to get rid of radishes. Bonus points went to how well they went from frozen to frying while staying delicious.
What began as a way to clear the fridge became the start of a new Gourmandistan obsession: homemade dim sum. Our products may not meet the standards of highly trained chefs working the delightful parlors in Vancouver, New York and other cities where we’ve enjoyed dim sum. We may never be able to match the amazing Peking duck pancakes at San Francisco’s Yank Sing. But with a pasta machine, some flour and several trips to our nearest Asian market, we’re starting to crank out freezer packs of startlingly good stuff.
These shao mai (which along with shui mai, shu mai, sui mai, shui mei, siu mai, siew mai, or siomai will represent 烧卖) are a good example. The Nina Simonds recipe for “skins” was pretty much the same as Steve’s basic pasta recipe. We rolled out sheets of thin and stretchy dough in the trusty KitchenAid pasta maker. Making the ground pork, water chestnut and raw shrimp filling wasn’t too much different from making meatballs, though it did involve Michelle touching raw shrimp. (Michelle fussily demands totally clean shrimp while squeamishly fidgeting over the sight, smell and thought of a shrimp’s “sh*t trail.” It’s fun to watch.)
After a few tries, we’re well on to making well-shaped shao mai (except for a sticky rice-filled version that tends to fall apart when steamed). We’re now on a search for wheat starch, real Shaoxing wine and some other ingredients, dreaming of duplicating just about everything we’ve ever seen pass by on a cart. Look out, Dixie—dim sum has arrived in Gourmandistan!
(adapted from Nina Simonds’ Classic Chinese Cuisine) (makes about 30-35)
WRAPPERS:1-1/3 c. all-purpose flour 1 t. salt 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1/4 c. cold water
Put flour and salt into bowl of an electric mixer and toss to combine. Add the egg and water. Use the paddle attachment until mixed. Then, switch to the kneading hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until smooth and springy.
Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, wrapped in wax paper or plastic wrap.
Cut dough in half. Roll out half by hand with a rolling pin on a floured surface or (much easier) with a pasta machine. The sheet should be quite thin. Cut out circles with a 3″ round cookie cutter.
Keep remaining half of dough covered until first batch of dumplings is made, to keep from drying out. Then repeat rolling process.
FILLING:1/2 lb. raw shrimp, cleaned, shelled and minced 3/4 lb. ground pork 1 Chinese sausage, finely diced (optional) 1/2 c. water chestnuts, finely diced 1 egg white 1 TB sherry 2 t. soy sauce 2 t. sesame oil 3-4 scallions, minced 2 t. ginger, peeled and minced 2 TB cornstarch Pinch of sugar Salt & pepper Shredded carrot for garnish
Mix ingredients (except carrots) together, as if making meat loaf.
Place about tablespoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper. Pull the sides of the wrapper up around the filling. Lightly squeeze the center between your thumb and index finger to make a “waist” on the “cup.” Flatten top of filling with a finger or a knife. Flatten bottom of the dumpling with your thumb and/or by moving back and forth on a hard, lightly-floured surface. Or, watch how this guy does it.
Sprinkle the surface of the dumplings with shredded carrot, pushing down a little into the filling mixture to anchor.
Steam dumplings, placed at least 1/4″ apart, for 15 minutes.
Cooked dumplings can be cooled and frozen. Frozen dumplings can be heated by steaming for 10-15 minutes. There is no need to thaw before steaming.
NOTE: If wrappers start to dry out as you are making the dumplings, cover with a damp towel.