Well Shao Mai Mouth!

Shao Mai

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.

Shao Mai

Ready for the steamer

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!

Shao Mai

The wrappers thicken up a bit after freezing, but they’re still good.


  • Servings: makes 30-35 dumplings
  • Print

(adapted from Nina Simonds’ Classic Chinese Cuisine)


  • 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.


  • 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 a 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.



  1. Shu mai! Excellent! They are addictive n’est-ce pas? Glad to hear that the Chinese steamer crowd has infiltrated Gourmandistan. My one quibble: a little kim chi, no matter how pungent, never goes a long way. Ken

    • We’ve got some daikon kimchi in the refrigerator that’s so fermented I don’t think even David Chang would eat it. This is a fun phase, though the dim sum mania has caused lots of lost weekends. Let the laundry stack up, there are dumplings to make!

  2. Those look fantastic!! Over the past 12-14 months, I have learned how to cook almost all of my dim sum favorites and it’s so rewarding. I felt like it would be so hard, but I’ve nailed everything except the soup dumplings (epic failure). Even though they may not be as good as the professionals, it’s pretty awesome to have a freezer full of dim sum goodies!

  3. Eha

    Beautiful people! Welcome to the fun world of cooking! Multiple claps on your wonderful beginning of dim sum! [Easy-peasy once you have tried!]. Huh: how to be a teacher when you are not a teacher – perchance trust your readers to buy Kylie Kwong’s ‘My China’ [no, am definitely not getting a %!] and > from there! We are all European-born: why not all have the tremendous fun with food that SE Asia can provide? Health, taste, gloriously ‘being a foodie’?

      • Eha

        The most worthwhile of the lot, and if you are are not usin’. you are losin’ :D! BUT: just looked – what has Chinese gotta to do with it: what about Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese [OF COURSE], Mayanmar, Pakistani and the dozens of different kinds of Indian? That, to me, is REAL FOOD!!!!

          • Eha

            I DO hope you will sometime – passionately l!!!!! Don’t think any of us would like to move away!! Actually am certain! How can any real foodie not recognize, honestly and honorably, as, for instance, Vietnamese not being the premier cuisine on the globe? I am happy that you are satisfied within your square!

    • It is fun, isn’t it? And I’m so proud of myself: as of this moment (which won’t last long), the laundry is completely caught up … because we took the weekend off from dumpling making. 🙂

      • Plus, it’s a reference that the less dim sum-obsessed might get. We had great dim sum years ago somewhere outside L.A., but I doubt I could ever come up with the names of the places. And they’ve probably changed by now.

      • Yep. Those are good. The food in general is really good there. But it’s also really good in a dozen other dim sum places around SF at a quarter of the price. (I got a takeout order of four different dumplings last time I was there, and it was $45!)

  4. I love Shao Mai and learning how to make them is a real treat. I can make the wrappers. They won’t be the problem. (If you can make one sheet of pasta you can make ’em all.) Normally, I would think it’s too much effort to make the filling — any Chinese filling — for my own dinner. These, though, can be frozen and that makes them so much more practical for a single-person household. I feel a new project coming on. Thanks! 🙂

    • I can’t tell you how great it is to be hanging around on a Sunday morning thinking “what can I make for lunch?” and then remembering there are all sorts of dim sum treats in the freezer that only need to be stuck in a steamer basket. More recipes to come, as we finally make them photo-worthy. And, yes, I have no doubt about your ability to make the wrappers! 🙂

  5. These look fantastic! I just realized that I didn’t comment, I just babbled to Steve about how incredible they look. They look incredible! Can’t wait to see what else comes from the flour Steve picked up in Chinatown.

    Freeze some of them babies for me, will ya’?

  6. Truly tasty and most appropriate in that lead up to the lunar new year. I have dumplings & dim sum in my blood, literally I eat them three times a week! Such love and care in making your own wrappers too, it’s the sure trademark of a good dim sum & dumpling maker.

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  9. Resha Ray

    Hey chef thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I had recently been to dimsum serving restaurant, Ping Pong located in Mumbai. I loved the food served. The dimsum were awesome. This restaurant in true terms served authentic Chinese cuisine. You can know more at http://www.pingpongdimsum.in/‎
    I was searching for dimsum recipes online, to try them at home and thankful found.

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  11. Janet Anderson

    My son-in-law’s family are from China, and his sister is married to a man from Viet Nam. The 4 siblings have produced 9 grandchildren. Going out for a celebration is getting hella expensive (although the Cantonese ambiance is part of the experience). We could eat a hundred Siumai and DonTot tarts. If we all got together and made Dim Sum stuff, we could have an amazing feast. We can do this!

    • A big dumpling-making extravaganza is a great thing to do on a winter weekend. And most dim sum items freeze beautifully. Sadly, our freezer is almost empty of such delights now. 😦 Maybe we’ll have a rainy weekend soon… Thanks for stopping by.

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