Saturday, October 23, 2010

Siu Mai: Chinese Pork Dumplings


The first words in Chinese that I ever learned were most likely “har gau” and “siu mai.”  Whenever my family would go out for dim sum, there were always a few guarantees: jasmine tea, har gau, and siu mai would all be ordered.  Har gau and shiu mai are probably the 2 most popular dim sum items with most families, but they can easily be botched.

Bad shiu mai is typically rubbery and contains a lot of filler like fat and cornstarch.  Sadly, I’ve never had a memorable siu mai in Chicago; well, memorable for the right reason.  I certainly remember having terrible siu mai in Chicago and the dim sum here just doesn’t compare to Southern California or even Houston.

In fact, I had the worst dim sum of my life (and worst meal in recent memory) at the highly regarded Little Three Happiness restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown.  It’s held in such high esteem that a popular Chicago internet food forum was named after it.  How that place is still in business and why people like it is beyond me, and the online community’s recommendation of it has made me distrustful of most ethnic restaurant recommendations in general.


Good siu mai in my book tends to have a decent amount of fresh shrimp per dumpling rather than just a tiny amount.  Even though it’s a pork dumpling, I enjoy the presence of shrimp as it plays well with the inherent porky fattiness of each bite.  There’s a good reason why many Asian cultures have traditional dishes rooted with a pork and shrimp combination: it just works.  Some people also top their shiu mai with a pea and/or some diced carrots for color which I opted out of due to laziness and because it doesn’t add much flavor.


Traditionally, the outer skin is made from a lye-water dough.  However, I chose to go with premade wonton wrappers as I was confident I would totally mess the skin up if I made it from scratch.  Construction was a bit troublesome at times as some dumplings started to lose their shape, droop, and spill out of the wrapper.


Afraid that the wrappers would stick to the bamboo, I placed some all-mighty parchment paper down for the dumplings to rest on.


Like I said, I tend to prefer a decent amount of shrimp in siu mai, but this particular one had a bit much.  The entire top half of the dumpling was all shrimp.  It was still really good, though.  Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure about the following ratios because I forgot to write down the recipe I followed.  As long as you generally have the base ingredients, it’ll turn out fine.  Just taste and tweak as you go and change the ratios to your preference.

Siu mai:

  1. 1” piece ginger => mince
  2. 1 green onion => dice
  3. Shiitake mushrooms => dice
  4. 1 Tbsp soy sauce + 1 Tbsp oyster sauce + 1 tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp Chinese rice wine + 2 tsp sugar + 1 tsp cornstarch + salt => mix
  5. 450 g ground pork + 225 g shrimp + steps #1-4 => mix
  6. Won ton wrappers => fill with step #5
  7. Siu mai => steam until done, ~10-15 minutes

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