Steamed Pork and Shrimp Dumplings (Shao Mai)

Steamed Pork and Shrimp Dumplings (Shao Mai)

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 12 Makes 24 dumplings.
The acknowledged master chefs of dim sum usually come from Guangzhou, in Guangdong province, training in restaurants like the Pan Xi Jiujia, with its dining rooms and pavilions set beside Li Wan Lake. At this famous restaurant, you can order direct from the chefs, then watch them prepare the mounds of fresh dumplings that will be lined up in gigantic bamboo baskets and stacked to steam over huge woks of simmering water with roaring gas fires below.

Two of the restaurants specialties are xia jiao, crisp-tender shrimp dumplings in elegant translucent wrappers, and shao mai, an international favorite. These "open-face" dumplings are the archetypal dim sum. The tender dumplings of moist pork and succulent shellfish, lightly seasoned with green onions and oyster sauce, are encased in a soft, parchment-thin wrapper that leaves the filling exposed, so the eyes can appreciate even before the first bite. Pork and shrimp are two ingredients the southern Chinese hold in particularly high regard, so much so that they use them together in many dishes. Tender, finely sliced marinated pork and whole shelled shrimp with crisp and colorful fresh vegetables feature in stir-fries and noodles, sweet-and-sour dishes and steamboats. Satiny-smooth minced pork helps to bind and enrich fillings for buns, pastry rolls and dumplings, as in this recipe.


  • 4 large dried black mushrooms, soaked in hot
     water to cover for 25 minutes and drained
  • 1/2 lb. coarsely ground fat pork, such as
     pork butt
  • 6 oz. shrimp meat or crabmeat, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, white and light green portions,
     finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. superfine sugar
  • 4 tsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable or peanut oil, or 1 1/2 tsp.
     each vegetable oil and sesame oil
  • 24 round wheat-flour dumpling wrappers
  • 2 to 3 tsp. vegetable oil
  • Light soy sauce, mild mustard or chili sauce
     for dipping


Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms if necessary and very finely chop the caps. Place in a bowl, add the pork, shrimp and green onions and mix well. Mix in the sugar and oyster sauce, then stir in the cornstarch, white pepper and oil. Let the filling stand for 20 minutes.

To shape each dumpling, make a circle with the thumb and first finger of one hand and position a dumpling wrapper centrally over the circle. Place about 2 tsp. of the filling in the center of the wrapper, and gently push the dumpling through the circle so that the wrapper becomes pleated around the sides of the dumpling filling. You should have a cup-shaped dumpling with the top of the filling exposed.

Brush the rack of a steamer basket with the vegetable oil and place the dumplings in the basket, leaving some space between them. Bring water to a simmer in a steamer base. Set the basket in the steamer, cover tightly and steam the dumplings until the filling is firm, 7 to 8 minutes.

Serve the dumplings in the steamer basket or transfer to a plate. Accompany with soy sauce, mustard or chili sauce in small dishes for dipping.
Makes 24 dumplings.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring China, by Jacki Passmore (Oxmoor House, 2003).
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