Shumai dumplings, also known as Shao Mai dumplings, are a popular and traditional dish in the Guangdong region of China. The dumpling typically contains shrimp or pork inside and can be eaten with or without rice. Shumai is one of many types of dim sum, which is a type of Cantonese food that contains a variety of fillings. Chefs prepare dim sum by steaming or frying it. The translated words mean dessert in English, which explains why most people eat shumai and other types of dim sum as a dessert.
The History of Dim Sum
Chefs in the Cantonese culture were the first to create and serve dim sum. People often visited Cantonese tea shacks to indulge in it. It continues to be something that people enjoy with tea instead of coffee as that is how it originated. Restaurants that serve dim sum typically open around 10:00 a.m. in the United States so people can include them with their lunch or brunch. Those looking to enjoy dim sum in China can find them available as early as 5:00 a.m.
The Making of Shumai Dumplings
The first step in preparing a shumai dumpling is to create a wrapper with water and flour. The chef will then pinch the top of the dumpling to create a pleat. However, he or she leaves the center of the pleat open to have a place to insert the toppings. After doing so, the chef cooks the dumplings by steaming them. The dumplings need to be placed approximately one and one-half inches apart to avoid having them stick together. Another way to prevent sticking is to place large lettuce leaves around the sides of the steamer.
Shumai dumplings have a see-through white color once they have been fully steamed. It’s possible to make a batch of these dumplings up to three hours in advance. They will need to be placed on a plate with corn starch, covered, and refrigerated immediately.
Traditional Serving Methods
In the typical Chinese restaurant, a server pushes a cart containing shumai dumplings around and diners call out to indicate that they would like to have one or more. The ready-to-eat dumplings sit inside of a bamboo steamer or they may be on traditional serving plates. It is less common for servers to push carts in the United States where diners typically pre-order what they would like to have.
Pork is the most common meat filling of a shumai dumpling, but chefs may also use crab or mutton. The exact ingredients and seasonings used often depends on the season of the year. Beef is a typical meat filling in Japan while Cantonese chefs usually opt for pork and crab coral. Other common fillings include bamboo shoots, chives, mushroom, and shrimp in the spring and onions during the winter months. Additionally, some chefs choose to garnish the dumplings with flavored oil, sesame seeds, chives, or green onions after removing them from the steamer.
Sauces served with the shumai dumplings complete the intense flavor experience for diners. Chile sauce, hot mustard, and soy are particular favorites.