A classic Cantonese dim sum (aka yum cha) dumpling dish that's nothing short of flavour, juiciness and generosity! Don't be fooled by its impressive appearance, siu mai are actually quite simple to make once you get the hang of wrapping them.
Like making Har Gow (crystal prawn dumplings), this dish is a labour of love and attention. Give yourself plenty of time to practice the first couple of dumplings and before you know it, you'll fly through them like a pro!
To learn exactly how to wrap these plump juicy goodness, watch my how-to video below just above the recipe card!
In love with dumplings? Me too! Take a browse of my (growing) collection of dumpling recipes including my family favourite Pork and Chive Dumplings and my most popular recipe on this site; beginner-friendly easy Pork Wontons!
Siu mai (or shumai) is a classic Chinese snack dish, hugely popular street food in Hong Kong and at many Chinese tea houses/restaurants all over the world. It's juicy, plump and so tasty!
In Mandarin, it is pronounced as shaomai (燒賣) which literally translates to 'burn sell', meaning, it's intended to be sold quickly and easily. Like hotcakes.
Did you know that there are different variations of siu mai across China and indeed, Asia? From Japan to Vietnam to Thailand (just to name a few), each has their own versions with varying spellings and pronunciations. For example, in Hohhot, Mongolia, shaomai are typically made of mutton meat, glutenous rice is added in Shanghainese versions and Vietnamese xiumai are not wrapped with dough sheets so it's closer to meatballs than dumplings!
This recipe makes the typical authentic Cantonese style with pork, prawns (shrimp) and shiitake mushrooms filling. Rather than being decorated with fish roe, minced carrot is used here for convenience and with a budget in mind.
- Wonton wrappers - If you can find siu mai wrappers (which are just round wonton wrappers) then perfect! Otherwise, square wonton wrappers are perfectly suitable to use. I have a section below on the difference between folding with round and square wrappers. Hint: not a whole lot!
- Pork mince - Normally I'd suggest using fatty pork mince with about at 20% or higher fat content (for juiciness). However, a little oil is added to this filing mixture making it tender and juicy so not using fatty mince is no big deal. I'd steer away from lean mince (those with less than 10% fat content) nonetheless.
- Shiitake mushrooms - ideally, use dehydrated ones and not fresh ones. Dehydrated shiitake mushrooms are way more aromatic. Available at Asian supermarkets.
- Oyster sauce - is an umami rich sauce with a hint of sweetness that'll add a tonne of flavour to this dish! Available at Asian supermarkets or if you're in Australia, oyster sauces can be found at the Asian/international aisle of Coles, Woolworths and IGA.
- Oil - helps with making the filling more juicy and tender. Opt for neutral-tasting oil such as sunflower or canola. I've not tried using olive oil but since the quantity used is low, I suspect it'll be completely okay.
- Cornstarch - works as a binding agent and help the fillings stay intact.
- Ginger - always use fresh!
How to make siu mai
There are 3 key steps:
- Prepare the filling - can make this up to 2 days in advance
- Fold the dumplings - enlist your family or friends to speed up the process! However, I do find folding alone quite therapeutic.
- Steam on high heat - always on the highest heat and never forget to line the baskets!
Prepare the filling ingredients
Making the filling is a very simple and easy step.
First thing, get the kettle on. Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms with hot (boiling okay too) water in a heatproof bowl for about 20 minutes, covered.
Now, move on to gathering all the seasoning ingredients from your pantry, grate or finely chop fresh ginger.
Once the shiitake mushrooms are rehydrated, squeeze as much moisture out of the mushrooms then finely chop.
If using frozen peeled and deveined prawns, make sure to take it out of the freezer the night before and thaw them in the fridge. Give the prawns a quick rinse then pat dry with paper towels.
It's important to draw out excess moisture or liquids so that the filling does not become watery.
Finely chop half of the prawns into a rough mince and roughly chop the other half into chunks.
This way each siu mai will have visible chunks of prawns making it look nice and generous!
To bring the filling together, in a large mixing bowl, combine pork mince, prawns, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, salt, white pepper, sugar, sesame oil, oil and cornstarch.
Mix well with a clean hand or a pair of chopsticks/a fork. The filling is ready to go once a thick paste-like consistency is achieved.
This filling can be made up to 2 days in advance stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
How to fold siu mai
The best way for one to learn how to fold a siu mai is by watching and I've got you covered! Scroll down for my quick how-to video below!
This recipe makes around 25 plump dumplings!
Notice how packed in the filling is? You want to fill it all the way up to the rim and firmly yet gently press in the filling with a teaspoon.
Whilst pressing the filling in with the teaspoon, firmly squeeze the siu mai with your other hand using the thumb, index and middle fingers. This will make the cup-like shape.
This folding method applies to both round and square wonton wrappers.
Finally, decorate each siu mai with a pinch of minced carrots or fish roe (if you're going for the luxurious look). This step is more of an optional than a must, but what is a siu mai without that lovely pop of colour!?
To mince carrots, I find it is easiest to grate with a box grater and then finely chop. You won't need much, about maximum of half a carrot will do.
Steam on high heat
Always steam dumplings in baskets lined with baking paper (parchment paper). This will stop it from getting stuck and thus breaking apart upon serving.
You can find baking paper shaped specifically for steaming at some Asian supermarkets but I have not been so lucky in finding them. I simply cut and shape baking paper with a pair of scissors and cut a few small holes to help with steam distribution.
Important: make sure the dumplings are spaced out and are not touching each other when steaming. Otherwise, the dumplings will be stuck together once cooked and impossible to separate without tearing. It would be a great shame!
Steam on high heat for 8 minutes or until cooked.
Once cooked, immediately remove the steamer lid and allow excess liquids to evaporate. Otherwise, the wrappers will become too hydrated and subsequently peel away from the filling. It was a sad day when that happened to me!
Round or square wrappers
To get the appearance closer to how the pros (dim sum masters), you've got to use round wrappers. Living in Sydney, I'm yet to find anywhere that sells siu mai wrappers. If you have, please let me know in the comments section below!
To achieve the most authentic-looking siu mai, I bought square wonton wrappers and simply cut them out using a round cookie cutter like the picture below.
It's an extra step that doesn't take too much time, however, you do end up with extra dough bits that frankly, gets tossed out.
I was curious to see if one can simply get away with using square wrappers without any extra folding step.
As you can see from the picture below, using the exact same folding method (watch the how-to video below!) as the round wrappers, the result was pleasing! No big difference except I was able to pack in slightly more filling than the round ones simply because there was more room.
One big difference is that you end up with extra bits of dough hanging out at the top of the dumpling. See the last picture below for what it looks like once cooked.
In conclusion, no big difference! Square wrappers yield larger dumplings since it has more space.
Useful tips and tricks
- Firmly yet gently pack in the filling so that they stand tall and won't fall apart.
- Only start steaming once the water is boiling. Do not place the bamboo steamers on top of the pot before then.
- Check for doneness by cutting a siu mai in half. Just make sure to take it out of the steamer before cutting! Although, 8 minutes is a safe amount of time for it to be fully cooked.
- Remove the lid as soon as it's done. This will allow excess steam to evaporate and the wrappers will contract a little, sticking to the filling nicely. I've made the mistake of keeping the lid on for about 10 minutes to keep them warm before dinner was served. Big mistake, the excess steam moisture made the wonton wrappers too hydrated and they started peeling away from the filling. Learn from my mistake!
- The filling can be made up to 2 days in advance! Perfect for when you're expecting guests, making entertaining a more relaxed experience.
Look at how juicy this is!!! Don't you just love it when you can see a chunky piece of prawn in a dumpling!?
Good to know (FAQs)
The most popular and well-known ones are the Cantonese version which is filled with pork, prawns (shrimp) and shiitake mushrooms. There are many other variations across China and Asia. For example, in Hohhot, Mongolia, the filling's typically made of mutton meat rather than pork and prawns!
Dumpling is a broad term that covers all dishes that consists of pieces of dough with or without filling inside. Note, all Chinese dumplings have fillings. Shumai is a type of dumpling. Check out my collection of dumpling recipes for more yummy inspiration!
Watch my quick how-to video below!
Perfectly delicious on its own! Otherwise, with a simple soy sauce and chilli oil dipping sauce would be fantastic too.
Got a big meal to make? Great news! This siu mai filling can be made up to 2 days in advance. Simply store the prepared filling in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. On the day, wrap and steam. What's even better is that dumplings in general are easier to wrap when the filling is chilled.
I do not recommend folding in advance, freezing (like you can for Pork and Chive dumplings) then cooking on a later day. This is because the majority of prawns/shrimp sold have already been frozen once. It is never a good idea to freeze seafood more than once.
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
If you're active on Instagram, take a picture once you've made this recipe and tag me on Instagram! I'd love to see them!
Happy cooking! - Gen
Siu Mai (Shumai 燒賣)
- 2 Medium sized bamboo steamers (steel steamers are okay too)
- 1 packet wonton wrappers or siu mai wrappers (note 1)
- 1 small carrot or fish roe
Siu mai filling ingredients
- 500 g / 1 pound pork mince
- 250 g / ½ pound prawns deveined, peeled
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- ½ tablespoon fresh ginger minced
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil canola or sunflower. Olive oil is okay too
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
Prepare the filling
- Rehydrate shiitake mushrooms by soaking with hot water for about 20 minutes, covered. Once rehydrated, with a hand, squeeze out as much liquid from the mushrooms as possible then, finely chop.
- Whilst the mushrooms are rehydrating, finely chop half of the prawns to mince and roughly chop the other half in chunks.
- To bring the filling together, combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with your (clean!) hand or fork/chopsticks. The filling is done when a thick, paste-like consistency is achieved.
Wrap the siu mai
- Watch my video above on exactly how to wrap! It's very hard to explain in words without being confusing! This recipe makes about 25 dumplings.
- With a grater, grate half a carrot then finely chop into mince. Top each wrapped siu mai with a small pinch of minced carrot right in the middle. This step can be omitted as its purpose is more of an aesthetic one (but sure look impressive and like the real deal!)
To steam siu mai
- Bring about 3 - 4 cups of water to boil in a medium-sized pot (one that the steamer baskets can sit on top).
- Line steaming baskets with baking paper. I always like to cut small holes in the paper to help with steam distribution. You'll need 2 medium-sized baskets.
- Neatly place siu mai in the baskets. Make sure there is wiggle room in between each dumpling.
- Stack the steaming baskets, top with a lid and place on top of the pot with boiling water. Steam on high heat for 8 minutes or until fully cooked.
- As soon as the siu mai is cooked, immediately remove the steamer lid and allow excess water to evaporate. This will make sure the wrappers remain stuck on the filling! (see note 2)
- Serve as is or with your favourite dipping sauce (such as a homemade Sichuan chilli oil).