Shu Mai

June 10, 2011

Before starting this blog, I had never cooked much that could be considered “real Chinese food”. Now, one of my favorite dish is these pork pot stickers, plus I am less afraid to try other things (see here and here). These steamed pork dumplings (aka shu mai) are delicious, but are also a lot healthier than their take-out counterpart. Chris Kimball uses plain gelatin in lieu of lard to simulate the rich texture, and uses a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar and rice wine to enhance the flavor (instead of MSG). Overall, these are excellent; 4-star; but I would have preferred a soy-sauce-based dipping sauce to the chili oil included in this recipe.

Delicious Shu Mai made without the MSG

Because I don’t have a steamer basket (who does really), I followed their quick tip to use two disposable, aluminum pie plates to form an improvised steamer. First, I poked 15 holes in the bottom of a 9″ aluminum pie pan, and placed it upside down in the bottom of my Dutch oven. Then I added water to almost cover the pie pan. I used a rolling pin to flatten a second 9″ aluminum pie pan, and placed it over a wire cooling rack to poke 20 holes. My second pie pan ripped slightly during flattening, but didn’t really affect the end result.


  1. The Chili oil recipe yielded about four times as much as necessary, so I modified the recipe (given below) to yield a more reasonable amount. The Chili oil is quite hot, so be careful if you have a delicate palate.
  2. I could not find water chestnuts in my grocery store, and gave up looking after 5 minutes. But instead of going without, a good substitution would have been: jicama or parsnip slices.
  3. Fortunately, I was able to use my 3-1/2″ biscuit cutter and still get two full-size cut-outs for each 5-1/2″ egg roll wrapper. The original recipe calls for a 3″ biscuit cutter (but I wanted to use the one I already had in my kitchen).
  4. My local Chinese take-out charges $6 for 8 dumplings, so my $10 work of dumplings would cost me $30.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $10 for 42 dumplings.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 7:00 PM. Dinner time 8:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here (you have to give e-mail, but no credit card). The episode serves these with Chili Oil (recipe is here), but this is a “paid recipe”. You can see a video of the entire episode here. The descriptions of how I cooked both the Shu Mai and the Chili Oil today are given below:

First Prepare the Chili Oil:

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 small garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt

  1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until it measure 300 degrees on and instant-read thermometer.
  2. Remove pan from heat and stir in pepper flakes, garlic, soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar and table salt.
  3. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Discard garlic before serving.

Steamed Dumplings:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs
1/2 pound shrimp
1/4 cup water chestnuts , chopped
4 dried shiitake mushroom caps (3/4 ounce),
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine or can substitute dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 package 5-1/2 inch egg roll wrappers (1 pound)
2 carrots

  1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Defrost shrimp, peel and remove vein. Cut eat shrimp in halved lengthwise. Cut the pork ribs into 1-inch pieces. Finely grate carrots on the small holes of a box grater. Chop the water chestnuts, and mince 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Finally, grate 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger. After the mushrooms have soaked for 30 minutes, squeeze then dry, and cut into then 1/4″ pieces.
  2. Add the soy sauce to a small bowl, sprinkle in the gelatin and let it bloom for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place half of pork cubes into a food processor and pulse ten 1-second pulses (should be ground into 1/8-inch pieces). Put ground pork in a large bowl.
  4. Add 1/2-lb shrimp and remaining pork to food processor and pulse pulse five 1-second pulses (should be ground into 1/4-inch pieces). Add to the same bowl with other ground pork.
  5. Add soy sauce mixture, chopped water chestnuts, mushrooms, cornstarch, cilantro, sesame oil, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix until well combined.
  6. Use a 3-1/2″ biscuit cutter to cut two rounds from each egg roll wrapper. You can cut in stacks of 6 to 7 wrappers at a time. Cover rounds with moist paper towels to prevent them from drying out.
  7. Lay out 6 rounds at a time, brush the edges lightly with water. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling mixture in the center of each round. With each hand, lift opposite sides of wrapper and pinch to form two pleats. Rotate 90 degrees and pinch again to form two more pleats. Continue two more times until you have eight folds.
  8. Pick up the dumpling. Using your thumb and index finger (as if to form the OK sign, but with the Shu Mai in the middle) gently squeeze near the top of the dumpling to form a “waist.”
  9. Use your middle finger to support the bottom of the dumpling and pack down the filling using your other hand (or a butter knife). Place on a piece of parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Immediately cover with damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
  10. Place a small pinch of grated carrot on the center of each dumpling; mostly for appearance. I have also seen a single pea used.
  11. Cut a round piece of parchment slightly smaller than your dutch oven and poke 20 holes, and put it over your improvised steamer. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray. I had to cook the dumplings in two batches, to make sure that they don’t touch. Be careful because they will plump slightly during steaming. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes per batch. Serve immediately with chili oil.

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