Siu Mai (烧卖)

Learn how to make this iconic dim sum dish right at home!

Prep Time
240 min
Total Time
260 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Siu mai is one of my all-time favorites!

If you've never had it, it's kind of like a juicy pork meatball, held together by a soft and chewy dumpling wrapper. It's extremely popular for a reason!

Originally from Northern China, siu mai spread across China and the rest of the world, taking on many different varieties to adapt to local tastes. You’ve probably tried the extremely popular Cantonese version, as it’s a staple of dim sum restaurants everywhere. 

Dim Sum: A Touch of Heart

The way most of us pronounce "dim sum" in English is very similar to its Cantonese pronunciation, "dím sām", which roughly translates to "a touch of heart".

It's a reference to the delectable snacks that 10th century teahouses would serve to traveling merchants in Guangzhou, one of the largest international ports along the Silk Road.

Even though dim sum is widely considered to belong to Cantonese cuisine, it evolved from a wide range of influences, largely because Guangzhou was and still is a critical hub for Chinese trade and a melting pot of different cultures. 

Why do we rinse pork in water?

When dim sum restaurants serve pork (i.e. siu mai, spare ribs), their traditionally preferred look is much less light in color (vs the smoky, charred, dark look of a BBQ rib).

This is mostly an aesthetic choice, made to entice customers to order from the carts of delicious foods.

Rinsing also helps wash away some of the taste of blood.

Be aware that the longer you rinse, you might be reducing the amount of available nutrients in your food (like iron).

Why is pork red?

A common misconception is that the red juice that leaks out from meat is blood, but it’s not. Most of the time, the blood has already been drained by the time you buy it, and the red juice is actually a result of freezing the meat during transport. 

When you freeze meat, which is about 75% water, the water inside the muscles expands into ice crystals which rupture the muscle cells, and when the ice thaws, it carries some myoglobin with it.

Myoglobin is an iron-rich protein that turns bright red when it’s exposed to oxygen. The purpose of myoglobin is to store extra oxygen in muscles that are used for extended periods of time.

Interestingly enough, this is why not all meats are red or dark. Beef and pork meat are red because cows and pigs stand and roam almost all day. In contrast, fish meat is mostly white, with some red meat around the fins and tail, because fish float in water and aren’t constantly using the bulk of their muscles. 

Sources:

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 20 pieces siu mai wrappers (

    can also use wonton wrappers, more on this later

    )
  • 8 oz pork shoulder butt
  • 4 oz shrimp (

    peeled & deveined

    )
  • 4 pieces dried shiitake mushroom
  • 0.50 oz carrot (

    minced for garnish

    )
  • Marinade
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (

    Amazon

    )
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce (

    Amazon

    )
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 0.50 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (

    Amazon

    )
  • 1 tsp olive oil

On Selecting Wrappers

If you're using wonton wrappers (made with the same ingredients as siu mai wrappers, but cut into squares), try to get the thinnest ones possible, and cut off the corners (or flip a cup upside down to trace and cut the wrapper into a circle).

On Selecting Meats

Pick fatty cuts of pork, like pork shoulder butt or pork belly. Lean cuts (like pork loin, pork chop) will turn out too dry and tough.

My dad said peeled, deveined shrimp is not only more convenient but is actually preferred for getting the desired chewy texture.

On Steaming

For steaming, it’s best to use a dedicated steamer, but you can also use a wok with a steamer rack. 

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

We'll be mincing and preparing:

Pork shoulder butt: (8 oz)

Cut into slices, strips, and then into fine bits. Soak in water and massage the pork for 1-2 minutes. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Afterward, drain in a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can.

Shrimp: (4 oz)

Wrap in a paper towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Mince into fine bits.

Dried shiitake mushrooms (4 pieces)​:

Reconstitute in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Then, squeeze out as much water as you can. Slice the mushroom in half, lengthwise. Cut into strips, then mince into fine bits.

Carrots (0.50 oz) - Cut into slices, strips, and then very fine bits.

Notes

Similar to our Steamed Spare Rib recipe, we want to soak the pork in water to remove some of the redness and pork-y taste (via removing some of the myoglobin.)

In general, with our meats, to avoid a soggy siu mai, we want to extract as much water as we can before we wrap them.

In a bowl, we'll mix:

  • light soy sauce (1 tbsp)
  • oyster sauce (2 tbsp)
  • salt (0.50 tsp)
  • sugar (2 tsp)
  • cornstarch (2 tbsp)
  • baking soda (0.50 tsp)
  • chicken bouillon (1 tsp)
  • water (2 tbsp)
  • white pepper (0.50 tsp)

We'll be creating our siu mai fillings in a few steps:

  • Mix the sauce and pork in a bowl for about 2-3 minutes. This is important in helping the pork become more tender.
  • Let the pork absorb the sauce for about 10 minutes.
  • Then, add in the minced shrimp and mushrooms, along with olive oil (1 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tbsp). Mix again for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, and let everything marinate in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.

This is a lot easier to conceptualize by watching our video (and also much easier with practice), but here are the steps to stuff and fold the dumplings:

  • Lay out a wrapper in your palm (my dad prefers his left/non-dominant hand).
  • Scoop about 1 oz of meat filling onto the wrapper, and loosely flatten it.
  • Make a circle by pressing your index finger and thumb together, and place the wrapper over the circle. Make a funnel-like shape with your other fingers.
  • With the opposite end of a spoon, push into the center of the wrapper, into the hole you made with your fingers.
  • Compress the meat into the dumpling wrapper by pressing with your spoon, pressing with your fingers on all sides. Rotate the dumpling with your fingers a few times.
  • Squeeze the bottom half of the dumpling to force some of the meat to rise, and flatten that with your spoon.
  • If there's not enough meat, you can add some more and repeat.

Freezing large batches for later

If you were planning on making a bunch of siu mai at once, you can freeze them to steam for later.

  • Lay out the siu mai on a tray, making sure that they're not touching one another.
  • Put them in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
  • This should dry them enough so that you can place all of them in an airtight / Ziploc bag.

Definitely DO NOT steam them and then freeze them.

You can freeze them for at least a month. When you're looking to cook them, just let them thaw completely before steaming.

Fill a steamer with about 2 cups of water. Lay out the siu mai on a steamer rack (with holes on the tray) so they're not touching.

Bring the water to a boil, then carefully set the siu mai in the steamer. Cover, and steam for 10 minutes.

If you don't have a dedicated steamer or this kind of steamer rack, you can also use a wok/pan with a lid, a wire steamer rack, and a plate. With this setup, steam for about 12 minutes.

Once they're done, carefully lift the steamer rack out (my dad used chopsticks). Garnish with the minced carrots, and you're ready to eat!

It's best if you eat it immediately at peak moistness and juiciness :)

Summary

Siu Mai (烧卖)
Learn how to make this iconic dim sum dish right at home!
  • Prep Time: 240 min
  • Total Time: 260 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 20 pieces siu mai wrappers (

    can also use wonton wrappers, more on this later

    )
  • 8 oz pork shoulder butt
  • 4 oz shrimp (

    peeled & deveined

    )
  • 4 pieces dried shiitake mushroom
  • 0.50 oz carrot (

    minced for garnish

    )
  • Marinade
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (

    Amazon

    )
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce (

    Amazon

    )
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 0.50 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (

    Amazon

    )
  • 1 tsp olive oil
Step 1 - Chop & prepare ingredients↑ Jump to details

We'll be mincing and preparing:

Pork shoulder butt: (8 oz) Cut into slices, strips, and then into fine bits. Soak in water and massage the pork for 1-2 minutes. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Afterward, drain in a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can.

Shrimp: (4 oz) Wrap in a paper towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Mince into fine bits.

Dried shiitake mushrooms (4 pieces)​: Reconstitute in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Then, squeeze out as much water as you can. Slice the mushroom in half, lengthwise. Cut into strips, then mince into fine bits.

Carrots (0.50 oz) - Cut into slices, strips, and then very fine bits.

Notes

Similar to our Steamed Spare Rib recipe, we want to soak the pork in water to remove some of the redness and pork-y taste (via removing some of the myoglobin.)

In general, with our meats, to avoid a soggy siu mai, we want to extract as much water as we can before we wrap them.

Step 2 - Create marinade sauce↑ Jump to details

In a bowl, we'll mix:

  • light soy sauce (1 tbsp)
  • oyster sauce (2 tbsp)
  • salt (0.50 tsp)
  • sugar (2 tsp)
  • cornstarch (2 tbsp)
  • baking soda (0.50 tsp)
  • chicken bouillon (1 tsp)
  • water (2 tbsp)
  • white pepper (0.50 tsp)
Step 3 - Marinate ingredients↑ Jump to details

We'll be creating our siu mai fillings in a few steps:

  • Mix the sauce and pork in a bowl for about 2-3 minutes. This is important in helping the pork become more tender.
  • Let the pork absorb the sauce for about 10 minutes.
  • Then, add in the minced shrimp and mushrooms, along with olive oil (1 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tbsp). Mix again for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, and let everything marinate in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.
Step 4 - Fold dumplings↑ Jump to details

This is a lot easier to conceptualize by watching our video (and also much easier with practice), but here are the steps to stuff and fold the dumplings:

  • Lay out a wrapper in your palm (my dad prefers his left/non-dominant hand).
  • Scoop about 1 oz of meat filling onto the wrapper, and loosely flatten it.
  • Make a circle by pressing your index finger and thumb together, and place the wrapper over the circle. Make a funnel-like shape with your other fingers.
  • With the opposite end of a spoon, push into the center of the wrapper, into the hole you made with your fingers.
  • Compress the meat into the dumpling wrapper by pressing with your spoon, pressing with your fingers on all sides. Rotate the dumpling with your fingers a few times.
  • Squeeze the bottom half of the dumpling to force some of the meat to rise, and flatten that with your spoon.
  • If there's not enough meat, you can add some more and repeat.

Freezing large batches for later

If you were planning on making a bunch of siu mai at once, you can freeze them to steam for later.

  • Lay out the siu mai on a tray, making sure that they're not touching one another.
  • Put them in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
  • This should dry them enough so that you can place all of them in an airtight / Ziploc bag.

Definitely DO NOT steam them and then freeze them.

You can freeze them for at least a month. When you're looking to cook them, just let them thaw completely before steaming.

Step 5 - Steam dumplings↑ Jump to details

Fill a steamer with about 2 cups of water. Lay out the siu mai on a steamer rack (with holes on the tray) so they're not touching.

Bring the water to a boil, then carefully set the siu mai in the steamer. Cover, and steam for 10 minutes.

If you don't have a dedicated steamer or this kind of steamer rack, you can also use a wok/pan with a lid, a wire steamer rack, and a plate. With this setup, steam for about 12 minutes.

Once they're done, carefully lift the steamer rack out (my dad used chopsticks). Garnish with the minced carrots, and you're ready to eat!

It's best if you eat it immediately at peak moistness and juiciness :)

Step 6 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 7 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.