Easy to make, hard to master – a guide to Xiu Mai dumplings
While they’re popular around the globe, Xiu Mai dumplings have their origins in the Chinese dim sum menu. Traditional Cantonese fillings were seafood in winter, crab in autumn, mutton in summer and garlic chives in spring. Today, pork is the most common filling.
Xiu Mai dumplings
Xiu Mai dumplings were originally served as snacks in tea houses. They have their origins in the Huhhot region, between the Ming and Qing dynasties. In Huhhot, they’re still a staple food but now appear on the breakfast menu.
Whether the dumplings are eaten for breakfast or as dim sum, they’re traditionally served in portions of eight.
How Xiu Mai dumplings are made
The outer covering of the dumplings is made of wafer-thin sheets of yellow or white lye-water dough. In modern variations, filo pastry is also used. The standard filling, and the one most common in the west, is minced pork, shrimp, black mushrooms, scallions, ginger, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and chicken stock. Sometimes vegetables are added or used to replace the pork and shrimp.
While the ingredients for making Xiu Mai dumplings are easy to find, making perfect Xiu Mai dumplings takes skill, patience and experience. Creating the right flavour balance, ensuring the dumplings don’t split when steamed and correctly presenting them can be tricky. Once constructed, the centre of each dumpling is decorated with an orange dot of crab roe or a green pea dot.
Variations on Xiu Mai dumplings
As the popularity of Xiu Mai dumplings spread, different regions and countries developed their own varieties. Mongolia has Hohhot Shaomai dumplings with ginger and mutton filling, and Hong Kong has siu mai dumplings filled with fish paste. The dumplings’ main filling is shrimp in Japan, and fish in Indonesia. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, although they’re still called Xiu Mai, the dumplings have no wrappers and are a type of meatball made from minced pork, scallions and bread.
Xiu Mai is just one name these dumplings go by – on menus, they might also be called shumai, pinyin or siu mai. If you love Chinese cuisine, check out the Singapore restaurants listed on foodpanda. Order your favourite dim sum and other dishes from Dim Sum Haus, Kimly Dim Sum and Dim Sum.