Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai – Origin, Varieties, and Cooking Method

You may have probably heard of Siu Mai or shaomai. Maybe you’ve also eaten these kinds of dumplings without really knowing what they are. So what really is Siu Mai? What is it made of? And does the filling always have to be pork and shrimp?

In this article, let’s talk about this traditional Chinese dish that has several variations. Once you know what the standard stuffing and ingredients used are, you can always experiment with your very own recipe of Siu Mai.

What Is Siu Mai?

Chinese dumpling stuffed with pork is known as Siu Mai. And this dumpling is wrapped with an additional thin wanton, then steamed of course. The wrapping isn’t completely folded, which means the filling is visible from the top. More often than not, Siu Mai is garnished with grated carrot or crab roe topping. And served without any dipping or dumpling sauce.

It’s pronounced as sju mai and also called shumai. And what Siu Mai actually means is cooking and selling. Originally, this was a dish served in restaurants only. Something that was made to sell, and not cook at home. And it first came about in the traditional teahouses of China. Siu Mai is a part of the traditional dim sum meal that consists of various types of small dishes or snacks.

What Is Siu Mai Made Of?

It’s a traditional Chinese dumpling that is a part of the classic dim sum meal. And it’s made of pork filling. A standard stuffing of ground or minced pork, and sometimes also Chinese black mushroom. All this is encased in a wonton pastry, then served in a bamboo basket.

Siu Mai - The Origin

Shaomai or Siu Mai is known to have come from the Yuan dynasty in Hohhot. The dumpling was very popularly served in teahouses. It was sold as a snack or side dish with tea. Then Siu Mai didn’t take too long to become a part of other regions of China as well, which is where its popularity spread like wildfire.

The original recipe of Siu Mai consisted of vegetables and meat encased in very thin sheets. And these were sold weighing just the wrapper, which is a tradition still followed in Hohhot.

Siu Mai - The Varieties

Now here are the most delicious, thus most popular Chinese varieties of stuffed Siu Mai dumplings.

Hohhot Shaomai

This one’s stuffed with minced or chopped mutton, along with ginger and scallion. The recipe contains a lot of ginger and scallion that create a thick scent and spicy flavor. And Hohhot shaomai, because it’s so greasy, is the most commonly served with tea and vinegar.

Cantonese Siu Mai

Also called pork and mushroom dumplings, the Cantonese Siu Mai recipe list includes ground pork, chopped or whole shrimp, green onion, ginger, Chinese black mushroom, chicken stock, sesame oil, soy sauce, and Chinese rice wine. And sometimes pepper, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots are added too.

The covering on the outside is a thin lye water dough sheet, the color of which is either white or yellow. And the garnishing consists of diced carrot or crab roe.

And these taste the best with chili oil and sweet soy sauce. In Hong Kong, it’s a very popular street food served along with curry fishballs.

Hunan Juhua Shaomai

The other name is chrysanthemum shaomai. This particular variety of Siu Mai resembles a chrysanthemum flower. And the recipe is spicy because of the inclusion of pepper, along with a translucent wrapper.

What about the filling? It’s largely pork hash, glutinous rice, shrimp, onion, and shiitake mushroom bamboo shoots.

Jiangnan Shaomai

There’s marinated pork with glutinous rice, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. These dumplings are steamed using pork fat. And they’re much larger in comparison to Cantonese Siu Mai.

The variation sometimes has onion and shiitake mushrooms as well, which are stir-fried and then stuffed.

Uyghur Shaomai

The southern Xinjiang region has a recipe that differs from the northern region. The latter contains beef or mutton, radish, and green onion. And the former uses a smaller portion of beef or mutton with glutinous rice.

Jiangxi Yifeng Shaomai

It’s also known as Yifeng shaomai, and the recipe offers distinct flavors that emanate from a mixture of minced pork, sesame seed powder, bread flour, sugar, and ground pepper. And this type of Siu Mai is actually quite popular as festive food during the Chinese New Year.

How to Make Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai

Ingredients You’ll Need (Serves 2-3 people)

  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 6 ounces of shrimp
  • Half a cup of peeled water chestnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 lightly beaten egg white
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped ginger
  • 1 finely chopped green onion
  • 30 round or square egg dumpling wrappers

Directions to Follow

  1. 1
    Peeling and deveining the shrimp is the first job of the process. Squeeze out the moisture as much as you can. After that, roughly chop.
  2. 2
    Blanching the water chestnuts for a minute comes next. Drop these in cold water, then roughly chop them.
  3. 3
    Now bring together the rest of the filling ingredients with the water chestnuts and shrimp. You can use a large-size bowl for this. Stir well to combine all the ingredients, except for the wrappers of course.
  4. 4
    It’s time to now position the filling in the wrapper. Each wrapper, at its center, should have a tablespoon of the prepared filling. To shape every dumpling, create a circle using your forefinger and thumb. It’s supposed to form a cylindrical shape, with the top remaining open. Pat the bottom and top of those dumplings for a flat surface on both ends.
  5. 5
    You can steam these dumplings now. Keep them standing upright on oiled paper in the bamboo steamer. Make sure to punch holes into the oiled paper. And steam for 15 minutes.
    Once cooked, serve your Siu Mai with a dipping of chili sauce or soy sauce.

Watch Video from: Recipetineats.com

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Siu Mai healthy?

The dish is indeed small in terms of the portion size, plus it’s steamed. So does that, by default, mean a healthier choice? Not necessarily. Only because they don’t have as much oil as is used when the dumplings are deep-fried doesn’t make them healthy. Steamed dumplings are just marginally healthier.

What is the difference between shumai and dumplings?

A dumpling consists of a cooked dough ball with a filling of extra ingredients. As for shumai, this is a traditional pork-stuffed dumpling that is steamed and served as a part of the whole dim sum meal.

How long should I steam Siu Mai?

Steaming these types of dumplings for 8-10 minutes is enough for the pork inside to cook through.

Can you cook Siu Mai from frozen?

You can steam frozen Siu Mai directly from the freezer, meaning without thawing them first. Partially thawing them just for 10-15 minutes is also an option.

What does shumai taste like?

Siu Mai has a very tasty stuffing of tender, juicy pork. The filling also has a subtle ginger flavor, unless your recipe is Cantonese so it doesn’t include ginger at all. This is nothing but a personal preference really.


Haven’t we solved the mystery of pork and shrimp Siu Mai. The recipe is a traditional one but that doesn’t mean you can’t add the ingredients of your choice. But the standard filling consists of ground pork, chopped shrimp, and sometimes even Chinese black mushroom. The wrapping is extra thin and the topping is tinged with orange because of either carrot or crab roe.

No doubt, Siu Mai has plenty of international and local variations. There are recipes with sticky rice, bamboo shoots, shiitakes, or sometimes even without pork entirely.

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