Shao Mai dumplings are a steamed Chinese dumpling often served at Dim Sum. They are hard to find in Beijing, but they are popular in Japan, particularly Yokohama.
They are ground meat inside of Shao Mai wrappers, which are made with wheat flour and water. The small bundles are pinched at the top into pleats, but left open in the centre at the pleated top, so that you can see the filling inside.
They are cooked by steam and come out a translucent white.
The filling is usually pork, but mutton and crab are also used, and the contents and seasonings will vary by season. The meat is cooked first. Beef is used as well when making these in Japan. In Canton, they are made with pork, garnished with crab coral. Other ingredients can include shrimp, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and chives in the spring; onion in the winter.
The dumplings are served with dipping sauces such as soy, chile sauce, or hot mustard.
You can buy the wrappers ready to use, or instead of Shao Mai wrappers, you can use Gyoza wrappers. While you are working, keep wrappers covered with a damp cloth. You place a wrapper on your work surface. Place a teaspoonful of filling in the centre, and brush the wrapper around the filling with water. Fold the wrapper up towards the top on each side to make a square, and pinch it at the top to gather it almost together, giving it a quarter-turn, and make 4 more pleats. Normally, you aim for 8 pleats. Then from the bottom, press the filling up.
You can make Shao Mai Dumplings ahead up to 3 hours. Refrigerate them on a plate sprinkled with cornstarch, and cover them with plastic wrap.
Cook by steam. Put them about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) apart in the steamer, and steam for about 7 minutes. Lining the steamer with lettuce leaves will prevent their sticking to the steamer.
After cooking, the exposed filling can be garnished with finely chopped green onions or chive, or sesame seeds, or a drizzle of flavoured oil.
“Bo li shao mai”, means “Glassy steamed dumplings.”