My local Japanese restaurant is wonderful. I walk in and even before I have sat down, I can hear the bottle of beer being opened and the back a voice in the kitchen shouts, “Shumai! Double order.”
This appetizer is ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants for a very simple reason: utterly and incredibly delicious. Soft flavor bombs. The dumpling wrappers become wonderfully soft as you cook them, letting your teeth slice through the delicate dough. The filling, although there is just bit in each dumpling, is overflowing with flavor. The shrimp provide substance when you bite and their distinctive flavor. But there is so much more than shrimp: onion, mushrooms, bacon, scallions, ginger, and just a little sugar. It’s complex. And, surely for me, it is addictive.
Now, in this brilliantly written recipe from Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Iron Chef Masahuru Morimoto, you have techniques to prepare idyllic Shumai at home. I love this book and I can give you a really good reason to buy your own copy: this recipe comes with a two-page spread of photos showing how to fold the dumplings in that very artistic style that epitomizes Japanese cuisine.
Shumai: Japanese-Style Shrimp Dumplings
Yield: about 20 dumplings
A noncollapsible metal steamer insert or a bamboo steamer and parchment paper or cheesecloth
For the filling:
¾ pound shelled white shrimp, deveined
½ cup diced (about ¼ inch) yellow onion
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ cup finely diced fresh shiitake mushroom caps
⅓ cup diced (about ¼ inch) fatty bacon
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions (white and light green parts)
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the dumplings:
20 shumai skins or “Shanghai-style” round dumpling wrappers
20 fresh or defrosted frozen shelled edamame
Shumai Sauce for serving (recipe follows)
MAKE THE FILLING
Pulse the shrimp in a food processor until you have a very chunky paste. (You can also smash the shrimp one at a time with the flat part of a cleaver, then roughly chop them.) Combine the onion and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Add the shrimp and the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the onion. Stir very roughly with your hands until the mixture is slightly sticky and clumps together, at least 30 seconds.
Steady the bowl with one hand and pick up a big handful of the mixture, then forcefully slap it against the bowl (this removes air and helps give the dumplings a slightly dense texture). Repeat once or twice, then do the same with the rest of the mixture.
FORM THE DUMPLINGS
Line a large plate or tray with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with water. Form one dumpling at a time, keeping unused wrappers covered with a kitchen towel and transferring the finished dumplings to the parchment paper. (See the step-by-step photos if you have wisely purchased the book!)
Spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling onto the center of a wrapper. Spread it slightly so it sticks to the wrapper, leaving an approximately Winch border. Gather up the edges of the wrapper with both hands so that it resembles a flower. Transfer it to one hand, gently cupping it to stabilize the sides while you use your other hand to gently flatten and compress the filling with a small spoon. Set the dumpling down onto the parchment paper, holding the sides up for a few seconds to help set the shape. Top with an edamame and repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
STEAM THE DUMPLINGS
Prepare the steamer, either a pot with a metal steamer insert or a bamboo steamer set over a skillet. If you’re using a steamer insert, rub the surface lightly with vegetable oil. If you’re using a bamboo steamer, line the surface with cheesecloth or parchment paper.
Pour about 1 inch of water into the pot or skillet. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to maintain a slightly less rapid boil. Add the shumai to the steamer in a single layer, leaving about ½ inch of space between each one. Set the steamer in the pot or skillet, cover, and steam until the filling is cooked through (the shrimp will be opaque with pink patches), about 8 minutes.
Transfer the shumai to a plate and serve with the dipping sauce (see Note).
Note: Shumai can be cooked, cooled to room temperature, and refrigerated (covered) for up to 2 hours. Rewarm in the steamer until heated through, about 4 minutes. Shumai can also be frozen raw in an airtight container and kept up to 2 weeks. Steam directly from frozen until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Yield: Enough for about 20 dumplings [this recipe!]
3 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Japanese or Chinese mustard paste to taste
Asian chile oil to taste
Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, mustard paste, and chile oil in a bowl and stir well.
Source: Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Masahuru Morimoto [Ecco, 2016]