Japanese Shumai (Steamed Pork Dumpling) is typically made with ground pork and minced onion, enclosed in a wonton wrapper and topped with green pea. Originally from China, Shumai has become popular in Yokohama, Japan, since 1928!
Yokohama Chinatown (横浜中華街, Yokohama Chūkagai) is Japan’s largest Chinatown located in my hometown Yokohama. Its main attraction is the wide array of tantalizing Chinese cuisine offered by many restaurants and food stalls.
One of the most reputable restaurants is Kiyoken (崎陽軒) that serves Chinese food since the early 1900s. Their Shumai (steamed pork dumplings) has been a popular and signature Yokohama souvenir for decades.
Japanese-Style Pork Shumai
Shumai (シュウマイ) in Japan is typically made with only ground pork, finely chopped onion, and flavored with a few simple Japanese seasonings. Whereas the original Chinese Shaomai or Siumai (燒賣) commonly include both ground pork and chopped shrimp, and sometimes shiitake mushrooms.
The easiest thing to tell Japanese Shumai apart is the dainty green peas that crown the open steamed dumplings, giving them the characteristic look.
You may associate Shumai with Chinese dim sum or diner food, but back home in Japan, these steamed dumplings are a regular home-cooked dish just like gyoza. Since Japanese-Chinese style dining can be expensive, most Japanese people make Shumai either from scratch or straight from the frozen premade bag.
How to Make Pork Shumai at Home
Here are the 3 easy steps to make Shumai:
- Make the filling – Mix the ground meat with chopped onion.
- Add the filling to the wonton wrappers – First few may be tricky, but once you get a hang of it, it’s pretty easy!
- Steam – Cooking time is just 8-10 minutes. Really fast, and you can enjoy the dumplings right away!
Japanese Shumai (Steamed Pork Dumpling) is typically made with ground pork and minced onion, enclosed in a wonton wrapper and topped with green pea.
What Are Shumai Wrappers?
Japanese supermarkets sell “shumai wrappers” specifically made for Shumai. They come in thin, small square sheets, which are different from round gyoza wrappers.
You can definitely use wonton wrappers if you couldn’t find ‘shumai wrappers’. Depending on the brand, some wrappers are larger than the others. So, choose the smaller square ones for shumai wrapping.
5 Tips on Filling & Wrapping
1. Mix potato starch/cornstarch with onion.
Potato starch (or cornstarch) plays an important role to absorb the excess moisture that the onion may release.
2. Knead until sticky and pale.
It’s very important to use your hand (you can wear a plastic glove) to knead the meat mixture until they are sticky and pasty, and pale in color. This will ensure that the inside juices cannot escape and all the delicious flavor is kept within the meat.
3. Use a 1-Tablespoon measuring spoon.
By using the measuring spoon, it ensures the same amount of fillings for all your Shumai. This way, we do not need to worry about if some of the Shumai is cooked through and some are not. The dumplings will also have a uniform consistency. Once you are familiar with the amount of the mixture you scoop, you can use a butter knife or dumpling spatula.
4. Use a butter knife or the back of a teaspoon.
Use a non-sharp butter knife (if you have any) or the back of a teaspoon to stuff and press the filling into the wrappers. My friend in Japan gifted me a dumpling spatula (餃子ヘラ) and it’s been my kitchen treasure.
5. Press, rotate, and press…
It’s important to press the meat down into the wrapper to avoid trapping the air. Make sure to route 45 degrees each time you press down, so the meat mixture will go into the wrapper evenly.
See the photo above. You create a hole with your thumb and pointing figure so that the wrapper will go down into the hole as you press down the meat mixture. Your ring finger and pinky should be at the bottom of the Shumai to create a flat base.
How to Steam Shumai
I use a bamboo basket to steam the Shumai as it is the traditional way of cooking the dumplings. Here are a few key tips on steaming the dumplings:
- Place a parchment paper (make a few air vent holes with a tip of knife or chopstick) or cabbage leaves on the bottom of the steamer basket to prevent the Shumai from sticking.
- When you place the Shumai inside the basket, make sure they are not touching each other.
- Use a large pot or steamer pot and fill it with 1-2 cups of water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bamboo basket.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat. When it’s boiling, place the bamboo basket onto the wok and steam for 8-10minutes until the meat is cooked through.
You can buy a bamboo steamer basket from Amazon or Asian grocery stores. I purchased my large bamboo steamer at an Asian grocery store and a small one from Japan.
No Steamer? Create a Makeshift Steamer!
No worries if you don’t steam food enough to purchase a steamer or a bamboo steamer basket. You can definitely make it work with a large pot, aluminum foil, and plate!
Make-Ahead and Freeze
The great thing about making Shumai at home is you can freeze them before or after steaming. That means, you can cook a big batch and enjoy them anytime you like. Right before serving, simply steam the frozen shumai without thawing.
What to Do with Leftover Wonton Wrappers
When I make shumai at home, I always make cheese wrap with the leftover wrappers. Both pan-fried and deep-fried cheese wraps are really easy to make, and your leftover skins won’t go to waste!
These juicy, tender Pork Shumai make the best thing to enjoy for a weeknight meal. We usually serve it with Japanese karashi hot mustard, then dip it in soy sauce or a simple sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil. But I do enjoy eating them without any sauce since the filling alone is so flavorful.
Shumai may seem challenging to make at first glance, but you’d surprised how easy it is to replicate these all-star dumplings at home. They taste just as good as the ones served at fancy restaurants, but certainly much better than the frozen Shumai you get from the stores.
I love making Shumai with my children for a relaxing weekend brunch. The dumplings are so fresh and juicy that you want to eat them right off the bamboo basket!
Pork Shumai (Steamed Pork Dumplings)
For the Filling
For the Dumpling
- 35 wonton wrappers
- 3 Tbsp green peas (1 oz)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make the Filling
- Lay the onion on the cutting board, flat-side down. With your sharp knife, slice 2-3 horizontal slits in the onion towards the root end. Then slice vertical slits in ⅛ inches.
- Then cut perpendicular to the previous slices you made. To finely mince, run your knife through them in a rocking motion.
- Put the finely minced onion in a large bowl and add potato starch/cornstarch. Mix together.
- With a knife, scrape off the skin of the ginger and grate it. You will need 1 tsp of grated ginger.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground pork, 1 tsp of grated ginger, sake, and sesame oil.
- Add sugar and soy sauce.
- And salt and pepper.
- Using your hands (or with plastic food gloves), knead the meat mixture until they are sticky, like a pale paste.
- Then transfer the meat to the onion.
- Mix the onion and meat together until well-combined.
- Prepare the wonton wrappers, a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a 1-Tbsp measuring spoon, and a butter knife. Scoop the filling into the measuring spoon, and level the meat off with the knife. Make sure the wonton wrappers are covered in plastic wraps or damp towel while you stuff the filling in so they won't get dry.
- Transfer the filling to the center of a wonton wrapper.
- Using your left hand (if you’re a righty), make a round hole by connecting your thumb and index finger with the rest of fingers next to each other. Place a wonton wrapper with the filling on top of it. Tip: Once you get used to making Shumai, you can place the wrapper and then directly put the filling on top, instead of using a measuring spoon.
- Using the butter knife or the back of a teaspoon, gently press the filling down while holding the fingers firmly. After you press the meat down, rotate the Shumai 45 degrees so the meat is evenly distributed in the center of the wrapper. Finally, smooth out the surface of the meat.
- Your left fingers should look like this while you press the meat inside, the ring finger and pinky right underneath the bottom of the Shumai to create the flat base. Continue with the rest of the wrappers and filling until one of them runs out.
- When you finish wrapping, bring 1-2 cups of water in a wok (or steamer) to boil over high heat (or medium-high heat if you’re using non-stick). Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bamboo steamer basket. Meanwhile, place a green pea in the center of the Shumai. Tip: If you don’t have a steamer, read my blog post above on how to steam Shumai without a steamer.
- Prepare a parchment paper (make a few air vent holes) or cabbage leaves and place them on the bottom of the steamer basket to prevent the Shumai from sticking. Put Shumai on top without touching each other. Most likely, you will need to steam them in batches. When the water is boiling, place the bamboo steamer basket onto the wok and steam for 8-10minutes until the meat is cooked through.
- After 8-10 minutes, check to see if the meat is cooked through. Then transfer the bamboo steamer basket on top of a large plate.
To Serve and Store
- Bring to the table and serve immediately with soy sauce, rice vinegar, Japanese chili oil (la-yu) and Japanese karashi mustard. You can freeze before or after steaming them. Place each Shumai on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper without touching each other, and flash freeze for 1 hour. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. You can steam frozen Shumai without thawing (just need to steam for an extra few minutes).
Other Dumpling Recipes
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 20, 2012. The video and updated images have been added to the post in April 2020.