Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chicken and Mushroom Siu Mai

Siu mai are a staple in both dim sum restaurants and in many pan-Asian restaurants, and even in sushi restaurants. If you're unfamiliar with the name, siu mai (pronounced shoe my) are small open-faced dumplings that are typically steamed.

The wrapper is thin and delicate and typically a smaller version of a wonton skin. The filling is usually a combination of ground pork and chopped shrimp, and they are often garnished with either fish roe, peas, or decoratively cut carrots.

Prior to freezing or cooking

Although they generally use round wrappers, square ones can also be used, or you may trim your traditional square wonton wrappers into smaller squares or circles if you'd like to create more delicate bites of standard siu mai size. Personally, I find that wasteful, and decided to use the wonton wrappers in their full size (which is a mere 1/4-inch larger than what is recommended (that's only 1/8-inch on either side that is "too big"). I had a bit of excess dough ruffled around the edges and peeking over the top, but I think it added character :)

Chicken and mushroom filling

These are tremendously easy to prepare and shape and require less skill than typical dumplings. Filling is scooped into the center of the wonton wrapper and then the dough is cupped and crimped around the filling with your hand. No need for water as "glue" and no folding, easy peasy.

The filling for these particular siu mai is non-traditional, but it still utilizes tried and true Asian ingredients to create something unique and tasty. Instead of pork we have ground chicken (I just blitzed some chicken thighs in my food processor to chop them finely, but not too much so they wouldn't turn into chicken paste).

For a bit more umami flavor and texture, we add some rehydrated finely chopped shiitake mushrooms, as well as some other veggies offering a variety of colors, flavors, and textures.

These siu mai have a wonderful complexity in texture, from the slightly chewy shiitakes, to the bit of crunch from the bamboo shoots and cabbage, to the tender chicken holding it all together. And let's not forget the super thin wonton skins that nearly melt-in-your-mouth.

Upon pan-frying these siu mai, you'll also get a crisp texture on the bottoms. It's a really great contrast to the delicate and tender wrapper around the edges. You can definitely cook them with either method (traditional steaming and non-traditional pan-frying) and obtain excellent results!

Chicken and Mushroom Siu Mai
Makes 30 to 40 dumplings (I actually got 28 using 3-1/4-inch square wrappers, but you will yield more with smaller wrappers)
(Adapted from Dumplings All Day Wong)

3/4 pound (340 g) ground chicken meat (I pulsed chicken thighs in the food processor to finely chop, but not puree them)
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated overnight, squeezed dry, stems removed, and caps minced (net 1/2 cup [40 g])
1/4 cup (50 g) finely minced yellow onion
1/4 cup (65 g) finely minced fresh bamboo shoots (I used canned)
1/4 cup (85 g) finely minced green cabbage
3 tablespoons (30 g) finely minced carrot
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon (10 g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper

Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup Chinese black vinegar, preferably Chinkiang vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Assembly and Cooking:
30 to 40 siu mai or wonton wrappers (aim for 3-inch round or square wrappers or smaller if you can find them; you can trim larger wrappers if needed, although my 3-1/4-inch wrappers worked just fine, but yielded less, somewhat larger siu mai)
Decoratively cut carrots for garnish
Peanut, canola, or vegetable oil, if pan-frying
Chili oil, for serving, if desired (preferably homemade)

To make the filling, in a mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients. Refrigerate if needed.

To make the dipping sauce, combine the vinegar and soy sauce and store for up to a month in your refrigerator.

To assemble, place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the wrapper and then gently gather the sides of the wrapper up and around the filling, forming the sides of the siu mai by circling your forefinger and thumb together.

Use a small knife or spatula to smooth down the top of the filling (it should come to the edges of the wrapper, and will be exposed) while continuing to gently squeeze and form the sides and bottom of the cup-shaped dumpling. Gently tap the finish siu mai on the work surface to flatten the bottom so it stands up and resembles a short cylinder.

Finish by pressing the carrot garnish gently into the top of the filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking. The siu mai can also be frozen at this point in a single layer on a parchment lined tray, and then transferred gently to a large freezer bag or freezer-safe container for up to a month. If cooking from a frozen state, add a few more minutes of cooking time.

If steaming, prepare a steamer basket lined with blanched cabbage leaves or lightly greased parchment paper. Place the siu mai in the steamer basket, being careful to space them apart so they are not touching. Cover with a lid and steam for about 6 to 8 minutes (or a few minutes longer if frozen), until they are cooked through.

If pan-frying, heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the hot pan, tilting to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the siu mai in a single layer in the hot pan and cook until the bottoms are golden brown. Add 1/2 cup water and immediately cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until all of the water has been absorbed and the dumpling skins have cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes (or a few minutes longer if frozen). Uncover and allow them to crisp back up for another minute after all the water has absorbed; remove immediately from the pan. Repeat with the remaining siu mai.

Serve with the dipping sauce and chili oil, if desired.


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