Sui Mai: Chinese dumpling recipe

Sui mai - dim sum dumplings

I am kind of crazy for Chinese dumplings, and dim sum, of all kinds. Any kind of dough filled with chopped pork or shrimp (or even vegetables), is my kind of food. Many people don’t realize how simple dumplings are to make. Most ingredients are pretty easy to find, and if you use store-bought won ton wrappers, most of the work is already done!

Sui mai - dim sum dumplings

In Paris, we have several Chinese neighborhoods and I gathered everything up and made a batch of sui mai, sometimes called shumai, in English. They’re a mix of pork and shrimp, seasoned, then served with a lively dipping sauce.

Sui mai - dim sum dumplings

A few notes on Chinese ingredients:

  • Sesame Oil
    The best sesame oil is made only from roasted sesame seeds and nothing else. Check the ingredients, as some brands mix sesame oil with vegetable oil.
  • Fish Sauce
    It smells a little off-putting, but tastes remarkable when mixed as a sauce or seasoning. Most store-bought brands are fine, but if you can find Red Boat, you’ll find it’s a lot better than the other brands.
  • Fresh Ginger
    Fresh ginger should always be rock-hard with no signs of mold or soft spots. You can peel ginger with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, but scraping it with a soup spoon works well to get around the nooks-and-crannies.
  • Water Chestnuts
    Fresh chestnuts are quite expensive in Paris, where they’re called chataigne d’eau. You can use canned, but the fresh are much better, and they’re easily available and inexpensive in Asian markets in the United States. If using canned water chestnuts, double the amount called for.
  • Shrimp
    Fresh shrimp is expensive and I’ve found that good-quality peeled raw shrimp is fine to use for dumplings.

Sui mai - dim sum dumplings

Sui Mai
About 60 Dumplings

I sometimes hand-chop the pork which is a bit of work (I use boned pork shoulder or pork butt) but yields a nicer filling. If so, cut the pork into chunks and use a Chinese cleaver to chop it finely. Otherwise ground pork is just fine. For those avoiding pork, you can use ground chicken or turkey instead.

You’ll probably need 2 packets of won ton wrappers. If you have extra filling, you can freeze it and use it for the next batch of dumplings. You can also make these as meatballs without the wrappers, which is a gluten-free option.

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1kg) ground pork
  • 1 pound (450g) raw shrimp, peeled
  • 1 bunch scallions, well-chopped (use as much of the green part that's edible)
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon salt
  • 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ tablespoons roasted sesame oil
  • 6 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • Round won ton wrappers (2 packets)

1. Chop up the shrimp into small pieces and add to a large bowl along with the ground pork.

2. Use your hands to mix in the scallions, cilantro, fish sauce, salt, corn starch, egg, sesame oil, water chestnuts, and fresh ginger.

3. Form the meat mixture into balls about 1 inch (3 cm) round and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Brush a circle of water around the perimeter of a won ton wrapper and place a meatball in the center. Gather the edges up and press the wrapper against the meat making a tight little cylinder. Put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or dusted with corn starch. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

5. To steam the dumplings, line a Chinese bamboo steamer with parchment paper with a few holes poked in it. Turn on the heat, and once the steamer is hot, steam the dumplings until hot all the way through, which will take about 5 minutes. (You can also use a steamer basket lined with cheesecloth or parchment paper with a few holes poked in it.)

Dipping sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons white Chinese vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon white pepper
3-4 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons chili oil

Mix all the ingredients together. Serve with the hot, steamed dumplings.

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  • January 14, 2006 3:51am

    Go BABY!!!
    one of my favorite treats to myself.. although I must say often I wait for my trips to SF for some dimsum!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • John
    January 14, 2006 6:43am

    OK! This is your spritual guide speaking. There we have the finest kosher Sui Mai dumplings? Oi vey! And you – a good boy – once upon a time. (But we still pray for you). Go win the city food blog! We are all voting several times a day for you.

  • Spencer
    January 14, 2006 9:58am

    Your sui mai looks very enticing!!! A perfect time to have dumplings on a cold day! If you can’t find round wonton wrappers, I suspect you can make them with square ones. If you have a round cookie cutter that fits close to the edges of the square ones, you can cut your own!! Just cut out a couple of slabs at a time. You can save the scraps for dumping into a stock to make a soup.

  • Nancy
    January 14, 2006 2:12pm

    I’m listening to GOOD FOOD on KCRW via my computer and is it you who will soon be on? Can’t wait to listen. I am currently working, at the library, and so all the patrons will listen too. Chocolates and paris. Oh goody

  • simona
    January 14, 2006 4:39pm

    This very “appetissant” post of yours gave me the courage, actually the “Hutzpe” to ask you if you could help me with the address of a good chinese and/or vietnamese and/or thai restaurant in Paris.
    I’ll be in Paris next week. I knew some when I was a student, but that’s about three ( oi vey)decades ago.
    Thank you in advance

  • January 14, 2006 11:20pm

    I’m so impressed that you actually chopped the meat yourself! I just go to the butcher in Chinatown and buy the “paste” that they chop for me. The sauce you made looks great – I’ll have to try it next time I can make the time to fold dumplings.

  • January 15, 2006 3:01am


    My favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Paris is Le Bambou in the 13th, and a good Thai place is Lao Siam in Belleville. (Le Bambou is just a block from Tang Freres, so you must visit). You can visit Pages Jeaunes or Google, for the exact address and/or metro stops.

  • January 15, 2006 8:52am

    Oh My, David Sui Mai! Merci for the arm-wrestling chopping contribution to the pig weekend. I hope you put a few of those dumplings in the freezer labeled “for Kate”. Btw, I am simmering a pigs foot in red wine as we speak; the barge smells pigluscious. Check us out at on Tuesday!

  • simona
    January 15, 2006 1:08pm

    Merci beaucoup

  • January 16, 2006 12:08am

    Delicious as always, David!

  • January 16, 2006 12:29am

    You made my day!!! I have always been looking for a recipe of Sui Mai but I guess I was always too lazy to fully complete my search and now here it is. Plus great pics and explanations. Merci! C’est chouette ca! I cannot wait to rush to the stores to get what I need to make them.

  • January 16, 2006 1:03am

    So what’s with holding out on us on the chinese cooking skills? That’s just plain mean!
    And no, you can’t bank karma so you had better go to 2 yoga classes today. Actually, make that 3 since no one knew you can cook Chinese.

  • jack
    January 16, 2006 8:03am

    Ooh Siomai! Sui Mai, Wontons, etc.
    You should try Pancit Molo. Drop those beauties in chicken broth for a tasty wonton soup! Yum

  • January 17, 2006 1:00pm

    Thank you for including that you can eat the meatballs without the wanton wrappers. I live in a gluten-free world and these sound divine.

  • Véronique
    February 3, 2006 1:00pm

    I’ve prepared them and was amazed to see that they turned really well – I had a dumpling phobia until then, being usually laughed at by my Japanese friends when we do some gyoza (=wonton) parties, mine always looking… different. Now I’m healed. Thank you!

  • tokyoite
    February 6, 2006 11:53am

    I must admit I’ve never seen siu mai made quite like that before!

    As far as I’m concerned, most dishes taste better with a splash of Vietnamese nuoc mam (better than the Thai version; trust me!).

  • September 2, 2010 9:39am
    David Lebovitz

    Bruce Cost was the owner of Monsoon restaurant in San Francisco, where I worked, and now does the food at Big Bowl in Chicago. He is the author of Big Bowl Noodles and Rice cookbook and Asian Ingredients, a guide to the foodstuffs of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.