Shumai 烧卖


The dough wrapper is called suey gow, or “dumpling skin” in Cantonese (Lo 376). Suey gow contains a wheat-based flour, which is conventional for the vast majority of Chinese dumplings (Hahn 121). It is interesting to note that even though wheat is more heavily cultivated in northern China and rice in southern, wheat is uniformly used for shumai wrappers because it yields softer dough that is more desirable for a dumpling skin (Lin-Liu 59). The dough is very important and variations sometimes bleach the dough (whiteness is desirable) and use different gluten contents to react more favorably with humidity as well as different climates and temperatures (Lo 363). Making around four-dozen wrappers requires four cups of sifted wheat flour, one teaspoon of salt, two eggs, and one cup of cold water. If wrappers must rest before use, they must be covered with a lightly dampened towel or can also be frozen if wrapped securely. The recipe for the wrappers (from Emily Hahn’ Recipes: The Cooking of China 3) can vary slightly, but generally is as follows:

  1. Sift flour and salt into bowl. Make a well in the center and pour eggs and cold water.
  2. With fingers, mix until dough can be gathered into a soft ball.
  3. Knead dough in bowl four to five minutes or until smooth, but still soft. Over-kneading will lead to stiffness
  4. Divide the dough into four equal-sized balls and on a lightly floured surface roll balls into a fourteen-inch square that is around one sixteenth -inch thick.
  5. Use a three-inch cookie cutter, or the rim of a glass, to cut the dough into rounds. A good wrapper has uniform texture with no dark spots (Lin-Liu 60).