Jenn de la Vega's Steamed Shumai with a Crunchy Sesame Bacon Topping

Jenn de la Vega's Steamed Shumai with a Crunchy Sesame Bacon Topping

Jenn de la Vega is the author of Comfort Food Showdown, Bold Flavors from Wild Cooking Contests, a truly special cookbook that has a recipe for shumai so good it brought tears to my eyes. She showed me how to make these pocket gems back in May during a visit to the Kickstarter offices in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Jenn’s super savory shumai owe their tear-jerking deliciousness to the umami-filled bacon-scallion-sesame topping that adds a perfect salty crunch to each bite. As she walked me through her step-by-step guide to making shumai, I caught Jenn adding a tablespoon or so of heavy cream to the pork mixture, which I questioned out loud. Her face lit up when she explained that James Beard’s favorite burger recipe also has a dash of heavy cream. In Jenn’s recipe, the cream adds a richness to the ground pork and balances out the salty, crunchy *POW* from the bacon sesame scallion situation on top.

Filipino Shumai with bacon sesame topping

Shumai, (aka siomai, siu mai, or shu mai) is widely known as an open-faced Chinese dumpling, but China began trading with the Philippines as early as 2nd Century AD, introducing soy sauce, sio pao and siu mai and egg rolls, which would eventually become Lumpia in the Phillipines, to the islands. Jenn’s recipe for shumai with a crunchy sesame bacon scallion topping bridges the gap between her love for salty, fatty rich foods bound to win a Takedown contest in the heart of Brooklyn, and a classic Filipino staple, brought on by Chinese influence hundreds of years ago.

Dim sum siu mai
Coming off a win from a Bacon Takedown made it difficult to repeat the next year. I wanted to bring something bite-sized that I could prepared well ahead of the event. Dim sum proved to be more difficult than I realized. Any steamed wonton or dumpling material dries as soon as it is exposed to sit, which results in a chewy edge. To solve this problem, we brought a spritzer to mist the shumai with water.
— Excerpt from Jenn de la Vega's cookbook, Comfort Food Showdown

Shumai with Crispy Bacon Sesame Topping

Shumai Filling Ingredients 

  • ¼ lb (115 g) of bacon, cooked

  • ¼ cup (40 g) chives, chopped, divided

  • Sesame seeds

  • ½ lb ground pork

  • ½ tablespoon (7 ml) sake

  • ½ tablespoon (7ml) heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) soy sauce, plus more for serving

  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) bacon fat

  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) corn starch

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon white pepper

  • 20 wonton wrappers

  • 1 egg

  • 4 large leaves of cabbage

  • Vegetable oil

Shumai Directions

Chop the bacon finely and divide it into two piles. Mix one with half of the chives and sesame seeds; set aside. Place the rest of the bacon in a mixing bowl with the pork, sake, cream, soy sauce, fat, cornstarch, salt pepper and remaining chives.

Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your shumai-making station. Never leave the wonton wrappers exposed to air, cover them with a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. They will crack if you don’t keep them pliable.

Lightly beat the egg in a bowl with a splash of water.

Divide the meat mix into 20 balls. To make a shumai, brush a wonton with egg. Place a ball of meat in the center of the wonton. Bring the corners up and start pressing down the folded sides to form a cylinder, as if you had stuffed it into a shot glass. Pat the top of the meat down lightly to fatten in. Continue for the remaining shumai. Top each piece with a generous pinch of the bacon, chive and sesame mix.

Prepare a steamer basket with the leaves of cabbage as your “parchment.” Brush the leaves lightly with vegetable oil to prevent the shumai from sticking to the steamer.

Steam for 5 to 8 minutes over 2 inches (5cm) of boiling water, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160F (71C).

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Jenn de la Vega

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