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132. Northeast Chinese shao mai (I)


How to make shaomai at home

England is filled with the atmosphere of the celebration of Queen’s Jubilee. No, no, that is not my excuse for not posting for a few days, I mean we haven’t been busy joining in any celebrations, but I was really touched by the national atmosphere — almost everywhere we went, there was a street party going on, with lots of music and kids’ playing ground, oh, and food.

Time passed so fast, I have no memory what I have done in the past few days. After saying to start my summer dish campaign, the weather here has been very disappointing, I almost thought our summer has just ended without me properly enjoying it. :( Well, I am still hoping and still waiting. And right now, it feels like we are back to winter. I was so reluctant to take my jacket out which has been packed away already… — Ha… Hot days just never are enough for me.

Anyway, although I am not really celebrating Queen’s Jubilee, I thought we should cook something to go with the atmosphere outside. Here is the long waiting recipe — Chinese shaomai. ‘Long waiting’ is really just for myself, because I have been thinking of making it for long long time, but never really fulfill it, until now.

Chinese Shao Mai

The pronunciation ‘Shaomai’ probably you are not very familiar with, especially if you have been familiar with Cantonese dimsim. In Cantonese, it is called ‘Shumai’, a small steamed dimsim selection, normally comes 4 in one portion with pork mince. Oh, I have just noticed that nowadays, you can get it in M&S oriental food collection.

Differences between North and South China

But northern ‘Shaomai’ is quite different. We always laugh, and say that northern people are more generous with food, and can definitely serve and eat a lot more. :) For example, this ‘Shaomai’ northern style is much bigger than the Cantonese dimsim version. :)) However, although there are similarities between the two, when you actually taste them, they are like quite different things.

Firstly, well, the appearance is already different as I have said, and because of its size, northern ‘shaomai’ serves the purpose as main (staple) food on the dining table, you can have soup or salad to go with it, but it has the main role in a meal; while Cantonese ‘Shumai’ is a part of dimsim selection, a portion of 4 can never get you full, rather, you need to have some other ‘dimsim’ to combine for a ‘dimsim’ meal.

Secondly, the pastry is different. The pastry of northern ‘shaomai’ is made from plain wheat flour (kneaded with hot water), and the most distinguish part if the edges on the top, it is covered by corn flour, and ‘loosely’ stretch out, like a flower. After steaming, the texture of edges is different to the rest of the part, and you can even see the filling from the top.

Thirdly, the filling is often different. The filling for northern style ‘Shaomai’ is very similar to northern dumplings or ‘Baozi’, which is often a combination of meat mince and vegetable, and the filling can be ‘juicy’ after steaming.

Shao Mai and the Hui Ethnic Group

The most famous northern ‘Shaomai’ is actually from my city, ‘labeled’ as ‘Ma jia shao mai’, as ‘family Ma’ Shaomai, and it became a ‘feature’ food of local ‘Hui’ ethnic group. It is said that in 1796, Ma Chun became the first person making this kind of ‘shaomai’. Because of its unique pastry and the way of making the filling, it soon became famous in China, especially in northern China. He opened a small restaurant mainly selling his ‘Shaomao’. The restaurant and his skills have been passed through generations. So even nowadays, if you go to my city ‘Shenyang’, you should go to ‘Ma jia shaomai restaurant’ in ‘Hui’ residential area to try out the real authentic ‘Shaomai’.

I am sharing here is homemade version ‘shaomai’ — how I remembered to make it.

(The post is too long, to be continued tomorrow then… Sorry)

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