Are these the ugliest snack in the world? They taste fantastic though! Shāo mài 烧卖 are little steamed dumplings filled with savoury sticky rice. The literal meaning of shāomài is ‘cook and sell’ and in Shanghai you can buy these on every street from a steamed dumpling shop for one kuai each (16 cents). Cooked and sold on the spot.
You might be more familiar with the Cantonese version, siu mai, filled with a mixture of prawn, pork and black mushroom and topped with a piece of carrot. The Shanghai version, Jiangnan shao mai, are similar only in their shape. The outside wrapper is a flat wheat dough dumpling skin, and the filling is made from a combination of sticky rice, soy sauce, sugar marinated pork pieces and rice wine, with ginger and garlic. The wrapper is folded around the filling then gently squeezed at the top to make the typical pear shape.
The filling is very similar to that used in making zongzi, the parcels wrapped in bamboo leaves and eaten at the time of the Dragon Boat Festival.
And the taste? Salty, savoury, with occasional flavour hits of garlic pieces or little nuggets of sweet pork. I like them!
Because I love street food so much, and because it is an integral part of a food-loving life in China, I’m working my way through all of Shanghai’s street foods, one by one. This is Number 9 in the Shanghai Street Food series. Enjoy tasting them all!
Number 3 Liangpi – a spicy cold noodle dish
Number 4 Langzhou Lamian – hand-pulled noodles
Number 5 Cong You Bing – fried shallot pancakes
Number 6 Baozi – steamed buns, Shanghai style
Number 7 Jian Bing – the famous egg pancake
Number 14 Bao Mi Hua – exploding rice flowers
Number 16 Bing Tang Shan Zha – crystal sugar hawthorns
Number 21 Suzhou Shi Yue Bing – homestyle mooncakes
Number 22 Gui Hua Lian’ou – honeyed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice
Number 23 Cong You Ban Mian – scallion oil noodles
Number 25 Nuomi Cai Tou – fried clover pancakes
Number 26 Da Bing, Shao Bing – sesame breakfast pastries
Number 27 Ci Fan – sticky rice breakfast balls
Number 28 Gui Hua Gao – steamed osmanthus cake
Number 29 Zongzi – bamboo leaf wrapped sticky rice