【Learn Chinese】Shanghai Dumplings: Shaomai

Dumplings! One of the foods you must try when you visit Shanghai or China in general. But what exactly are Shanghai dumplings?
Next to 小笼包 (xiǎo lóng bāo) and 生煎包 (sheng jiān bāo) you can find a third type of dumpling in Shanghai: 烧卖 (shāo mai).
Shaomai are very different to the previous two soupy, Shanghai dumplings, but they are also common find when scouring the Shanghai streets for a breakfast treat.
What they lack in soup they make up for in glutinous, rice goodness. Shaomai come in varying forms across China, though they originally hail from Inner Mongolia.
One of the most commonly known variations is the ‘Shumai’ or ‘siumaai’, which you would find in Hong Kong. In Cantonese cuisine, a siumaai usually consists of a pork and shrimp mixture.
Siumaai’s wrapping is made from a thin layer of lye water dough, which is often bright yellow in colour. These dumplings are usually seasoned with rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, chicken stock, and either an orange dot of crab roe or diced carrot.
The Shanghai variation is quite different from this Hong Kong or Guangdong ‘siumaai’.
For the filling, Shanghai shaomai uses a mixture of glutinous rice, pork mince, mushroom, and onion. The outside pastry is quite thin, close to the xiaolongbao style casing. These dumplings are usually steamed.
All three of these Shanghai-style dumplings are pretty essential tasting when it comes to Shanghai cuisine. You can usually find all three of them at small stalls across the city, especially around breakfast time. Just keep your eyes peeled for the towers of steaming baskets.
A quick note for vegetarians: the traditional filling for these dumplings does contain pork. Though they might not be on every corner, it is possible to find vegetarian versions of all of three around and about Shanghai.