I once ate 24 shumais in one sitting, true story.
It’s not something I’m proud of sharing (much like the time I took the 64-ounce porterhouse challenge—eat the whole steak in an hour and get it for free). But it does reveal my infatuation with the Chinese dim sum staple, in my opinion the world heavyweight champion of dumplings.
Allow me to set the scene: A pork-and-shrimp filling, often with mushrooms and water chestnuts, stuffed inside a yellow egg dough wrapper with the top of the filling exposed. Steamed and served typically four to a bamboo basket. The texture is toothsome but tender, and the flavor bursts of rich, meaty savoriness. I dab some chili oil and soy sauce on my shumai. Writing this paragraph, I’m daydreaming of 24 more.
The earliest shumai, according to The Dim Sum Field Guide by Carolyn Phillips, came from the Yuan dynasty in Northern China sometime in the late 13th century. Eventually, the dumplings migrated south to Guangdong province, where the Cantonese incorporated shumai into their dim sum vocabulary.
I’ve yet to encounter a truly awful shumai, but I’ve eaten enough to distinguish decent versions from the great ones.
Here are three things I look for in a shumai: