Primary Ingredient(s): Pork, Shrimp
Type of Dish: Dumpling
Method of Preparation: Steam
I imagine that those of us who were raised in a Western culture have different approaches to each kind of dish available at dim sum. Some dishes are the rock stars, those dishes that are seen as ultra-exotic by those recently acquainting themselves to the dishes. Included in these are any thing made with chicken feet, squid, or fish balls.
On the other extreme, we have the “accountant” type dishes. There is very little risk in eating these dishes, as they are instantly recognizable. Much like marrying an accountant, choosing these dishes are seen as “safe”. Dishes in this group include pot stickers, roasted duck, or even spring rolls.
Somewhere between these two extremes are the reliable stand by’s. These are the dishes that, at first glance, seem exotic, but upon inspection reveal themselves to be nothing more than a variation of an accountant-type dish.
Shaomai fits squarely in this latter category. It is a dumpling, but only barely, as there is a thin dumpling wrapper that surrounds only 3/4 of the filling. The filling is made with ground pork wrapped around either whole or chopped shrimp, depending upon your restaurant of choice. It is then topped with a garnish of carrot, yam, or a single pea, again, depending upon your restaurant of choice.
From a Dim Sum restaurant point of view, this is a relatively standard dish, one that should be available at most places. Much like it’s difficult to take a Sports Bar seriously if they don’t have Buffalo Wings on the menu, it’s similarly difficult to take a dim sum restaurant seriously if they don’t have some version of this dish on their carts.