Siew Mai

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Chinese Heritage Cooking

Chinese Heritage Cooking

By Christopher Tan and Amy Van

Published 2018

  • About

This classic dim sum item is so spare and simple that only the best quality ingredients should be used. Hand-chopping the pork and prawns to a coarse mince is crucial to achieving a juicy mouthfeel; machine-minced pork binds too tightly, making the siew mai dense and tough. Using pork that is too lean leads to similarly dense and tough results, so be sure your pork is marbled with a little fat.


  • Fresh prawns (shrimps) 180 g ( oz)
  • Pork shoulder or leg meat with some fat 210 g ( oz)
  • Light soy sauce 1 Tbsp
  • Rice wine 1 tsp
  • Potato starch 1 tsp
  • Sugar ½ tsp
  • Salt ¼ tsp or to taste
  • Sesame oil ¼ tsp
  • Ground white pepper ¼ tsp
  • Round wonton skins, about 10-cm (4-in in diameter) 25–28 skins
  • Fresh crab roe or shrimp roe (optional)
  • Lettuce or green vegetable leaves as needed


  1. Peel prawns. (Freeze shells and heads for use in stocks, if desired.) Slit prawns along their backs and remove thread-like black intestines. Rinse prawns well and pat dry.
  2. Dice pork with a cleaver, then use repeated chopping motions to mince it coarsely on the chopping board. Scatter prawns over pork and continue to chop until prawns are finely diced.
  3. Transfer pork and prawn mixture to a bowl and stir in soy sauce, rice wine, potato starch, sugar, salt, sesame oil and pepper. Stir in one direction with chopsticks to help compact the mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour and preferably 2 hours to let the flavours blend and the mixture bind together.
  4. Form a circle with your thumb and forefinger. Lay a wonton skin on top and spoon 2 generous teaspoonfuls of filling on it. With the spoon, push down on the filling as you bring the sides of the skin up with your thumb and forefinger, using them to grip and shape the siew mai’s ‘waist’. You should end up with a round, cushion-shaped siew mai. Place on a plate, pressing gently to flatten its base, so that it can stand upright. Make remaining siew mai likewise.
  5. Line a steamer tray with a layer of lettuce or green vegetable leaves. Place siew mai on top, spaced at least 1-cm (½-in) apart. Cover and steam for 4–6 minutes over high heat or until just cooked through. If desired, place a tiny dab of crab or shrimp roe on the top of each siew mai, then steam for another 45–60 seconds to cook the roe. Serve hot.