This vegan Shanghai shao mai (sticky rice dumpling), 上海烧卖 is a delicious dumpling recipe that you can easily recreate at home. It’s a type of dim sum that my family enjoys all the time.
When you hear shao mai (also spelled siu mai and shumai), you might think of steamed pork dumplings with yellow wrappers, often found at dim sum places, right? There is actually another version, called Shanghai shao mai, that is filled with sticky rice. It’s equally delicious and can be veganized easily by using mushrooms and bamboo shoots that add plenty of umami savoriness to the dumplings.
I first learned about Shanghai shao mai when I was looking for siu mai alternatives at the store. Shanghai shao mai have a distinct look that resembles a vase, with a round bottom, slender middle, and wide opening at the top. From the side angle, the top looks like a bouquet of flowers. To create this shape, the dumpling wrapper circumference needs to be thin and frilly. This can be done using your fingers, pinching and squeezing the edges. While you can swap in homemade dumpling wrappers (they’re even easier to shape), I call for store-bought wrappers here to cut down on the overall work.
How to make vegan Shanghai Shao Mai
Prepare the rice
First, clean and rinse the glutinous rice until the water runs clear about 3 times. Transfer to a large bowl and level it with your palm. Fill with water enough to cover 3 inches above the rice level, then cover and soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.
The next day, line a fine cheesecloth on a bamboo steamer. Drain out the rice water and transfer it to the steamer. Spread it out or make a hole in the middle so the steam is evenly distributed.
Steam for 25 minutes over high heat.
Prepare the pairing ingredients
Next, chop the mushrooms and bamboo shoots into tiny cubes. The smaller size will help them cook quickly and blend properly with the rice later.
Next, sauté the ginger until fragrant in a heated oiled skillet followed by mushrooms and bamboos shoots. Once you add the seasoning and vegetable stock, bring it a barely boil.
Fold in the rice. Tip: Use a spatula to fold gently and press the rice with the back of the spatula so the rice is fully covered with sauce. The rice texture is soft and should be 90% cooked through. If it’s too hard, adjust the stock and cook again.
How to assemble the Shanghai Shao Mai
Most store-bought dumpling wrappers are found in the frozen section, so please thaw them to room temperature before proceeding. As you can see, this dumpling has an open-top, similar to siu mai but with a slender shape and frill at the top.
To create that frill, wet both your thumb and index finger, then pinch and squeeze the dumpling wrapper edge in a circular motion. This is optional but definitely gives the dumpling that distinct look. Place a portion of filling in the middle of the wrapper.
Make a C-shape on your non-dominant hand, and place the wrapper in the middle of the C shape (in the crook of your hand) so that the filling is in your palm and the wrapper is laying on the outside of your hand.
Dip a round teaspoon with water then place it on top of the filling. Using this as a guide, press the filling into the wrapper while you close the C by turning the wrapper with your thumb and index finger.
Aim to create a round bottom with a slender top. When you place this dumpling wrapper on the surface, gently press to make a flat bottom.
Steam the dumplings
Once you’ve assembled the dumplings, transfer them to a bamboo steamer, with a gap in between. The dumplings will not expand too much during steaming. Depending on the size of your steamer, you may need to cook these in batches.
Steam the dumplings over high heat for 10-12 minutes or until the dumpling skin turns from white to opaque. If you find that the frills look dry, you may dab the edges with water and steam for another 2 minutes. Serve warm with hoisin sauce or chile oil.
Vegan Shanghai Shao Mai Cooking tips
- Types of rice – this is traditionally made from glutinous rice. If you can’t find this type of rice, short grain can be substituted.
- Dumpling wrapper – I personally like to use the round version because it’s easier to create the frills. Store-bought or homemade wrappers work great in this recipe.
- How to store – Once the dumplings are steamed, allow them to cool down. Then, place them on a paper lined baking tray, slightly apart. Freeze to harden. Remove and store them in an airtight container and freeze up to a month. When ready to eat, no thawing needed, simply steam over high heat for 15-20 minutes and serve warm.
This vegan Shanghai Shao Mai is
- Easy-to-make especially with store-bought dumpling wrappers
- Perfect for make-ahead meals
- Easily customizable – add in some vegetables’ stems or carrot to the filling
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Shanghai Shao Mai – 上海烧卖
- Bamboo Steamer
- 2 cups glutinous rice (I used Thai glutinous rice)
- 1-inch piece ginger
- 10 dried shiitake mushrooms rehydrated in hot water until soft
- 1 cup fresh or canned bamboo shoots
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil such as vegetable or grapeseed
- 3 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons vegan oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons umami seasoning such as Yondu, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 dash white pepper
- 50 round dumpling wrappers at room temperature
Prepare the rice
- Rinse the rice with water to remove dust. Transfer the cleaned rice to a bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Soak for 4 to 12 hours.
- When ready, strain the rice, then transfer it to a parchment-lined bamboo steamer, spreading it out for even cooking. Steam for 25 to 30 minutes, until the grains turn opaque.
Prepare the pairing ingredients
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the filling: Finely mince the ginger. Finely dice the mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the ginger until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden-brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bamboo shoots and stir-fry just to combine.
- Add the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, vegan oyster sauce, sugar, umami seasoning, pepper, and salt. Stir in 2 cups of water, then add the steamed rice.
- Using a silicone spatula, gently press and toss the rice until all the grains are covered with sauce, about 2 minutes. The texture of the rice should be soft—if the rice appears to be too dry or undercooked, add more water, 2 tablespoons at a time. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Assemble the dumplings
- Set up a dumpling assembly station: Fill a small bowl with water and grab a soup spoon.
- To wrap the shao mai, wet both your thumb and index finger with water. Pinch and squeeze the edge of the dumpling wrapper in a circular motion to create a frilly, thin edge like a lotus leaf.
- Place a heaping spoonful of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Now cup the fingers of your nondominant hand to make a C shape. Place the wrapper in the middle of the C shape (in the crook of your hand) so that the filling is in your palm and the wrapper is laying on the outside of your hand.
- Use your thumb and index finger to close the C shape to create an O shape; this will adhere the wrapper to the sides of the filling. Help it adhere by crimping the wrapper around the edges of the filing with your dominant hand (the top of the filling should be exposed).
- Dip a small spoon in the water and gently press the rice into the wrapper. Press the dumpling onto a work surface to flatten the bottom so it can stand upright. You’re aiming for a finished dumpling that looks like a vase, with a large round bottom, a slender middle, and wide top.
Steam the dumplings
- Transfer as many dumplings as will fit to a parchment-lined bamboo steamer rack—they shouldn’t be touching. (Depending on the size of your steamer, you’ll probably need to do a few batches of steaming.)
- Fill the steamer pot with water and turn on the heat. Once the water starts to boil, set the steamer rack on top, cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes, until the dumpling wrappers are fully cooked and opaque.
- Serve immediately and repeat with the remaining dumplings. (You can also store the cooled steamed dumplings in the freezer and resteam when ready to eat.)