Wash Shrimp In Sugar And Baking Soda For Siu Mai With Extra Crunch

A very good dish presents not only a delicious medley of flavors but also a balance of textures. Take siu mai (or shumai), for example. This Chinese steamed dumpling can come in a variety of tasty fillings, from the usual ground pork and shrimp to shiitake mushrooms and chicken. However, the ones we remember the most also impress us with how their soft, silky wrappers reveal stuffing underneath with a complementary consistency. For the classic pork and shrimp siu mai, that means getting a plump and crunchy piece of shrimp in every bite, along with a mouthful of juicy, bouncy ground pork.

For a homemade version that's comparable to your favorite takeout dim sum, we recommend washing the shrimp in a mixture of water, sugar, and baking soda first. Baking soda is a good meat tenderizer since it keeps the proteins in the meat from tightening up during the cooking process. The same effect happens when you use it to tenderize shrimp, as the baking soda makes the shrimp more alkaline and prevents its muscle fibers from weaving together and squeezing out moisture. This gives the seafood that pleasing crunch and snap you're looking for.

Sugar is also a natural tenderizer that comes with the additional benefit of caramelizing as it heats up. Add it to your baking soda slurry so the shrimp gets a very mild sweetness that's a tasty counterpoint to all the other savory ingredients in your homemade siu mai.

This technique works for other shrimp dishes too

About a teaspoon of baking soda and 2 teaspoons of sugar mixed with a cup of water is enough to wash 1 to 2 pounds of shrimp. Lightly massage the slurry onto the shrimp and then let the seafood soak in the solution for about 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for your siu mai filling. Once you're ready to add it to your recipe, place the bowl of washed shrimp under the faucet to rinse off the slurry. Gently turn the shrimp over to remove excess baking soda and sugar. Drain the bowl of water then repeat the rinsing process until the water runs clear.

Aside from tenderizing the shrimp, you can also add other crunchy ingredients like water chestnuts to the filling so it plays against the tender springiness of the pork. Add roe, minced carrots, or a green pea on top of the siu mai as well for extra texture and color. A great thing about this shrimp-washing technique is that you can use it to prepare your shrimp for other Chinese dishes, too, so you can enjoy its savory snap with the crunch of pineapple pieces in pineapple shrimp fried rice or the pancake-like chewiness of eggs in shrimp egg foo young.