Liz Crain loves dumplings—like, really loves them. She loves them so much, in fact, that this year, she put out a whole cookbook called (wait for it) Dumplings Equal Love. Here, the Portland-based food writer shares a recipe fit for a quarantined New Year's Eve.

I've easily made shumai more than 100 times, and no batch is ever the same. Sometimes I make the filling lighter and sweeter with more shrimp, and other times quite spicy and gingery to ward off winter colds.

The shumai from Mai Leung's 1979 cookbook Dim Sum and Other Chinese Street Foods were one of my gateway dumplings. I found a used copy of the cookbook in my early 30s, when I was head over heels for dim sum, and I've traveled with it tucked in my carry-on many times since. Leung was a natural-born storyteller who highly valued her culture's culinary traditions. She never missed an opportunity to educate and inspire through her books.

Pork & Shrimp Shumai

Makes 4½ to 5 cups of filling for 50 to 60 dumplings

  • 60 store-bought dumpling skins
  • 5 to 6 dried whole-cap medium shiitake (black) mushrooms
  • ½ pound small (51/60 count) to medium (41/50 count) shrimp, peeled and minced to a chunky paste
  • 1½ pounds ground pork
  • 4 to 5 scallions (both white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, sake, or dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sambal
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1. Set out the store-bought skins.

2. Reconstitute the mushrooms: Fill a small pot halfway with water, bring to a boil over high heat, and remove from the heat. Add the dried mushrooms to the pot and fully submerge them under a smaller lid or plate. Let them steep for 40 to 50 minutes, until soft.

3. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, shrimp, pork, scallions, sugar, salt, pepper, cornstarch, wine, soy sauce, sambal, and oil. Stir vigorously, smashing and spreading with a wooden spoon, for 2 to 3 minutes, until fully blended and tacky. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

4. Form the dumplings according to the instructions. (See below.)

5. Steam the dumplings according to the instructions. (See below.)

How to the Form the Shumai

This open-top dumpling shape, also a particular type of Chinese dumpling, is easy for beginners and often my go-to. It's fun to adorn the open tops with pinches of colorful, crunchy, or spicy garnishes before or after cooking. I also really like to make two-sided dumpling skins for shumai with contrasting color doughs on the inside and outside. If you don't use homemade skins, trim store-bought wonton wrappers into circles or use thin gyoza skins. Thicker gyoza skins are more suit-able for pan-frying or boiling.

1. If using store-bought skins, moisten the perimeter of several at once, before filling, by dipping your index finger in water, two to three times per skin, and tracing it along the inside half- to one-inch perimeter of the dumpling skin. This makes it easier to form the tops of the dumplings without any cracking. If you use homemade skins, skip this step, since they should be plenty moist and pliable.

2. Lay a dumpling skin in your nondominant hand, over the upper part of your palm and your fingers, and use a butter knife, flat bamboo spreader, or shallow spoon to place a scant to heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the skin. Gather the skin up around the filling so that it naturally pleats (expert dumpling formers will purposely fold and articulate each pleat).

3. With one hand, cinch the open top of the dumpling by making a circle with your thumb and index finger, while forming the dumpling and pressing the bottom of it with the palm or fingers of your other hand. This creates a fairly flat base so that the dumpling sits up in the steamer.

4. Garnish the top of the filling before or after steaming, if desired.

How to Steam the Dumplings

Steaming is a culinary art form and an elegant and traditional way to cook dumplings. In fact, it's my favorite way. I love the many different woven bamboo steamer basket shapes and sizes, the under-cover cook time (don't open the lid; the steam will escape!), the dramatic reveal when you finally lift off the lid (I like to do this at the table), and the way the steam wafts up into the room. Moist heat is ideal for delicate dumplings.

1. Fill a steaming pot one-quarter to half full with water, allowing 3 to 5 inches between the water and the steamer, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Lightly oil the steamer, or place perforated parchment paper, cheesecloth, or thin cabbage leaves in it. Situate the dumplings inside, leaving ½ to 1 inch between each dumpling. I recommend steaming no more than three stacked tiers at once.

3. Once the water is boiling, carefully place the steamer on the pot, and steam the dumplings for 7 to 10 minutes. As a general rule, shumai-shaped dumplings take 7 to 8 minutes.

4. With oven mitts or a kitchen towel, carefully remove the steamer from the pot, and serve the dumplings directly from the steamer or transfer them with tongs to a platter. If serving directly from the steamer, set it on a plate or platter to capture drippings if you like. Remove the lid at the table for grand, steamy effect!

How to Make the Soy Lime Sauce

I've been lucky enough to speak at the Tokyo Fermentation Future Forum in Japan twice, and after my first visit, I came home inspired and tried my hand at home-fermented shoyu (a.k.a. soy sauce) made from wheat berries and soybeans. It's so rich and full of deep umami. I mostly savor it, and let it shine, as a special finisher for dishes. I have, however, made this bright and super limey sauce with it. If you've never broken out of the mass- market soy sauce game, I recommend splurging on a nicer aged bottle. This sauce is so fresh and citrusy, it'll make you wink at whoever's close, even if you don't want to.

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 to 2 medium limes)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi or nanami togarashi (or a pinch of cayenne plus 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds)
  • 1 scallion (both white and green parts), thinly sliced

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, mirin, oil, shichimi togarashi to taste, and scallion. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

©2020 by Liz Crain. Excerpted from Dumplings Equal Love by permission of Sasquatch Books.