Small Bites, Big Flavor: Dim Sum with Air Fryer or Steamer

I’ll dive right in with the tasty details about making dim sum. There’s more basic information at the end of this post.        

Recipes from around the world

Essentially, the dim sum known as siu mai (aka Shumai, Shāo Mài, 烧卖) are steamed, cup-shaped, stuffed parcels (‘money bags’) with an unsealed open top. The classic filling uses pork. Or you can use beef, lamb, shrimp, glutinous rice, mushrooms, vegetables, etc.

Basic ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork (or pork sausage) or beef or small cooked shrimp
  • 2” chopped ginger root
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c chopped onion
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • 1 t Sichuan pepper optional)
  • ¼ c coriander (optional)
  • 1 T fish sauce (Red Boat, optional)
  • 12 T pomegranate syrup (optional)

This basic recipe has many possible variations.

Steaming shumai dim sum in a bamboo steamer in a Seattle kitchen
Cooking Shumai dim sum in an air fryer in a Seattle kitchen

Optionally add one or more of these:

  • 1 t Sichuan pepper  
  • ¼ c coriander  
  • 1 T fish sauce  
  • 1-2 T pomegranate syrup  
  • ¼ cup Chinese Shaoxing rice wine  or rice vinegar or mirin

Other potential additions include onion, scallions, celery, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, cabbage,  carrots.

If you use pork shoulder, beef chuck, etc – cut into small pieces then use the food processor to make a paste.

Prepare the filling:   Use the food processor to make a paste of the combined ingredients forming the smoothest filling, making it less likely to pull apart from wrapper.

The wrappers (also labeled as wonton or gyoza) that I buy have 60 sheets and the batches here make 30 generous pieces. The remaining wrappers keep in the fridge for a week, or longer if vacuum packed. I prefer round wrappers because they’re easier to shape – squares leave too much dough (better for wontons)

I find 1 lb meat or other major filling works best. For mushrooms, tofu, etc you’ll need more.  30 pieces works well to fill both an 8” air fryer & 9” bamboo steamer without crowding.


Steaming shumai dim sum in a bamboo steamer in a Seattle kitchen
Steaming shumai dim sum in a bamboo steamer in a Seattle kitchen

Before getting started, fill a cast iron skillet (or another pan that fits the steamer) halfway & bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Work with the steamer basket off the skillet. In this description I use both the air fryer and the steamer for variety, but of course, you could just prepare these in 2 batches.

Use a sheet of parchment paper in the fryer and the steamer baskets to prevent sticking and make cleanup easier. It won’t interfere with cooking.

You can use a knife or spoon to fill, but I prefer fingers as it’s much easier & quicker– set out 4 skins, add 1-2T filling  to each & fold 2 opposite sides as if it were a taco.  Then crimp the other 2 ends and gently push towards each other forming a firm package with the open top of a money bag. Place in one of the baskets. Wash hands & repeat.

Adjust the filling if there is too much or too little – – place on the screen of the air fryer or traditional bamboo steamer.  Your might not have enough for all 30 or have too much. With practice you’ll end up with a clean bowl. You might start by dividing the mixture into 2-4 portions

I prefer this method — others have you push the wrapper between thumb & forefinger and fill, but it’s slower as you can only do one at a time

To cook, set steamer basket (lined with parchment paper) over simmering water in the skillet, reduce to low boil. Cover & steam for about 10’.

Cook in the air fryer for 10’. Add additional time to create crispy pieces, just starting to brown.

Cooking Shumai dim sum in an air fryer in a Seattle kitchen
Cooking Shumai dim sum in an air fryer in a Seattle kitchen

Dipping sauce suggestions:

  • Hoisin
  • Crispy soybean- pepper
  • Thai sweet chili syrup
  • Black bean & garlic sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Peanut sauce
  • Salsa

On the rare occasions there are leftovers, I often eat them straight from the fridge  – or you can fry or re-steam them

Dim Sum is an experience.

Servers circulate with carts or trays tempting diners with these dishes. Diners select dishes as they pass by their table and a tally is kept of the number of dishes. Knowledgeable diners ask for off-menu or special items, such as one of my favorites, shrimp stuffed fried eggplant that may be cooked to order.

Shu Mai (Shumai) is a popular Chinese dumpling that originated in the southern region of China. These dumplings are typically small, open-faced, and round. Shu Mai wrappers are made from a thin, unleavened dough, and filled with a mixture of ground pork, shrimp, and various seasonings. Sometimes, you find variations with chicken, beef, or even vegetables.

Shu Mai are traditionally steamed and garnished with a small piece of carrot or green pea in the center for visual appeal. Known for their delicate and savory flavors. They’re a variety of dim sum, a style of dining that features a variety of small, bite-sized dishes.

Dim Sum is a style of Chinese cuisine serving a wide range of small, flavorful dishes. These dishes include dumplings like Shu Mai, as well as a diverse assortment of steamed, fried, and baked goods. Dim sum is typically served in small portions, making it ideal for sharing among a group of people. It’s a popular choice for brunch or lunch in many Chinese restaurants around the world. Global variations include Spanish tapas, Venetian cicchetti and Turkish meze

Some common dim sum dishes, in addition to Shu Mai, include har gow (shrimp dumplings),  char siu bao (barbecue pork buns), cheong fun (rice noodle rolls).

By Cascoly

I've been exploring and leading trips for over 40 years. climbing & trekkng in the Alps, Andes, North American mountain ranges and the Himalaya. I'm retired from mountaineering now but world travels in Europe, Africa & Asia continue to expand my portfolio. Besides private travel, I now focus on escorting trips to India & Turkey. Other interests include wide reading in history and vegetable gardening / cooking. You can download digital images here, or find images at We have many thousands of images we haven't displayed yet; so, if you have a special need or request please contact us