China / Beijing

Shao Mai

Introducing the Shao Mai

Shaomai is considered to have originated from Huhhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, between the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). As described by historical materials, Shaomai was served in the tea houses as a secondary product. The name Shaomai means the product was "sold as a sideline" with tea. It is considered to have been brought to Beijing by merchants from Shanxi, causing its later widespread. The product was initially in the form of meat and vegetable wrapped in thin sheets; and was sold weighing only the wrapper, a tradition which is still kept in Huhhot.

Shaomai are steamed dumplings. But unlike typical Chinese dumplings, they are made of ground meat. The Shaomai wrappers are made of wheat and are rolled by a specially-made roller to obtain the nice shape. The small bundles are pinched at the top into pleats, but left open in the centre at the pleated top, so that you can see the filling inside. The filling is usually pork, but beef, mutton and crab are also used. Other ingredients can include shrimp, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chives and onions. Shaomai are served with dipping sauces such as soy sauce, chili sauce, or hot mustard. Shaomai taste quite different from the common boiled dumplings. There are not that many restaurants that still sell traditional Beijing Shaomai. Du YiChu Shaomai Restaurant is considered one of the oldest and best restaurants for traditional Beijing Shao Mai. Du Yichu also serve Beijing Roast Duck with a different flavor.

Famous Shao Mai Restaurant In Beijing

Du Yi Chu

The most famous Shaomai restaurant in Beijing is Du Yichu, which was founded in 1738 during the Qing Dynasty. The restaurant is famous for its special Shaomai, made of rice, meat, vegetables and flour. There is an interesting story about the restaurant's name. It is said that on a new year's eve, Qing Emperor Qianlong was returning to the Forbidden City after visiting Tongzhou District. When passing by Qianmen Avenue he noticed there was only one light on. He went in the restaurant and was satisfied with the food very much. By the time he knew the restaurant did not even have a name, he found a brush pen and wrote down three Chinese Characters “Du Yichu”, meaning “the only restaurant on service”. Du Yichu then became famous and the most popular Shaomai is the crab one.

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