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Steaming Dim Sum in Bamboo Steamers [Moved from Ontario board]

As this would be my first time using them - how to steam?

I understand bamboo steamers will sit on an open pot - how much water to use?

Steamers placed on pot before boiling starts or after - How long to steam basic pork and shrimp dim sum?


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  1. You do not need a lot of water to steam as long as it does not boil dry. Do not put the food over the water until the water is boiling.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sweetie

      how long should I steam them for - thank you for your reply

    2. The amount of water you use depends naturally on the pan/wok size, but it can come over the side of the steamer, just not so much it touches the interior bamboo where the food sits. The longer you steam, the more water is needed.

      You can place the steamer on the vessel before or after the water starts to steam. If you are using frozen dim sum, I would suggest you place the steamer on before the water boils, with your food already placed inside. the gentle warm up will aid in defrosting the dumplings.

      Cooking time:

      Fresh........5-7 minutes
      Frozen.......8-12 minutes on most......depending on size.

      Shrimp takes less time than pork in general. Ground meat items take a couple of minutes more........and do not forget to line the steamer with lettuce or cabbage leaves so your dim sum won't stick.

      3 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        and if you don't have lettuce or cabbage leaves, you can always use a sheet of foil on each tray... just poke holes across each row of slats.

        1. re: Night Owl

          Waxed paper or greased parchment work as well.

        2. Another tip -
          Don't crowd the steamer tray. Leaving a small amount amount of space between items results in faster cooking and they won't stick together.

          1 Reply
          1. For pork/shrimp shu mei/ I use a bamboo steamer that sits in my wok. I keep a teapot full of hot water near by. I lightly oil the tray, then place lettuce that I quickly wilt (run it under hot water) so its more pliable. For shu mei, I am working with raw ingredients, so it usually steam about 18 minutes. I fill the wok half way up to the first basket that is in the wok. I usually have to add more, that;s why the teapot.

            Dumplings are really good done this way, and using lettuce does give it a nice flavor.

            I know that you asked about dumplings but I've got to suggest one of my favorites, Steamed Pork Buns- really really great. Depending on the size, about 15 minutes for the dough to cook since the meat is already done. The best picnic food, or small lunch.

            You will have a great time with your steamer. I throw mine in the dishwasher, after each use, I hand wash first if anything is stuck, but then the dishwasher does a great job. Any smell from the previous meal, will dissipate. Let it air dry thoroughly. I don' t know if there is a rule that you should replace these every so often, I have had mine forever.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chef chicklet

              yes I am looking forward to trying allot of the Dim Sum's - Thank you for your reply

            2. To add to the other suggestions ...

              Don't steam frozen items. Defrost then steam.

              8 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                I always steam frozen items. It seems like the rice wrapped ones would get mushy if you defrosted first.

                1. re: chowser

                  FWIW, in my experience, one generally cooks raw-but-frozen prepared foods specifically from frozen, rather than letting them defrost. What generally happens is you get a slimy mess - either a bit of one or entirely depending on the food.

                  Cooking large things from a frozen state can be problematic in terms of even cooking (like a roast or whole chicken), but even there things like frozen meals/entrees ALWAYS tell you to cook from frozen. I assume the OP isn't working with commercial frozen dumplings, otherwise I'm sure there are instructions on the package...

                  1. re: MikeG

                    I've never steamed commercially prepared dumplings. It's always been homemade ones.

                    In fact, I try to avoid commercially made dumplings at all costs.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      fwiw, trader joe's has good frozen dumplings and shu mai.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          is that a brand name or a store - where is the store located

                          I read a post in here that had a recomendation for a place @ Kennedy and McNicoll 10 for $2-3$ - I will have to check it out

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    good call - I would have just thrown them in

                  3. Hopefully you can cover your pot or wok! I would recommend that the boiling water not be in any contact with the steamer. You want the full power of the steam, not boiling water. (Steam carries latent heat whereas water carries sensible heat - steam can take 540 calories whereas boiling water can only take 1 calorie!)

                    22 Replies
                      1. re: scoopG

                        ScoopG-I'm confused? Or do you mean place the steamer on a rack over the boiling water? Now what would that do again? I am VERY curious about the calories thing, please explain, I'm dieting like crazy right now!

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Hi chef chicklet - yes, I mean place the bamboo steamer on a rack in the wok. Same idea with a double boiler - the top of the double boiler is above the boiling water. Both principles are the same: let the steam do the work, not the boiling water!

                          Calories here are not the nutritional ones but a unit of heat measurement. Basically a calorie is 1/100th of heat requirement to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water. If I have it right from Miss Wick's home economics course, to raise 1 gram of water +1 degree requires 1 calorie and the conversion of 1 gram of steam takes 540 calories!


                          1. re: scoopG

                            if I don't have a Wok can I just use a pot - as long as the steamers can sit on top of it

                            1. re: Jason JustRight

                              Any pot or pan that the steamer can sit on top of without loosing too much steam at the bottom will work.

                              1. re: hannaone

                                I figured as much - looking forward to trying this way of cooking

                                1. re: Jason JustRight

                                  You don't even really need a steamer, bamboo or otherwise.

                                  Just get large pot, fill it with about 1 to 1.5 inches of water. Place a large ceramic bowl with the dumplings on top of the water. Cover and bring to a boil.

                                  Voila ... steamed dumplings.

                                2. re: hannaone

                                  If your pot doesn't match the steamer too well, you can also put some aluminum foil with holes poked through on top of the water.

                              2. re: scoopG

                                hmmm. OH I have done it both ways. Mostly though and to be honest, I'll forget to put the rack down and just fill it up. The bamboo steamer basket sits up pretty high. I guess I don't notice the difference, it is just absolutely one of my favorite ways cook. Its pretty fast considering roasting, or frying something...oh darn about the calorie thing, makes sense what you're saying. I watch that puppy, not a good idea to run out of water.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Is there anything else I should try steaming in the Bamboo - Other then Dim Sum

                                  1. re: Jason JustRight

                                    These are some things that I liked steamed:

                                    Japanese yams

                                    1. re: Jason JustRight

                                      Korean mandu

                                      1. re: hannaone

                                        Steam is the way to go for sure - always liked the way the food looks after (Bright)

                                      2. re: Jason JustRight

                                        Fish, with herbs. place desired fish in large plate with lip (to catch any juices) I sometimes will save the juices for a nice sauce.
                                        And you can use lemon, or thai basil, cilantro, onions, scallions. Just anything you want. A whole fish even thick filets.
                                        or wrap all in a parchment make packets with veggies with chicken breast, tomatoes and seasonings. It is a great way to get flavor with cutting the fat. Splashes of wine on the protein.
                                        I have not done this but did have it out, lobster with mint - was so delicate and unique. Just loved it.

                                        1. re: Jason JustRight

                                          Fish works well either whole or thick filets. You can steam chicken, either cut it up or whole (use a dish to catch the juices)
                                          Using lemon, limes, ginger root, scallions, and any aromatic and herb of your desire.

                                          Lobster with mint. I have only had dining out, it is delicate and wonderful. No reason can't be done at home, served with dipping sauces.

                                          And there are simple things like eggs, place eggs in a custard dish. Just steam until desired doneness.

                                          And is you want to get really adventurous, cake!

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            nice - will have to experiment with it

                                            Lobster with mint - very interesting

                                      3. re: scoopG

                                        hmmmm... Unless you'e using a small diameter bamboo steamer in a very large wok, there's really no reason to use a rack or collar to sit the steamer on. Just make sure you don't put in so much water that it touches the bottom of the steamer. This is the most efficient way to use a bamboo steamer as the bottom rin of the steamer captures all of the steam and directs it through the slots in the basket to cook the food.

                                        The lettuce leaf is a good idea to keep food from sticking, but lettuce can absorb and transfer the flavor of whatever you're steaming to the bamboo for carry over flavor to whatever you cook next. Instead of lettuce, I use either parchment or a china plate. If you're cooking something where sticking is a sure thing, then the plate allows you to oil or butter it. For example, for any kind of dimsum in a bun form or purses, I use a china plate with a thin film of oil so they don't stick to the steamer basket. Works like a charm. But so does parchment, and you can throw it away! '-)

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          I don't have what you are referring to as "carryover" with proper cleaning. I use lettuce leave just about every single time. I love the delicate flavor. I would certainly miss it, as it does add to the shu mei.

                                          To clarify, for bbq pork buns or cake, yes the appropriate liner would be a plate or oiled parchment paper. But for shu mei, the plate does not work as well as lettuce, since they then boil in the juice from the pork and fat. The reason I love steamed food, is that the fat drops to the water.

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            I once used lettuce for some sort of fish or shrimp concoction. Don't remember exactly what it was, but the steamer took on a fishy taste that didn't wash out. It did eventually steam out. Since then I've just left lettuce in the cripser drawer, but I don't do much shu mei. But lettuce leaves are fantastic for reheating beef!

                                            If I had more cupboard room, I''d probably have three sets of steamer baskets: meat, fish and everything else. I have a nice recipe for Japanese ginger cake to serve with tea. Steamed cakes have great testure!

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              I always hand scrub the basket trays both sides, and then I throw it in the dish washer. Then also I let it sit on the counter for further drying before I put it away. Might be why I've never had that problem. Like I said earlier, I've had the same steamer for mmmmm.... about 20 years. Maybe its time to replace it? I am so attached to that and my wok!
                                              And would that Japanese cake be the one that is made in the little box and then steamed????? Jaw is dropping.

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                No little box I know of, but maybe originally? I line a smallish loaf pan with oiled parchment and pour the batter in that and steam. Hey, if I had a box, why not? I don't make it that often because it calls for fresh ginger juice, and that's a lot of time with fresh ginger and a garlic press! But it's only a teaspoon, so it isn't all that bad if the giner is really juicy.