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Steamed Pork and Shrimp Dumplings (Shao Mai)

The acknowledged master chefs of dim sum usually come from Guangzhou, in Guangdong province, training in restaurants like the Pan Xi Jiujia, with its dining rooms and pavilions set beside Li Wan Lake. At this famous restaurant, you can order direct from the chefs, then watch them prepare the mounds of fresh dumplings that will be lined up in gigantic bamboo baskets and stacked to steam over huge woks of simmering water with roaring gas fires below.Two of the restaurants specialties are xia jiao, crisp-tender shrimp dumplings in elegant translucent wrappers, and shao mai, an international favorite. These "open-face" dumplings are the archetypal dim sum. The tender dumplings of moist pork and succulent shellfish, lightly seasoned with green onions and oyster sauce, are encased in a soft, parchment-thin wrapper that leaves the filling exposed, so the eyes can appreciate even before the first bite. Pork and shrimp are two ingredients the southern Chinese hold in particularly high regard, so much so that they use them together in many dishes. Tender, finely sliced marinated pork and whole shelled shrimp with crisp and colorful fresh vegetables feature in stir-fries and noodles, sweet-and-sour dishes and steamboats. Satiny-smooth minced pork helps to bind and enrich fillings for buns, pastry rolls and dumplings, as in this recipe.
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