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Posted on Mar 23, 2007 in Bento, Dumplings or Buns, For Kids, Pasta or Noodles, Recipe, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 23 comments

Shumai “burger” lunches

Shumai “burger” lunches


Morning prep time: 5 minutes (10 minutes for two lunches). We’ve got leftover spaghetti puttanesca (with tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil), steamed broccoli and kabocha squash (cooked together quickly in a microwave mini steamer, speeding up cook time 50%), and pan-fried frozen shumai (a.k.a. siomai or siumai). I saw the pan-fried shumai in a Japanese bento cookbook, described as a “Chinese hamburger” — I got a chuckle out of that. I keep a few sauce bottles pre-filled with dipping sauces we use a lot (such as soy, dumpling dipping sauce, hot sauce, Lizano, etc.), so I was able to just grab a couple and throw them into our lunches. Tiny green grapes and a cherry tomato act as “gap fillers” to stabilize the lunch for transport.

Speedy puttanesca lunch

The shumai “burgers” were fast and easy, using frozen shumai (Chinese dumplings). I microwaved the frozen shumai until soft (30 seconds on high in my 1100W microwave), heated a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, sprayed it with vegetable oil, and pan-fried the dumplings until crispy, mashing them down with a spatula throughout.

Shumai Shumai

Bug does better if I cut up his spaghetti for him, so I did this quickly with clean kitchen scissors after putting the pasta in the bento box. Bug actually doesn’t like olives or capers, so I pulled those out of his puttanesca so he’d eat the whole thing. Success! He made a beeline for the finger food shumai “burgers” first, grabbed one of mine, then attacked all of the broccoli and pasta. He wasn’t interested in the kabocha, though — you never can tell (he usually likes it). Bug’s lunch is packed in a 350ml container, just about right according to the Japanese nutrition and bento box size guidelines. I used a little plastic divider (“baran”) to keep the crispy shumai away from the moist broccoli, and threw in a tiny pick for the kabocha.

 Speedy puttanesca lunch for toddler



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  1. Lovely work here - I’m going to look for a small bento for my toddler now! What are the dimensions of that 350 ml one?

  2. Pan-frying siu mai! What a brilliant idea. I am definitely going to be trying that very soon.

  3. Love the idea! It’s like gyoza-fied siomai! (Ah, that’s what we call Chinese dumpling locally, I’m sure it’s the same thing)

    Oh yeah, I was poking around the house last week when I found out we have a microwave steamer too! It’s been around for ages, a gift I think, but we never got around to using it. Methinks that I should though, after seeing all the marvelous food you churn out with it. :P

  4. Do you mind explaining in detail how you prepare the kabocha? I’ve always made it as “Kabocha No nimono” and am eager to find other ways/recipes to cook it. Thanks in advance! :)

  5. Thanks for the reminder on shumai vs. siomai! I’ve edited my post (I want to include the most common international terms for things so there’s no big communication gap). Cool on rediscovering your microwave steamer! They’re really quite handy for making small portions for lunch.

  6. Ah, siu mai! Another term — I’ve edited my post to include this term too. They were yummy and fast, and Bug ate ‘em up — hooray!

  7. Ooh, I never thought about frying siumai before. I have some crab ones in the freezer, I may try that for lunch tomorrow.

  8. No rulers handy, but my husband estimates it’s about 3″ x 4″ x 1.5″ or so. Mostly I look for the bottom-most number on the bottom of the box (in raised plastic) ending with ml — that’s volume/capacity. If you can display Japanese fonts on your computer, look for: 容量 on the package.

  9. You can throw cubes in a covered bowl with water (&/or flavorings) and nuke for a couple of minutes, then let it stand for a couple of minutes. You can then eat/pack it as is, or mash it with a fork. You can also slice it really thin, and simmer/fry it with other veggies.

  10. Mmmm, crab siumai!

  11. Personally, I don’t like them as much as the pork or shrimp ones. They’re a little too sweet for my tastes. Of course, that’s not stopping me from eating them. :P

  12. What an awesome idea to make burgers out of the shumai! I’ve only had them steamed, but I guess frying them adds a nice crispy touch :) making them even better!

  13. Thanks so much for checking! No bentos available here in rural New England so I only have the measurements on eBay to go by and many of the sellers seem to give only the length/width dimensions, not volume.

  14. Most, if not all, Japanese eBay sellers should be able to tell you volume if asked. I think that we consumers need to drive a change in the way eBay sellers describe their bento boxes: give us meaningful numbers!!! Once they get enough queries about volume in ml they should get the hint and start listing volume to stave off queries (and increase bids on their products).

  15. Great Stone Face> Ah, say yoroshiku from a fellow Japanese major, then. I’d be curious to hear what he thought of the lunch!

  16. yummy, shomai, oishi desu very good biggie

  17. I recently made a batch of shrimp/pork shumai for the first time. I think I over steamed them. Your “burger” technique allowed me to salvage the soggy dumplings that were languishing in my freezer. I prefer them a little crisp like potstickers. Thanks!

  18. @18 from Not Marcia: Hey, that’s a perfect way to salvage soggy dumplings — good idea, Not Marcia!

  19. I love your site. I will be making only my 2nd plane trip in life from Jersey to Denver in a couple of days.

    Your site is way more thorough, and certainly more creative than Looking at all the ideas, photos, and pictures and links to bento box sites makes food prep one of the most exciting, yet calming, parts of packing.

    I am no cook. I am just getting used to using my kitchen, as I’ve usually lived my busy life on fast food. However, I do have a collection of different shapes and sizes of lunch boxes, as I always feared having to pair a batman lunch box with a suit! I am unaccustomed to Japanese food, so I feel most comfortable making food I’m comfortable with for my trip. tHere is what I may make:

    Teriyaki Vegetables with brown rice, breaded chicken filled with broccoli and cheese (by Antioch), Dr. Praeger spinach burger, garlic toast, dried apricots. I may divide with lettuce, though I may not have to. I may put some raisins. Shame, shame - I may put a couple of Pop Tarts (with no sugar icing) in my bag. I was so glad to find out about the Crystal Light singles and an empty water bottle. I’m likely to bring some powdered non-fat milk, as well.

    I am using a container made by Polimes. It’s a bid big for fitting into my carry-on, but I believe it’s fine for air travel. It’s like a thermos with no metal parts. It has an attachment for the included plastic utensils and 3 separate compartments that keep food warm, just by pouring warm water in the container, allowing it to warm up, pouring the warm water out, and then putting the warm food in. Don’t know how long it will keep, but it seems like a great way to travel. It is larger than a bento box, I believe. But I’m traveling for a total of 12 hours to my destination. You can see their line of food and beverage containers at I bought mine at Walmart about 3 years ago. Don’t know if they still have them.

    Again, thank you.

  20. I might through a tiny potato in there. If the lighting is decent. Perhaps I’ll take a picture.

    Thanks again

  21. Wow. Sorry about my spelling. I’m usually an excellent speller. Just tired tonight. I’m going to bed - dreaming about the neat little inviting packs of food.

  22. Might be good to bring along a Listerine Pocket Pak, as well. :^)

  23. I tried making the Shumai Burgers today to see how quickly they would make in the morning, I found their crispy skin and soft insides to be more delicious than if I had steamed them. This will be a new bento stable for me!