Kitchen & Pantry

Pork siomai (steamed dumplings), pearl balls and lumpiang shanghai (fried spring rolls)

I could brag and try to impress you by saying I was inspired and I decided to cook three dishes for last night’s dinner. But that’s not really true. I used the same ground pork mixture to cook the siomai, pearl balls and lumpiang shanghai. To be even more honest, I was only planning on cooking the pearl balls but I had a packet of siomai wrapper and a pack of lumpia (spring roll) wrapper in the fridge that I had to use unless I was willing to let them go to waste. So, it wasn’t really inspiration that was responsible for the… ummm… elaborate dinner. It was… economics?? pork siomai (steamed dumplings)

Siomai is the popular and generic name that Filipinos call steamed dumplings. The most popular filling is pork but beef siomai is not too uncommon. pearl balls

Pearl balls is the name of a dish I learned from my mother-in-law. She served it when she threw a baby shower when I was pregnant with Sam and I just fell in love with these steamed balls of ground pork rolled in glutinous rice. I have an older entry that details the procedure for making them. lumpiang shanghai

Lumpiang shanghai is what we Filipinos call fried spring rolls with pork filling.

You may click on the pearl balls and lumpiang shanghai links for reference. This entry is really about the pork filling which you can use for making all these Chinese dimsum dishes. Of course, the older pearl balls and lumpiang shanghai entries contain the respective recipes but I came up with something better that I thought I’d share with you.

Recipe: Basic pork dumpling filling


  • 650 to 750 grams of ground pork
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 2-3 tbsps. of light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsps. of oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp. of sesame seed oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. each of finely chopped fresh tarragon, oregano and cilantro


  1. Nothing mysterious about making the filling — just mix everything together. To test if the mixture tastes right (not too salty or bland), take a teaspoonful of the mixture, form into a ball and fry in a little hot oil. Taste and make the necessary adjustments.
  2. To make the siomai, place a teaspoonful of the filling at the center of a wrapper and gather the edges together. Repeat until you have the desired number of siomai. There is a “correct” way of doing this by forming a triangle after the filling has been added then bringing together the two sides of the triangle’s base. But that is usually done if the dumplings are going to be cooked in simmering broth. If you intend to steam them and serve them on a plate rather than in a bowl with broth, it’s better to stick with the more common flattened ball-shaped siomai.
  3. Steam in briskly boiling water for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve at once with a mixture of kalamansi juice and light soy sauce on the side.
  4. You can use the same filling to make pearl balls by following the procedure here and to make lumpiang shanghai the procedure for which you will find here.

Quick notes

It is traditional to add half a cup or so of uncooked minced shrimp to the filling but I am allergic to shrimps so I don’t do that. I am told the filling is “tastier” with the shimps so you might want to consider adding some.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s) onward, depending on whether you’re frying or steaming your dumplings

Number of servings (yield): 4 to 8, depending on whether you’re serving the dumplings as a snack or a main course

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