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How to Use a Bamboo Steamer

How to Use a Bamboo Steamer

May 20 2024

Still finding creative ways to steam your soup dumplings because you haven’t gotten a steamer yet? We get it. But, nothing compares to being able to steam a batch the way Grandma intended.

There are many different ways to use a bamboo steamer—plus they make your next batch of dumplings even easier to whip up.

What Is a Bamboo Steamer Basket, Anyway?

Steamer baskets are hand-woven appliances that are made of thick strips of bamboo that have been shaped into a circle. They’re lightweight while still allowing enough steam to reach your food that it can cook in minutes with deliciously juicy results.

Some manufacturers have started creating silicone steamer baskets or using metal steamers to get the job done. However, we’ve got a soft spot for tradition and know that bamboo is a more sustainable option that better captures the flavors of our favorite steamed foods.

Traditional bamboo steamers are designed to fit inside a larger pot or pan. However, much like how most people don’t like walking around in wet socks, steamers are generally not meant to sit so low in boiling water that the dumplings get wet and start to float.

Some steamer baskets come with a single layer, while others come with multiple tiers so you can stack them on top of each other. MìLà’s steamer baskets come with two 10-inch tiers that can hold up to 12 frozen soup dumplings each. Then, just like magic, the steam turns them into little morsels of umami goodness in a matter of minutes.

How to Use a Steamer Basket for Soup Dumplings & Dim Sum

Xiao Long Bao in a Bamboo Steamer Basket

Steaming your soup dumplings is souper simple when you use a bamboo steamer. Here’s how to use your own steamer to whip up a batch of soup dumplings in the time it takes to get through an episode of most classic Cartoon Network shows:

  • Bring 2-3 inches of water to a rolling boil in a large pan or wok
  • Line your steamer with paper steamer liners
  • Place the dumplings on top of the lined steamer, with a 1-inch gap between each dumpling
  • Cover the steamer and let the dumplings steam for 11 minutes
  • Remove the dumplings from the heat and let them rest for a minute with the lid on
  • Take the lid off and let the dumplings rest for an additional minute
  • Serve them up with your favorite dumpling dipping sauces

All out of steamer liners? No sweat—the produce aisle has you covered. You can also use cabbage leaves, thinly sliced king oyster mushrooms, or even sliced zucchini in a pinch to prevent the XLBs from tearing against the bottom of the steamer and spilling out their liquid gold.

Bao in a Steamer Basket

Want perfectly fluffy, cloud-like steamed bao every time? Skip the microwave. A steamer basket is the way to go.

Bamboo steamers impart a lovely, subtle fragrance onto your steamed buns for that perfect, “Sunday morning dim sum restaurant” experience. Simply place your favorite brand of frozen bao onto steamer liners and cover them with the lid.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended cooking time to get a perfectly fluffy bao with warm, savory pork and cabbage or char siu filling. Within minutes, you’ll get a restaurant-quality pork bun that will make you want to call your grandma.

Steaming Other Types of Chinese Dumplings

Using a steamer basket for dumplings allows you to satisfy more than just your XLB craving. If you want to use a bamboo steamer basket for dumplings of all types, it’s an ideal vehicle for getting a perfectly steamed, juicy bite every time.

Beyond our own delectable soup dumplings, other types of Chinese dumplings that come out perfectly in a steamer include:

  • Jiaozi (饺子): If you think of the word “dumpling,” this is probably the first type that comes to mind. Complete with a blend of minced pork, shrimp, and vegetables, these come in a paper-thin wrapper and are a staple of Chinese restaurants the world over.
  • Shumai (烧卖): These dumplings like to drive with the top down. A dim sum classic from Guangdong, they’re one of the only types of dumplings you’ll find with an open top. They also usually have minced pork or shrimp fillings and a good bamboo steamer can cook them to perfection.
  • Har gow (虾饺): Filled with a blend of shrimp, minced bamboo shoots, and ginger, these crystalline dumplings are almost pinkish at the end of the steaming process thanks to their translucent wrappers.
  • Fun quo (潮州粉果): These are like har gow, but with pork, chives, and peanuts instead of shrimp. They also feature a translucent wrapper so you can get a glimpse of the dark green filling within.
  • Other Things You Can Steam in a Chinese Steamer Basket

    Chinese bamboo steamers are like that one kid you knew in high school who could lead in the musical, serve as center on the basketball team, and still somehow have time to be the president of the foreign language club. In other words, they can do it all.

    Dumplings are just one option in the repertoire for your steamer. You can use it to gently cook fresh vegetables or make fish taste succulent and delicate, or make easy side dishes out of pumpkins, eggplant, or other vegetables in minutes.

    Some more advanced Chinese chefs also use their bamboo steamer as just one part of the cooking process. For example, some will steam cuts of pork belly to lock in the juicy flavors of the meat before deep-frying it to get a lovely, crispy outside without unwanted dryness in the center.

    One of the most popular hacks we’ve seen circulating online over the last few years is creating rice rolls out of spring roll paper for an easy alternative to going for dim sum when rent is due. The possibilities are virtually endless, and we love seeing how people use soup dumplings as a jumping-off point to develop their own recipes and cooking skills.

    How to Clean a Bamboo Steamer Basket

    Bamboo steamer baskets are easy to clean when you’re finished cooking 12 (or 112) soup dumplings. It takes just a few easy steps:

    • Apply a mild dish soap to your steamer basket
    • Wash with hot water
    • Rinse the steamer thoroughly
    • Allow it to air dry for at least 24 hours to prevent mold or mildew from getting the party started

    Try not to let the steamer soak in dishwater—bamboo is famous for absorbing flavors and odors, and the last thing you want is for your next batch of soup dumplings to have the aftertaste of your sink.

    Still Need a Steamer Basket?

    We’ve got you (and your soup dumplings) covered. Order our bamboo steamer basket online, or get it alongside our frozen Chinese dumplings and noodles when you order the Full Meal Experience today.