Meet chef who carries on steamed pastry-making tradition in Beijing

(People's Daily Online) 10:15, June 15, 2022

Photo shows Wu Huaxia making shaomai. (Photo/People’s Daily)

Wu Huaxia is a master chef in Duyichu, a Beijing shaomai brand established in 1738. “Shaomai” is a traditional steamed pastry in Beijing.

The shaomai wrappers made by Wu can be 0.5 millimeters thick at the thinnest point and have as many as 103 wrinkles, far surpassing the standard according to which each wrapper should have at least 24 wrinkles.

“There are 16 steps to make shaomai, and each step has certain standards to follow,” introduced Wu, who has been engaged in the trade for more than 20 years.

“Every shaomai has at least 24 wrinkles on it, symbolizing the 24 solar terms in Chinese culture,” said Wu as she used a rolling pin to create winkles on the edges of the wrappers. Then, she put pre-mixed filling onto a wrapper and wrapped it up, turning it into a raw shaomai that resembled a flower.

In 1999, 16-year-old Wu came to Beijing and became an apprentice at a local food factory. She practiced really hard before becoming a master in making dough wrappers.

In 2001, Wu joined a Duyichu store at Qianmen Street. To master the techniques, Wu always arrived at the shop early and worked overtime, and she even practiced her skills at the store during off-duty hours.

According to the standard, every shaomai should have at least 24 wrinkles on it. However, Wu can make 103 wrinkles on one shaomai, which impressed many people.

Wu’s shop would organize a skills competition each month, and Wu even won the first-place prize for 11 months in a row in one year. In 2008, she was named an eighth-generation inheritor of the shaomai making techniques in Duyichu.

To cater to the changing needs of customers, Wu led her team to develop different types of shaomai, which have gained in popularity among customers. She also established a shaomai making team and trained over 30 professional cooks. In 2020, Wu was recognized as a National Model Worker.

In February 2022, Wu took part in the torch relay for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. “Passing down the traditional cuisine techniques is just like relaying a torch,” said Wu.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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