During my last year of university, amidst a barrage of assignments and exams, dumplings were my saviour. Simply plop them in boiling water, and they’d be ready to eat in under five minutes. For lunch or dinner, or as a nutrient-rich snack during a dreaded all-nighter, I spent my final eight months of school living on frozen dumplings.
Although I’d eaten hundreds of dumplings, I had yet to make them from scratch. And so the dumpling theme for this month’s ‘Is My Blog Burning?’ hosted by Jarrett of Food Porn Watch, gave me the perfect opportunity to try my hand at Chinese crystal shrimp dumplings, one of my favourite dishes at Chinese dim sum.
Crystal shrimp dumplings (called ‘haar gow’ in Chinese), are made from a shrimp mixture that’s been wrapped in a thin, translucent dough and steamed in a bamboo steamer. I used a recipe from Corinne Trang’s Essentials of Asian Cuisine and have adapted and posted it below. A few of the recipe’s ingredients will likely require a trip to your local Asian grocery store. These include wheat starch, tapioca starch and rice flour used for the dumpling’s wrapper, and Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and bamboo shoots (shown above) used for the filling.
Although the preparation of the dough and filling were easy and straightforward, I ran into a few problems when putting everything together. The recipe calls for making pleats on the dumpling’s wrapper before adding the filling. Lacking the dexterity to do this, I found that inserting a skewer underneath the dough was a great aid to forming evenly-sized pleats. I also had some difficulty wrapping the dumplings. Normally crystal shrimp dumplings are wrapped by bringing all sides towards the centre. But since the wrapper often broke when I tried this, I settled for simply folding one half of the wrapper over the other.
The results? Not bad for a first attempt, but there’s definitely room for improvement. The wrappers were too thick and chewy, and the filling was a bit dry, likely from overcooking. On the bright side, the shrimp mixture tasted delicious. The sweet shrimp and slightly bitter bamboo shoots were a very nice combination.
Crystal Shrimp Dumplings (Haar Gao)
Adapted from Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang
- 1 cup wheat starch
- ½ cup rice flour
- 2 tbsp tapioca starch
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
In a small bowl, sift together wheat starch, rice flour and tapioca starch. Make a well in the centre and pour in boiling water and vegetable oil while stirring with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Knead hot dough for 3 to 5 minutes or until the ingredients are well combined, and dough is smooth and slightly elastic. If dough becomes too dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of boiling water.
On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 4 equally sized balls and roll each round until it is between 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick. Use a 3-inch circular cookie cutter to stamp out 3-inch rounds.
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tbsp Chinese light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp tapioca starch
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- 8 oz black or blue tiger shrimp, shelled, deveined and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp minced pork fatback
- ¼ cup minced bamboo shoots
- 6 Napa cabbage or iceberg lettuce leaves
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg white, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar until egg white loosens and sugar dissolves completely. Whisk in tapioca starch, then sesame oil, and salt and pepper. Add shrimp, pork fatback, bamboo shoots and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for about two hours to allow flavours to develop.
With each wrapper, make pleats on half of one side and pinch from opposite ends towards the centre to form a pouch. Place 1 ½ teaspoons of filling inside the pouch. Pinch the centre of the unpleated half and bring towards the centre of the pleated half. Fold dumpling sides in front of pleated side to secure filling.
Fill a wok with 2 or 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, line a bamboo steamer with two Napa cabbage or iceberg lettuce leaves. Place dumplings on leaves about ¼-inch apart. Place bamboo steamer in the wok, cover securely, and steam until dumplings become translucent and filling turns pink, about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Makes about 40 dumplings.