If you’ve been to a dim sum restaurant, you’ve probably had har gow (a.k.a. ha gow, crystal shrimp dumplings). When done right, har gow can be a revelation: shrimp, paired with bamboo and/or water chestnut/jicama, enveloped in a thin, chewy, yet luscious, translucent wrapper that teases and leaves a person craving more.
Of course, I’ve also had so-so har gow and downright embarrassingly bad har gow. I admit to loving it all, even if the dumplings weren’t perfectly seductive.
Despite its translucent, white color, the wrapper is not made of rice; it’s commonly made with wheat starch. As my son is allergic to wheat, I’ve substituted wheat starch in this recipe.
My son loves these dumplings. as do his non-allergenic cousins and aunties and uncles. Make plenty; these go fast.
FYI: Don’t let the long list of notes at the end of this recipe intimidate you, but do read them. With a bit of practice, these dumplings are easy, though somewhat time-consuming, to make.
- 1 lb small (maybe size 51-60/lb) whole,raw shrimp
- 4 T bamboo shoots, cut into shards/slivers no longer than 1/2 the length of a whole shrimp
- 6 T green onion, white part only, minced
- 2 t to 3 t finely grated ginger
- 2 T pork fat, minced (opt)
- 2 t gluten-free reduced sodium tamari
- 1/2 T to 1 T sake
- 2 t sugar
- 1/4 t to 1/2 t salt
- 2 extra virgin olive oil
- 4 t tapioca starch
- dash of white pepper
(make two batches to use up above filling)
- 3/4 c of one of the following starches, plus 3/4 c of a different starch from the same list: corn starch, potato starch, or arrowroot starch
- 2 T tapioca starch
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 1/8 c to 1 1/4 c boiling water
- 1 1/2 T mild-tasting oil (e.g. canola)
Napa cabbage leaves
Leave shrimp whole. Peel, devein, drain well. In medium bowl, mix all filling ingredients except for shrimp. Add shrimp and mix gently till mixture has an somewhat elastic feel. Refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.
In large bowl, mix dry ingredients for wrappers. Make well in center. Add boiling water and oil. Quickly mix with chopsticks till ball of dough begins to form. Turn onto oiled surface and gently knead several times till smooth in texture; do not overwork dough. Turn bowl over dough and let rest 15 minutes.
Divide into 3 parts. Roll each part into a log and pinch off 12 equal-size pieces. Roll pieces into balls. Repeat with remaining pieces, taking care to cover unused dough with overturned bowl to keep it from drying out.
Roll out dough balls using an oiled wooden dowel or press dough balls using tortilla press, something heavy, or (for kitchen hot shots) the oiled side of a cleaver. You should have flat 3″ diameter dough circle wrappers. Repeat with remaining dough.
Fill wrappers with 1/2 t to 3/4 t filling, gently pleat about 6 times in front, and gently press front to back to seal.
Preheat steamer. Line steamer rack(s) with washed Napa cabbage leaves or lightly oil steamer with mild-tasting oil. Place dumplings in steamer rack(s) so they are not touching each other. Steam 5 minutes on high heat.
- There are many different versions of filling: minced entirely, somewhat chunky bits of shrimp, bamboo vs. water chestnut, whole shrimp, etc. I feel keeping the shrimp whole along with not steaming more than 5 minutes keeps the shrimp succulent. I like all versions, but the whole shrimp-with-bamboo-shards version best captures the har gow commonly served in restaurants back home in the San Gabriel Valley, the best place in the entire United States to experience Chinese food in all its complexity.
- Be conservative when adding sake, tamari, salt, and white pepper. Don’t over do it.
- Do not increase amount of tapioca starch. Too much will make the dough too elastic-tight and combative.
- Do not increase amount of sake. Too much will give dumplings a harsh, shrill note.
- Somewhat wet dough works best. If pebbly, that means bits of starch remain uncooked by the boiling water. To correct, add small amounts of boiling water and gently knead . If dough is bucky, oil hands and gently knead to distribute oil.
- Quickly stir in boiling water with chopsticks to ensure starches are cooked by the water. When ball of dough begins to form, gently but quickly knead several times to ensure all starches are cooked. Do not overwork dough.
- Flour hands with tapioca starch only if necessary.
- Pleating and sealing wrappers may seem tricky initially, but it’s not that hard with a light touch and a bit of practice. Some people pleat in a single direction; I pleat each side inwardly. I will post photos of me pleating soon, but in the mean time, there are plenty of tutorials online. For what it’s worth, I’ve come to realize pleating is not a purely aesthetic choice; it actually keeps the wrapper well-sealed — better sealed, in fact (when done right), than a straight up, fold over, flat half circle dumpling.
- Lining steamer with Napa leaves imparts a fresh, lightly sweet flavor that oil does not. Using Napa leaves also means you don’t have to re-oil steamer racks when steaming additional batches of har gow; just plop the dumplings onto the leaves over and over.
- Wrappers can be made several hours in advance. If so, cover with a damp towel.
- Cooked har gow can be refrigerated or frozen, then resteamed for 3 to 5 minutes. Thawing is unnecessary. To freeze, place cooked har gow on cookie trays lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer till frozen. Then remove har gow from trays, place in Ziploc bag, and return to freezer. This process prevents har gow from freezing into one big mass, enabling you to take out however many you want over the course of time.
Ingredient Sources – What I Use
- tamari – San-J Reduced Sodium Gluten-Free Tamari
- sake – Takara Sho Chiku Bai Classic Sake
- extra virgin olive oil – Whole Foods 365, Costco Kirkland Signature
- tapioca starch – Erawan, Pingo
- white pepper – Spicely, McCormick
- corn starch – Kingsford, Argo, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free
- arrowroot starch – Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free
- potato starch – Hitachiya, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free
- canola oil – Mazola, Spectrum