Friday, January 6, 2012

Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)

Along with Siu Mai (pork & shrimp dumplings), Har Gow or shrimp dumplings are one of the most popular dishes in a dim sum meal. For years I shied away from making these dumplings because I just naturally assumed that the wrappers would be super hard to make. But once I took the plunge and decided to give it a shot, it wasn't all that difficult to do, and the ingredients are super simple. The combination of wheat starch, tapioca starch, a little oil and some very hot water is what makes this dough so tender-chewy and beautifully translucent after it is steamed. Wheat starch and tapioca starch are available in most Chinese/Asian markets. Regular flour does not work here - in fact, there is no substitute for the wheat starch in this recipe, although you can use all wheat starch and leave out the tapioca starch. The best results, though, are achieved when you use both.

I read through about a dozen recipes for Har Gow prior to proceeding and found that most called for using the flat side of the blade of a large Chinese cleaver to flatten the individual dough balls into dumpling wrappers (and/or using a rolling pin). I like Ellen Leong Blonder's method, described in her Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch, in which she puts the dough between two square pieces of parchment paper before flattening them so that they are easier to remove. In the end, I ended up using the bottom of a heavy cast iron skillet to flatten the dough, which worked out pretty well. I think I'll try using a tortilla press next time (after I actually buy one) as, in my mind, that should achieve the same result in perhaps even less time. We shall see...

1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled & deveined & coarsely chopped (cut each shrimp into 3-4 pcs.)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced bamboo shoot
1 tbsp. finely chopped water chestnut (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper

Dough (for the above filling amount, you will need to make 2 batches of the dough recipe: I would not double the recipe, but just make 2 batches so that the dough won't dry out):

1 1/4 cup wheat starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup boiling hot water

1. Combine all filing ingredients together in a bowl, cover & refrigerate for at least one hour before using. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with parchment/wax paper & spray surface evenly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. To make the dough, combine all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; stir well. Add oil and hot water, then using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, stir together quickly. While dough is still very hot but easy enough to handle, remove the dough to a board or surface (I just used my kitchen countertop, which is granite and great for kneading stuff) that has been lightly dusted with some wheat starch. Knead the dough, adding a bit more wheat starch as needed, until smooth and no longer sticky. 

3. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece into an approximately 8" log. Work with one log at a time (cover the remaining logs with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out). Cut the log into 8 pieces, then roll each piece into a ball shape. Place four dough balls on a large 12" sheet of parchment or wax paper, spaced 6-8" apart, then cover with another large 12" sheet of parchment paper. Using the flat side of a cleaver, rolling pin, or a heavy skillet, flatten the dough balls until they form about a 3" round. 

4. Remove one wrapper from the parchment paper and form pleats on one side to create a pocket in the dough (see photos below for a better idea of how to do this). Spoon about 1 tsp. of filling into the dough and carefully fold the other side over and seal the dumpling; the dough tears easily, so don't overstuff. Place the completed dumpling on the oiled, parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue filling the remaining three wrappers in the same way. Repeat the process with the remaining two dough logs.

5. Coat the bottom of a large metal steamer with oil (or spray with cooking spray) to prevent the dumplings from sticking. If using bamboo steamers, just line the bottoms with nappa cabbage leaves. Cover and bring the water under the steamer to a full boil. Using tongs, place the dumplings on the steamer (do not overcrowd), cover, and steam over high heat for about 5 minutes or until just done. Serve immediately with chili-garlic sauce, Chinese hot mustard and/or light soy sauce. 

6. The raw dumplings will not keep well in the refrigerator (the dough dries out easily) and should be steamed right after you make them. You can, however, freeze them after steaming them.

Coarsely chop the shrimp (cut each into 3-4 pieces).

These are refrigerated, vacuum-packed bamboo shoots, which taste a lot fresher than the canned stuff.

Mince about 1/4 cup of bamboo.

Add all filling ingredients to a bowl.

Mix together well by hand. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before using.

Sesame oil, Shaohsing wine, light soy, white pepper.

Stir together dry ingredients for the dough.

Add hot water and vegetable oil.

Stir together quickly and thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

While still hot, but cool enough to handle, turn dough onto lightly floured (with wheat starch) surface. Knead until smooth, adding additional wheat starch, until no longer sticky.

Divide dough into thirds.

Roll each third into an 8" log.

Work with one log at at time, covering the remaining logs with a wet paper towel to keep them from drying out.

Cut each log into 8 pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball.

Place four dough balls, 6-8" apart on a large piece of parchment paper. Cover with another piece of parchment paper.

Use the flat side of a cleaver or, in this case, a heavy cast iron pan to press the dough balls.

The wrappers should be flattened to approximately 3" rounds. 

Pleat one side of the wrapper to create a pocket. 

Fill with 1 tsp. of filling (don't overfill, or the wrapper will break when you try to seal it).

Gently seal the bottom of the wrapper with pleated edge.

Place completed dumplings on a lightly oiled (cooking spray will do), parchment-lined baking tray.

Place dumplings in an oiled steamer (again, cooking spray works great) and steam, covered, over high heat until just done. Do not overcook! 

Serve immediately with your favorite condiments, e.g., chili-garlic sauce, Chinese mustard and/or light soy sauce.

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