the appetizer:

Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen, includes recipes like Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings, Xid Jido; Sticky Rice and Spiced Chicken in Banana Leaf, Lemper Ayam; and Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings, Tarkari Momo.

Cookbook Profile

Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings
Xid Jido

Makes 32 dumplings, serving 6 to 8 as a snack

Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings


Well known by their Cantonese name hargow, these delightful pinkish-white morsels are among the most popular offerings at dim sum houses. They go fast, and I've chased down my fair share of dim sum ladies to get a fresh order. When I started making my own and realized that they can be kept refrigerated and frozen, my fear of hargow scarcity diminished.

These are difficult to prepare only if you aim to produce exemplary diminutive ones, which most dim sum places don't. Start out with ones that are a little bigger and scale down as you gain dexterity. You can even make these dumplings as half-moons, and they'll taste swell. Use the best shrimp possible, and immerse the canned bamboo shoots in boiling water to rid it of its tinny flavor before chopping. To make the pork fat easier to mince, blanch it in boiling water for 1 minute, or until firm. Obtain the fat from fatback (I go to a Latino butcher counter) or cut it off a pork chop. Fatty bacon works well, too.


1. To make the filling, toss the shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, put them in a strainer, and rinse under cold water. Transfer the shrimp to a paper towel and blot dry. Chop the shrimp into peanut-size pieces; halve each shrimp lengthwise first to make it easier. Put the shrimp into a bowl and add the pork fat, bamboo shoots, and scallion. Stir with chopsticks or a fork to evenly distribute the ingredients.

2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cornstarch, sugar, white pepper, rice wine, and sesame oil, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Pour the seasonings over the shrimp mixture. Stir with chopsticks or a fork to ensure that all the shrimp are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 4 hours to marinate. Makes about 1-1/3 cups.

3. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time to form the wrappers, roll it on an unfloured work surface into an 8-inch log. Cut the log into 8 equal pieces. Follow the instructions on "Forming Wrappers from Wheat Starch Dough" (below) to shape circles that are each 3 to 3-1/4 inches in diameter.

4. Before assembling the dumplings, line steamer trays and baking sheets with parchment paper, then oil the paper.

5. To assemble a dumpling, hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Use a bamboo dumpling spatula, dinner knife, or fork to scoop up about 2 teaspoons of filling and place it slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, gently pressing to flatten slightly and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wrapper clear on all sides. Then fold, pleat, and press to enclose the filling and create a pleated crescent (see page 29 of the book), finishing it by pinching the rim together between your fingers into a thin layer of dough that resembles a crown; this prevents the edge from being unpleasantly thick once cooked. If the skin breaks, dab a tiny bit of oil on the area and try smoothing out and patching up the wrapper. For the pouchy har gow shape, lightly press the unpleated side of the dumpling against the knuckle of a bent finger; this will softly arch the dumpling forward. If this shape proves too challenging, simply form a half-moon (see page 26).

Set the finished dumpling in a prepared steamer tray. Assemble more dumplings from the remaining wrappers before working on the next batch of dough. Space them about 1/2 inch apart; if using a metal steamer tray, keep the dumplings 1 inch away from the edge where condensation will collect. Place overflow dumplings on the baking sheet with a good 1/2 inch between each and cover with plastic wrap. Once assembled, the dumplings should be cooked as soon as possible, because they cannot be refrigerated uncooked.

6. Steam the dumplings over boiling water (see page 17 for guidance) for about 6 minutes, or until they have puffed slightly and are glossy and translucent. Remove each tray and place it atop a serving plate.

7. Serve hot with soy sauce and chile garlic sauce. Cooked dumplings can be refrigerated, then steamed for about 3 minutes before serving. Cooked dumplings can also be frozen for up to 1 month, completely thawed in the refrigerator, and steamed for 3 to 5 minutes.


Wheat Starch Dough

Makes a scant 1 pound

This malleable, snowy white dough is the foundation for many Cantonese dim sum favorites, such as Chiu Chow Dumplings (page 137 of the book) and Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings. Wheat starch dough is easy to manipulate; texturally, it is like Play-Doh. In fact, I've seen rabbit-shaped dumplings made from this type of dough. You can definitely sculpt it, though I mostly focus on making sure the filling is sealed up well. When cooked, this dough has a translucency that allows the filling colors to be visible in a beautiful, impressionistic way. Wheat starch on its own would make a dough that is too firm, so dim sum cooks commonly add elasticity by way of tapioca starch, though cornstarch and potato starch are options, too. The oil lends suppleness and richness.

This dough can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance and kept at room temperature in the plastic bag. When forming wrappers from this dough, do your best to keep the cut dough and formed wrappers covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying. At Chinese markets, look for plastic bags of wheat starch near other starches and flours; Middle Eastern markets sometimes carry it, too. Tapioca starch is reasonably priced at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets but is also available at health food stores, specialty grocers, and some supermarkets.

1. In a bowl, combine the wheat starch, tapioca starch, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in about 14 tablespoons of the water. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir the ingredients together. Work at a moderate speed to prevent the fine, lightweight starches from flying. The dough will look translucent first and then become mottled, whitish, and lumpy. You will smell the wheat starch. Once the water has been incorporated (there may be steam rising from the dough, which is fine), add the oil. Stir to work in the oil. If the dough looks dry, add a little more water. Aim for a medium-firm texture, not a soft and mushy one; work in additional wheat starch by the tablespoon if you add too much water. Press the ingredients together into a rough ball that feels a bit bouncy.

2. Transfer the warm dough to an unfloured work surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes, until snowy white, smooth, and resembling Play-Doh in texture. When you squeeze on it, it should not crack. If it cracks, very lightly oil one hand and knead it into the dough to increase the doughs suppleness. Depending on the recipe instructions, cut the dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Put them into a zip-top plastic bag and seal well. Set aside for 5 minutes to rest before using.

Forming Wrappers from Wheat Starch Dough

Dim sum master cooks press pieces of wheat starch dough with an oiled cleaver to make perfect circles, but you can achieve perfection with minimal effort and experience.

Have ready two 6 to 7-inch plastic squares cut from a zip-top bag; smear a little oil on one side of each plastic square to avoid sticking.

1. As specified in the recipe, take a piece of wheat starch dough, roll it on an unfloured work surface into a log, and then cut it into small pieces.

2. To prevent drying and sticking, dab your finger in some canola oil and rub a tiny bit on each of the ends of the dough pieces, pressing each one into a 1/4-inch-thick disk as you work.

3. Place a disk between the squares. Apply moderate pressure with a tortilla press, the flat side of a cleaver, or the bottom of a large measuring cup, a skillet, or a plate. You may have to press more than once to arrive at the desired size. If using the tortilla press, you may turn the dough and press again to arrive at the desired size. With the other implements, press and twist while the pressure is still on to create nice thin circles.

4. Unpeel the plastic and set the slightly shiny wrapper aside. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. There should be no need to reoil the plastic between pressings. It is fine to let the wrappers overlap a tad. To prevent the dough from drying out, assemble a batch of dumplings before forming more wrappers from another portion of dough.


Chile Garlic Sauce

Makes 2/3 cup

This ubiquitous Asian condiment does not need to be purchased. In fact, it has a wonderful, bright flavor when made at home. In the late summer, when chiles are at their peak red color and spicy-fruity flavor, I buy a bunch at the farmers' market and make a batch or two of this sauce.

Keep the sauce uncooked if you enjoy a wild, robust flavor. Or, cook the sauce for a more mellow finish. I often blend different kinds of chiles so as to not create too much of a burn.

1. Put the chiles, garlic, salt, sugar, and vinegar in an electric mini-chopper or food processor. Grind to a coarse texture. Take a whiff; it should make you sweat a bit. Taste and adjust the flavor with extra salt for depth or sugar to mitigate the heat.

2. For an uncooked sauce, simply transfer the sauce to a jar and let it stand for at least 30 minutes to blend the flavors before using. For the cooked version, transfer the chile mixture to a small saucepan. Bring to a vigorous simmer over medium heat, then lower the heat to gently simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce no longer smells raw. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer to a jar. Refrigerated, the sauces keep well for a good 6 months.


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This page created May 2010