Shrimp Dumplings

 

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This classic is surely the most popular of the many filled dumplings in the dim sum repertoire. These small, pleated, rounded crescents, called har gau, are found in every teahouse. They are made in only one way, with a particular dough, and cannot be made with ready-made wrappers. They always contain shrimp—sometimes chopped, sometimes finely minced, sometimes coarsely cut, with such variations usually the whim of the maker. Yet, these dumplings have been essentially the same for centuries—classics not to be tampered with.

Ingredients

 Filling

  • cups water
  • 2 ounces pork fat
  • 8 ounces shrimp, cleaned and finely diced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 medium egg white, lightly beaten
  • tablespoons tapioca starch
  • teaspoons oyster sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • ½ cup peeled and finely diced fresh water chestnuts
  • ¼ cup finely sliced white portion of scallions
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced bamboo shoots

Har Gau Dough

  • cups wheat starch
  • cup tapioca starch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons melted lard or peanut oil
  • Mustard condiment or chili-mustard condiment (see Dumpling Sauces)

Method

To make the filling: In a small pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the pork fat, cover, leaving the lid slightly cracked, and keep the water at a boil. Cook the pork fat for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the fat to a bowl, run cold water over it, and let stand for several minutes until cool. Remove the fat, pat dry, and cut into -inch dice.

Place the shrimp in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn on the mixer to low speed and add the following ingredients, one at a time, in order, mixing well after each addition: salt, sugar, egg white, tapioca starch, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper. Then add the diced pork fat, water chestnuts, scallions, and bamboo shoots and continue mixing until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Stop the mixer, transfer the shrimp mixture to a shallow dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

To make the dough: Rinse and dry the bowl of the mixer and return it to the stand. Place the wheat starch, tapioca starch, and salt in the bowl. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and turn to medium speed and slowly add the boiling water. Then add the lard and continue to beat until the mixture comes together as a dough and forms a ball. If the dough is too dry, add 1 additional teaspoon boiling water. Stop the mixer, remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it several times on a clean work surface until it forms a cohesive dough. Divide into 4 equal pieces, and cover with plastic wrap so its moisture is retained.

Oil the work surface. Then soak a paper towel with peanut oil and run a cleaver blade across it a few times to oil the blade well. Remove 1 piece of dough from the plastic and place it on the oiled work surface. Using your palms, roll it into a log 8 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cut the log crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time and keep the others covered with plastic wrap. Roll the piece into a small ball, then press down with your palm to flatten it. Using a flat side of the oiled cleaver blade, press down on the dough to the right, then reverse back left to create a thin round inches in diameter. Repeat with the remaining ½-inch pieces and then with the remaining dough in the bags, reoiling the cleaver blade as needed to prevent sticking. Make 4 rounds at a time, then form 4 dumplings, keeping remaining dough pieces covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.

Place 1 round on the palm of one hand, place teaspoons of the filling in the center of each round, pressing slightly to flatten, and then fold the wrapper in half to create a half-moon. Holding the filled dumpling securely in one hand, form about 5 small pleats along one side of the open edge with the fingers of the other hand, pressing the pleats against the other edge to seal the dumpling closed. Then tap the rounded, folded edge lightly with a knuckle to give the dumpling its final shape. Repeat until all of the filling is used (see note).

Oil 3 bamboo steamers. As you make the dumplings, place the first one-third of them in a prepared bamboo steamer, making certain they do not touch one another, or they will stick together. Cover the steamer and steam for 7 minutes, or until the dough is translucent and the filling is visible through it. As the first batch steams, prepare the second one-third of the dumplings, place in another steamer, and then steam that batch when the first one is done. Repeat with the third and final batch.

Turn off the heat and serve. The dumplings are best served hot, so serve them the moment they are cooked, directly from the bamboo steamer. Accompany with the mustard condiment.

How to Form the Dumplings See steps 4-5.