Juicy filling wrapped by a translucent skin, Har Gow (prawn dumplings) is a pleasure both on your palate and to your eyes. Read my detailed recipe to learn how to make it perfectly.
Having made Snow skin mooncakes following my recipe, one of my readers asked me: “Is there any other classic Chinese dishes I can make to use up the leftover wheat starch (key ingredient in snow skin mooncakes)?” Of course! She reminded me of a wonderful dim sum dish that I always enjoy eating (as well as making). It’s called Har Gow (虾饺, steamed crystal prawn dumplings), a classic Cantonese dish that you can find in any dim sum restaurants.
Make the perfect dough
The unusual, translucent skin of Har Gow makes it stand out among the Chinese dumpling family. This is why, on many menus, Har Gow is also named “crystal prawn dumpling (水晶虾饺)”. It’s not difficult at all to make the dough. However, the procedure can easily go wrong if you don’t follow a reliable recipe.
- The main ingredients are wheat starch, tapioca starch (can be replaced by cornstarch/potato starch) and water. Through experiments, I found the ideal ratio is 1:1:1. That is to say, these three ingredients share equal volume (Attention: NOT equal weight).
- Make sure that you pour BOILING water onto the starch mixture. I mean the water that has just been boiled (This is why I don’t use the term “hot water”). Otherwise you could end up with a bowl of white liquid. That would be a complete disaster (It happened to me once so I know the pain).
- When a smooth, soft, slightly elastic dough appears, you can start wrapping the dumplings straightaway (unlike regular flour dough that needs to rest for a while). In fact, if you leave the dough too long, its texture will change and thus won’t be workable.
Keep the filling tasty & juicy
Filling is the soul of all dumplings. It needs to be flavoursome and moist. Har Gow is no exception.
- The use of water chestnuts and bamboo shoots not only gives the filling a crunchy texture, but they also add a nutty flavour.
- Sesame oil also makes a nice addition. However, excessive usage will overpowering the taste of other key ingredients.
- Ginger is there to minimize the fishy flavour. Chive provides a mild oniony taste (You may skip it but do not replace it with spring onion whose taste is too strong for this recipe).
- A bit of lard (or regular cooking oil if you wish) is the key to a juicy filling. And don’t forget to add a bit of starch which keeps the prawn tender.
Put a whole prawn in each dumpling
I suggest that you mince only half of the prawns and wrap a whole prawn in each dumpling (along with some minced filling).
This is my personal preference. When I had my first dim sum meal in a reputable Cantonese restaurant in Beijing years ago, I fell in love with Har Gow at first bite. I really enjoyed the sense of satisfaction given by a whole prawn inside the dumpling. Another benefit is that the lovely pink colour of the whole prawn can be seen through the translucent skin. More appetizing this way, isn’t it?
Use a cleaver if you have one
When making Har Gow, the traditional Chinese cleaver comes in handy. Use it if you have one. It will make things easy and it is indeed the authentic technique.
- When shaping the wrappers: Put a ball of dough underneath the side of a cleaver. Press while moving side to side. This way the wrapper can be made very thin and even all around. An important tip: coat the cleaver (and the work surface) with a thin layer of oil to avoid sticking.
- When making the filling: instead of chopping, crush the prawns under the side of a cleaver by pressing hard with your hand. Give the crushed flesh a quick chop in the end.
However, you don’t need to invest on a cleaver for the sake of making Har Gow. Please feel free to use a regular knife to chop the prawns and a rolling pin to shape the wrappers.
I didn’t realize I have written so many words until the moment I reviewed the post. Anyway, hope you find it interesting, informative, and most of all, helpful.
Wish you a lovely time in your kitchen!
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