Har gow: crystal prawn dumplings (虾饺)

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.

Har gow: crystal prawn dumplings (虾饺)
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17 ratings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 38 minutes

Yield: make 12 dumplings

Har gow: crystal prawn dumplings (虾饺)

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.


    For the filling
  • 200g / 7oz medium-sized prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 30g / 3 tablespoons water chestnuts, minced
  • 30g / 4 tablespoons bamboo shoots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chive, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca starch (or cornstarch / potato starch)
  • 1 teaspoon lard (or cooking oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 pinch white pepper
    For the wrapper
  • 40g / 1/3 cup wheat starch
  • 40g / 1/3 cup tapioca starch (or cornstarch / potato starch)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon lard (or cooking oil)
  • 80ml / 1/3 cup boiling water
    You also need:
  • 12 slices carrot (diagonally cut)


  1. Prepare the filling: Pick out 12 prawns and set aside. Crush the rest of the prawns by pressing them under the side of a cleaver. Then chop further (use a knife to mince the prawns if you don't have a cleaver). In a deep bowl, combine whole prawns, minced prawns and all the other ingredients. Place in the fridge.
  2. Make the dough: Put wheat starch, tapioca starch, salt and lard (or cooking oil) into a mixing bowl. Pour in water that has just been boiled (water at lower temptation will result in failure). Stir well with a pair of chopsticks, then knead with hands into a smooth, soft dough.
  3. Shape the wrapper: Make a loop with the dough. Divide it into 12 equal pieces. Lightly coat the working surface and the cleaver with oil. Roll one piece of dough into a ball. Press it with the side of the cleaver while moving side to side to make a very thin wrapper. Gently peel it off the cleaver (you may use a rolling pin to achieve this if you wish). Repeat to make the other wrappers.
  4. Assemble the dumplings: Place a spoonful of filling in the middle of a wrapper (including one whole prawns). Hold with both hands. Pleat the far side of the wrapper by pressing with the index finger of one hand. Push the near side of the wrapper forward with the thumb of the other hand. Seal all around to make a crescent shape (Please refer to the images in the post).
  5. Steam the dumplings: Heat up water in the pot on which you are going to place the steamer basket. Scatter carrot slices in the basket, then place dumplings on top of each slice (to avoid sticking). Place the basket in when the water is boiling. Cook with lid on over a medium heat for 6 minutes (do not overcook).
  6. Serve: Leave the dumplings to cool a bit before gently removing them to serve (very hot dumpling skin tends to stick). You may dip them in a vinegary sauce if you wish.
  7. Store: Keep uncooked dumplings in the freezer for up to 4 weeks. No need to defrost when steaming. Put them in a steamer filled with cold water (different from the instructions for fresh dumplings). Cook for 8 minutes after the water starts to boil.

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!

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

A close up shot of Har Gow in a steamer basket. You can see the pink, cooked prawns inside the translucent wrapper. 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.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.

Discover more dim sum recipes:

Sheng Jian Bao: Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包)

Chinese chive pockets (韭菜盒子)




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