Har Gow, plump Chinese shrimp dumplings in a tender translucent wrapper, are arguably the best dim sum dumplings. My family of three can’t have a dim sum meal without ordering at least three orders.
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Recently I began wondering how hard it would be to make Har Gow at home. It turns out that it’s actually pretty easy!
My family and I love to eat dim sum. We have a number of favorite sit-down dim sum restaurants as well as hole-in-the-wall-type dim sum shops in San Francisco.
For sit-down meals, the old-school Yank Sing has been my favorite since childhood, but newcomers like Dragon Beaux are great, too.
The list of take-out shops in SF is endless, but my go-to is Good Luck Dim Sum on Clement Street. They have the best Har Gow, great steamed BBQ pork bao, and delicious house-made soy sauce (although you only get the good stuff if you eat in. When taking out, they only have the regular soy sauce packets.).
But sometimes I just need a Har Gow fix. I’ve tried frozen options and they are just not that great. So I took matters into my own hands.
It turns out that homemade Har Gow are much easier to make than I expected. The dough takes about 5 minutes to make, and with a few tricks, it is super easy to work with.
Why are har gow perfect for Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is celebrated with parades and lavish feasts meant to usher in a fortuitous year. Har gow are an ideal celebratory food for Lunar New Year celebrations for a couple of reasons.
Dumplings—filled with everything from ground pork to vegetables—symbolize prosperity and wealth.
The word for shrimp in Chinese is very similar to the word for laughter, so shrimp is often served as a symbol of hope for a joyous and happy year.
Put these two ideas together and you get a plump, savory, shrimp dumpling that represents hopes for a prosperous and joyful year! So yeah, Har Gow are perfect for celebrating the lunar new year!
What ingredients do you need?
I think you’ll be surprised to discover how few ingredients you need to make this Har Gow recipe. With the exception of the dumpling flour, all of them are available at a regular supermarket.
- Bamboo shoots (buy sliced bamboo shoots in a can, but be sure to drain them and soak them in water for several minutes before using them to rid them of the “canned” taste)
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
- Xiaoxing wine, sake, dry sherry, or white wine
- Fresh ginger
- White pepper
- Dumpling flour (or a 2:1 mix of wheat starch and tapioca flour or cornstarch)
- Boiling water
- Oil (I use safflower or sunflower seed oil. Any neutral-flavored cooking oil is fine—peanut, corn, canola, etc.)
What is the trick to making har gow wrappers at home?
Researching shrimp dumpling recipes, I found that most called for a combination of wheat starch and either tapioca starch or cornstarch.
If you don’t have dumpling flour, you can substitute wheat starch and tapioca starch in a 2:1 ratio (1 cup wheat starch and ½ cup tapioca starch.) Cornstarch or potato starch can also be substituted for tapioca starch.
What equipment do you need?
While I was developing this recipe, I was reading all sorts of shrimp dumpling recipes, both online and in cookbooks. I have this old dim sum cookbook, published in the 1980s. It’s by the people behind my all-time most favorite dim sum restaurant, Yank Sing.
In Classic Deem Sum, the authors nonchalantly recommend a tortilla press for forming your har gow wrappers. Brilliant. Especially since I happen to have a cast-iron tortilla press because I love making my own corn tortillas.
Using this handy tool, I was able to get perfectly uniform, thin wrappers.
You could also use the side of a cleaver, the bottom of a heavy (flat-bottomed) plate or skillet, a rolling pin, or some other heavy object to achieve the same result.
I use a pastry scraper/cutter to cut the dough into pieces, but a knife works, too.
How do you make shrimp dumplings?
The instructions may seem long, but this recipe is so much easier than you think! Here’s how I do it:
- Peel and devein the shrimp if you didn’t buy it that way. Chop it up. You want to chop it pretty well so that it will hold together inside your dumpling wrappers. The pieces should be about the size of small peas.
- In a small bowl, mix together the seasonings for the filling, stirring so that the sugar dissolves in the liquid and it is all well mixed. Add that to the shrimp in a bowl and stir to mix well. Add the minced bamboo shoots and stir again to incorporate.
- Cover and refrigerate the filling while you make the dough and form the wrappers.
- Boil water.
- Put the dumpling flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to mix.
- Add 1 cup of boiling water to the dumpling flour-and-salt mixture and stir to mix. The mixture will become lumpy and half dry/half wet looking. Don’t worry. Just keep mixing. Use your hands, but be careful because it will be hot from the boiling water.
- Once the flour and water are more or less incorporated, add the oil and mix it in.
- Transfer the dough to an unfloured cutting board and knead it until it is smooth and uniform, which will just take a minute or two. It will feel like playdough. Form it into a ball.
- Cut the ball of dough into 4 pieces and stick them in a plastic bag. Let them sit for a few minutes.
- Remove one of the 4 pieces of dough and roll it out (again, on the unfloured board) into a log about 8 inches long. Cut the log in half. Next, cut each half in half again. And one more time, cut each piece in half. You should have 8 small pieces.
- Take one of the small dough pieces and use your fingertips to flatten it into a disk about 1 ½ inches across and about ¼-inch thick.
- Take a sturdy, quart-sized resealable plastic bag and cut it down the sides so that you have two flaps. Oil the insides of the plastic very lightly (I like to spritz a bit of oil on it and then wipe with a paper towel to create a very light film.)
- If using a tortilla press, place the dough disk in between the two flaps of plastic and then press it with the tortilla press. Carefully remove the flattened round of dough and repeat with the remaining 7 pieces. (ultimately you will do this with all 32 pieces. I like to form and fill 8 dumplings at a time).
- If you are not using a tortilla press, you can still use the plastic bag trick only press down with your cleaver, plate, skillet or whatever you are using to flatten your wrappers. The wrapper should be very thin when you are done.
- Spoon filling into the center of each wrapper.
- Using your fingertips, pleat one side of the wrapper to create a crescent shape around the filling. Fold the other side up to meet the pleated side and seal by pressing together with your fingers. Make sure the wrapper is completely sealed.
- Fill a skillet or pot that is wide enough for the basket to sit in or on top of and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium or medium-low to keep the water at a simmer.
- Arrange the filled dumplings in a bamboo steamer that has been lined with a parchment paper or reusable liner, leaving about ½-inch of space between the dumplings. You will need to use several baskets, or cook the dumplings in several batches.
- Once the dumplings are arranged in the basket, cover the basket and set it over the pot with the simmering water. Steam the dumplings for 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
For the filling
- 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced bamboo shoots (see note)
- 1 tablespoon minced scallion (white only)
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons xiaoxing wine, sake, dry sherry, or white wine
- ¾ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the dough
- 1 ½ cups dumpling flour (or 1 cup wheat starch mixed with ½ cup tapioca starch)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oil
- To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, bamboo shoots, scallion, and ginger and stir to mix. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, wine, white pepper, and salt and stir to mix well.
- To make the dough, in a medium bowl, combine the dumpling flour and salt and stir to mix. Add all but about 2 tablespoons of the boiling water and mix until the flour and liquid come together. Add the remaining water as needed to make the dough come together. Add the oil and mix it in either with a wooden spoon or your hands (be careful using your hands because the dough will be hot from the boiling water).
- Transfer the dough to an unfloored work surface and knead until it is very smooth. This will take 1 to 2 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, flatten it a bit, and then cut it into quarters. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag, seal, and let rest for a few minutes.
- Roll one of the 4 pieces of dough into a log about 8 inches long ((leaving the other 3 of the 4 portions of dough in the bag to keep them from drying out). Next cut the log into 8 pieces (see photos—cut the log in half, then cut each half in half, and then in half again.)
- Take one piece of dough and use your fingers to flatten it into a round disk about 1 ½ inches across and ¼-inch thick. If the dough is too sticky, moisten your fingers very lightly with a bit of cooking oil.
- Cut the sides of a sturdy Ziploc bag to open it up. Very lightly oil the inside of each half of the bag (I spritz with a tiny bit of oil, then wipe with a paper towel to distribute the oil and remove any excess—you really want just a very light film). Place the bag, open, on a tortilla press or work surface. Place a flattened dough piece on top and press, using the tortilla press, rolling pin, flat-bottomed heavy plate, or another heavy item, flatten into a very thin round about 3 ½ to 4 inches across. Repeat with the other 7 pieces of dough.
- Place about a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper, fold one side of the circle up and pleat it into a crescent shape. Bring the other side of the circle up to meet it and press the two sides together firmly, making sure the dumpling is sealed up. See my notes about forming and filling the dumplings in batches.
- Place a round of perforated parchment in a bamboo steamer (I use a few 9-inch steamer baskets, but you could use one or two larger ones) and arrange the dumplings inside with a bit of space between them.
- Cover and steam over simmering water for 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
1. Chop the shrimp into pretty small pieces, about the size of small peas. This will help the filling hold together inside the wrapper.
2. Buy sliced, canned bamboo shoots at the supermarket. Before using them, drain them, discarding the liquid from the can, and soak them in cold water for 10 minutes or so. This will help rid them of the "canned" flavor.
3. You can use any neutral-flavored oil you like. I use sunflower seed oil. Other good options are safflower, grapeseed, canola, peanut, or corn oil.
4. When placing the filling inside the wrapper, be careful not to let it tough the edge of the wrapper if you can. If the dough gets wet from the filling, it becomes difficult to seal the two sides together.
5. I like to form and fill one batch of dumplings, arrange them on a tray and cover them with plastic wrap before storing them in the refrigerator. I then form and fill the second ¼ of dough, adding the second batch of dumplings to the refrigerated tray. I form and fill all 4 batches this way before steaming. If you like, you can cover the filled dumplings with a slightly damp towel and form and fill the remaining dumplings or you can go ahead and steam the first batch of dumplings while you make the second. Alternatively, you can form and fill all of the dumplings, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate for several hours, and then steam all at once.
6. When you arrange the dumplings in the steamer basket(s), make sure they are not touching each other. Leave at least ½-inch or 1-inch of space in between.
Serving Size3 dumplings
Amount Per Serving Calories 163Total Fat 3gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 58mgSodium 677mgCarbohydrates 18gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 8g
Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.