At dim sum houses, the server with the steamed crystal shrimp dumplings, commonly known as “xia jiao” or “har gow” in Cantonese, is always the most popular person on the floor. I’ll even dare to stick my neck out and claim that har gow might be the #1 dim sum item of all time. At least, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.
Developing Our Har Gow Recipe
Whatever you do, don’t ask why it took me this long to post this recipe…Oh heck, if you insist…
Remember my search for the perfect Milk Bread recipe? Well, this one took longer—twenty-six months to be exact! There are so many resources out there on the internet, but the dependable resources are actually quite limited. I asked around; I bought many recipe books; I tested no fewer than a dozen and a half recipes.
The other three Woks of Life members have long been throwing me dirty looks every time they found out I was testing har gow recipe yet again. The filling is not the issue, the problem has always been the wrappers. Oh, the shame! I can’t believe it took me this long to nail this one.
But I did perfect it! And I don’t want you to think that this recipe is hard. On the contrary, it’s actually very easy now that you have this recipe. The hardest part is in the folding, but don’t worry about that, as we’ve shown how it’s done in a short video below.
Important Recipe Tips
Just remember these handy tips, and the rest should be smooth sailing:
- The water MUST be boiling hot when making the dough.
- If the edges of the dough crack as you roll it out, it’s too dry and will be difficult to fold and it will taste rubbery
- If you use small shrimp, keep the shrimp whole or cut them in half only. I used large shrimp, so I decided to mash them slightly and then coarsely chop them.
- Shrimp dumplings are not good as leftovers or reheated, so enjoy these right away!
- I used pork lard for my recipe, but you can use oil as a substitute.
- The dough balls must be covered with a damp paper towel as you assemble the dumplings to prevent them from drying out.
- Prepare the bamboo steamer before assembling the dumplings. Line it with cheesecloth to prevent sticking. Or you can use thinly sliced carrot as a little “seat” the dumpling sits on. (Cute, right?)
Update: Many readers commented about the dough recipe not being correct, so today, I tested and updated the recipe! Turns out that during recipe development, I was making half of the recipe and the mistake happened when I converted the numbers to full recipe. That’s what happens when you try to save your family from eating yet another test batch of har gow. We’re sincerely sorry for all the troubles and disappointments with this recipe! I can’t believe I messed the numbers up after so many test runs. For reinforcement, I also added a comment on how to test the dough in that section of the recipe
For the Har Gow filling:
Mix everything for the filling (except the bamboo) together—the raw shrimp, oyster sauce, oil, white pepper, sesame oil, salt, sugar, and ginger. Whip in one direction for a few minutes until the mixture starts to look sticky.
Then add the chopped bamboo shoots, and mix everything together. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the dough.
For the Har Gow dough:
Mix the wheat starch and cornstarch (or tapioca starch) in a mixing bowl. Slowly add in the boiling water, while stirring rapidly so the mixture quickly turns into a translucent dough.
Now add in the lard (or oil) and continue to stir. While the dough is still hot but “cool” enough to handle, knead the dough for a couple of minutes, until it turns into a smooth dough ball.
Roll the dough into a long cylinder, and divide it into 18 equal pieces (about 22 grams each). It’s best to use a digital kitchen scale which are fairly inexpensive.
Cover the dough pieces with a damp paper towel. To test the dough, take one and roll it into a cigar-like shape, it should form quickly with no sign of cracking or sticking.
Now you are ready to assemble and cook the dumplings:
Turn on the stove to pre-boil the water in the steamer. Take one piece of dough and roll it into a 3” diameter circle.
Add a spoonful of filling and fold the dumpling as shown in our video. Sorry for the abysmal quality of this video. We’ll get better, we promise.
For more detailed dumpling folding photos, instructions and different ways to wrap dumplings, see Sarah’s post on Four Ways to Fold Chinese dumplings.
Continue assembling until all the har gow dumplings are made and prepare your steamer. See our post on how to set up a steamer if you’re not familiar with steaming foods in Chinese cooking.
Once the water in the steamer is boiled, steam the shrimp dumplings for 6 minutes using high heat and serve hot. Make sure that they each have an inch and a half to expand during the cooking process.
Serve the har gow with chili oil or even a traditional dumpling sauce.