How to make the best Har Gow (蝦餃) – Shrimp dumpling recipe

Cantonese shrimp dumplingWho invented Har Gow (shrimp dumpling)?

Ninety years ago, the proprietor of 怡珍茶樓 (Yee Zhen tea house) at the Five Phoenix Village 五鳳鄉 in Guangzhou created Har Gow (shrimp dumpling). He combined the shrimps, bamboo shoot, and pork fat together, and make a dumpling with the rice flour pastry. He named this delicacy as the Five Phoenix dumpling.

Later, other chefs improvised the wrapper by using wheat starch to form a thinner and more delicate dumpling skin. This delicacy has fast become famous in Guangzhou due to its unique presentation and flavor.

Ninety years later, it has evolved into one of the most recognizable Cantonese dim sum, Har Gow.

In this article, I will show you how to make Har Gow (shrimp dumplings) from scratch. It only involved some basic ingredients and can be done easily at home.

The Yam Cha culture

Har Gow is an old-school traditional Cantonese Dim Sum serving steaming hot during ‘Yam Cha”, the time-honored Cantonese version of breakfast tea. The chef usually showcases his culinary craftsmanship by creating multiple pleats on the Har Gow. The Dim Sum lady will load the Har Gow on the trolley and skillfully trundle through the narrow gaps between the marble tables and wooden chairs in a small shop.

Har Gow is the transliteration of the Chinese term 蝦餃, means shrimp dumpling. Along with Shumai and Char Siu Bao, they form the triumvirate of the world famous Cantonese Dim Sum. Har Gow is by far the most artistry one, with the bright pink chunks of fresh shrimps veiled thought the thin, stretchy, chewy, delicate and translucent wrapper.

Har Gow (shrimp dumpling)

 

Shrimp dumpling is the most recognizable Cantonese dim sum. It has a crystal clear, translucent and chewy skin with either chopped or whole shrimp encased in it. It is a bite size delicacy much like sushi. You will experience the shrimp juice oozes out when you take a bite at the best shrimp dumpling.

The key ingredients are shrimps, pork fat and bamboo shoot, with the modern trends shift to only used fresh whole shrimps, which is more flavorful more crunchy.

Dim Sum master chefs can artistically fold eight to thirteen pleats imprinted on its wrapper. This masterful delicacy is called the king of Har Gow or crystal-skinned shrimp dumpling.

This true staple of Cantonese tradition looks simple, but many people are hesitating to make it at home due to the technique involved. What you need is some practice how to pleat the dumplings, although the presentation does not affect the taste of Har Gow.

Step by step guide to make the best Har Gow

1. What are the best ingredients for the wrapper?

There is no consensus of the wrapper’s formula. Most of the recipes include wheat starch, corn starch or tapioca starch and oil.  I have done a series of tests to find out the best ratio of wheat starch, tapioca starch. The ratios are based on the recipe by the well-known food bloggers and renown Dim Sum master chef.

The criterion is to have a shrimp dumpling wrapper that is translucent, stretchable and be able into roll it to an ultra thin layer.

Har gow warpper

The result showed that recipe number 2 yield the best result. The Har Gow skin is elastic, stretchable, able to roll out thinly without breakage. The amount of water is just sufficient which make it pliable and easy to wrap the filling.

You can adjust the amount of the ingredients in my recipe if the skin turns out to be less desirable. The result varies by the quality of the wheat starch, the use of potato starch or corn starch.

Tips and suggestions:

  1. Reduce the amount of cornstarch/tapioca starch/potato starch if the skin is too chewy.
  2. Adjust the amount of the boiling water if necessary until it is not too wet and easy to roll out. You may not need to change the quantity of the water in most cases, but sometimes the quality of the wheat starch differs, and adjustment may require.
  3. Add a small amount of oil (either vegetable oil or lard) to the dough to make it softer and stretchable.

2. How to prepare the wrapper dough for the best result

Mix the wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the boiling water and stir the flour and boiling water vigorously until it forms a sticky dough.  Then add a small amount of oil, and knead it until it is smooth, pliable and homogeneous.

Anyone who knows how to make bread will understand this process. However, there are a few points you want to take note to ensure it turns out perfectly:

Tips and suggestions:

  1. You must use boiling water when making the dough.
  2. The amount of water should be sufficient to form a soft, malleable dough. If the dough cracks when you roll it out, it means you need to increase the quantity of water. (More information about this in the following sections).
  3. I used vegetable oil for my recipe, but you can use lard as a substitute.

shrimp dumpling recipe

3. The optimum amount of water for the dough

There is one problem that you may encounter when making the shrimp dumpling wrapper for the first time. You will find that the boiling water required varied significantly from one recipe to another.  For example, chef 孙志强 use only half of the amount of boiling water compare to the total amount of starch, while blogger Wantanmian uses much more water than other chefs.

Why is such as significant disparity of the quantity?

It is likely due to different quality of the wheat starch.  Experience Dim Sum chefs develop ‘hand-feel”, means they will be able to know whether the dough is moist enough by touching and kneading it.

Since this types of ‘feel” can only develop through experience, the following guideline is useful to anyone new to making the shrimp dumpling wrapper:

Tips and suggestions:


The dough is too dry if:

  1. The dough cracks at the side when you roll it into a circle.
  2. Hard to roll it to paper thin.
  3. It tears when you wrap the filling half way.

The dough is too wet if:

  1. It is sticky.

Either way, you can add a small amount of wheat starch to the dough if it is too wet, or add some boiling water if it is too dry.  After that, knead it again until it is smooth and even.

Let the dough relax for five minutes before cutting it into small pieces.

4. How to roll out the wrapper

In my opinion, the way of spreading the dough to paper thin with the back of the Chinese cleaver is more efficient than by the rolling pin. You need some practice, but you will never use the rolling pin anymore once you master the technique.

 

Here are the steps:

  1. Roll the dough into a long cylinder. Cut them into about 12g to 15g each. (You may want to start with 15g first, as it is easy to fold the large than the small one.)
  2. Keep the dough balls in a container with a cover or leave it in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
  3. Apply some oil with a brush to the side of the knife that you use to press and spread the dough into a thin round layer. The oil will prevent the dough from sticking to the knife. You can apply more oil to the knife (and the surface of the dough) if the dough sticks to the knife as you drag and spread the dough into a thin layer. Oil work much better than applying flour and is the standard practice by the chefs.
  4. Roll out the dough to a round shape, And one-half should be thinner than the other. The thicker side is the base of the dumpling, and the other side is for making delicate folds that review the shrimps inside the dumplings.

If you find that this is too difficult, you can use the rolling pin the roll out the dumpling wrapper, just like making pastry. I think many people who made pastry before will find that it is easier to do it with the rolling pin.

5. How to fold the dumpling

There is no fixed method to fold the dumpling. An easy way for one person may turn out to be difficult for the others.

I use simple methods to pleat the dumpling in the video. Wrapping the dumpling is the tricky part to making shrimp dumplings for most people.

Here is the method:
Hold the dumpling skin in your hand and place the filling off center, slightly towards the thicker side of the dumpling. Pleat the dumpling by pushing the dumpling skin with the index finger of one hand and press to secure the pleat with the index finger of another hand.  (Ahh! It ‘s hard to explain so, please watch the video 🙂 ).

Tips to wrap the Har Gow


The following points are applicable regardless how do you want to fold it.

  1. Place the filling slightly off center and closer to the thicker part of the dumpling skin. This placing of the filling allows more area of the wrapper for pleating.
  2. Bigger dumpling is easy to make than the small one.
  3. Create a loose cavity to hold the filling to avoid the skin from tearing due to the expansion of the shrimp during steaming.

dim sum- Har Gow

6. The best ingredients for the dumpling filling

The main ingredients for the filling consist of shrimps, bamboo shoot, and pork fat. The seasoning consists of oil, ground white pepper, sesame oil, salt, and sugar. Some recipe includes a small amount of oyster sauce, minced garlic, and chopped ginger.

I prefer to keep the seasoning light and simple and let the flavor of the shrimps shines.

My recipe consists of coarsely chopped shrimps plus a whole shrimp, and bamboo shoots. I have omitted the pork fat for the healthy reason.

Here are the steps:

  1. Marinade the shrimp in a baking soda solution for twenty minutes is the secret to getting plump shrimp. Baking soda (some chefs use lye water) increase the pH of the shrimps and help to retain the moisture as it cooks.  You may just use salt to marinate the shrimp as in this recipe if you do not think plump shrimp is important.  You will get the same taste an flavor by omitting this step.
  2. Marinate the shrimp with salt will make it more crunchy.
  3. If you like to include some pork fat into the recipe (I just happy with shrimps and bamboo shoots), cut the pork fat blanch it in boiling water briefly until it is just cooked. Transfer it to cold water and soak it until it returns to room temperature. This simple treatment of pork fat can make it less greasy.
  4. You can double up the quantity of bamboo shoots if you want to omit the pork fat.
  5. Keep the filling in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before proceed to wrapping.  Cold filling is easier to wrap into the wrapper.

7. How to steam the shrimp dumplings

Here are the steps:

  1. Steam for six minutes over high heat, lid on.
  2. You can place the shrimp dumpling directly in the bamboo steamer or by lining it with a piece of baking paper or cheesecloth. Apply some oil to prevent it from sticking. The dumplings are quite sticky after steaming and can stick onto the unoiled surface.
  3. Shrimp dumplings are best to serve while it is still hot, immediately after steaming. That is why Dim Sum stores will steam the shrimp dumplings upon order.
  4. Deep freeze the shrimp dumplings if you do not intend to steam it immediately.  You can steam the frozen shrimp dumplings just like the fresh one, but steam for an extra minute to ensure it cooks through.

Watch this video

Step by step shrimp dumpling recipe (7.46 minutes)

Cantonese Shrimp Dumpling Recipe

5.0 from 2 reviews
How to make the best Har Gow (蝦餃)
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15 dumplings
 
Shrimp dumpling is one of the most famous Cantonese dim sum available.
Ingredients
  • Cantonese shrimp dumpling
The dough
The filling
Instructions
The dough
  1. Mix the wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the boiling water into the mixing bowl. Stir the mixture vigorously until it looks like snowflakes.
  3. Add the oil.
  4. Knead the dough until soft and pliable.
  5. Cover it and let it relax for 5 minutes.
  6. Put it on a work surface and roll it into long strips.
  7. Cut dough into small portions, 15-20g each.
  8. Roll out the dough, wrap the shrimp filling with the wrapper.
The filling
  1. Clean and devein the shrimps. Marinate with salt for 5 minutes and wash thoroughly under running water.
  2. Chop the shrimp coarsely.
  3. Chop the bamboo shoots into small pieces.
  4. Mix the shrimps, bamboo shoots, and the seasoning together until it become sticky.
To steam
  1. Place the dumplings in the bamboo steamer.
  2. Steam for 6 minutes.
  3. Serve immediately.
Notes
The weight for the shrimp in the recipe weight around 300 g of shrimp meat.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 15 dumplings Calories: 1100 Fat: 18g Sugar: 8g Sodium: 3g Protein: 115g Cholesterol: 1050mg

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post.


Reference

1. Har Gow (Dim Sum Shrimp Dumplings)
2. Food of China Paperback – May 1, 2009 by Kay Halsey (Author)
3. Har Gow (Chinese Shrimp Dumplings) Recipe
4. Dim Sum Classics: How to Make Crystal Skin Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)
5. Wantanmien
6. 超多图示范在家怎样做出一品虾饺皇
7. 蝦餃之王 蜘蛛肚彈牙爆汁

 

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har gow (shrimp dumpling) pin
How to make the best Har Gow (蝦餃) – Shrimp dumpling recipe was last modified: September 11th, 2017 by KP Kwan

10 Comments

  • KP Kwan

    Reply Reply February 4, 2017

    Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am glad to reply any questions and comments as soon as possible.

  • Jeff Cheung

    Reply Reply February 6, 2017

    Do you have a gluten free recipe for the dough?

    Thanks

  • Samantha

    Reply Reply March 14, 2017

    Hi KP,
    Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
    Would like to ask if the hargow can be frozen to be steamed the next morning or how should the hargows be stored overnight?
    Thank you!

    Sam

    • KP Kwan

      Reply Reply March 14, 2017

      Hi Sam,

      After you have made the har gaw, you can place them in a container and place the container in the freezer. Make sure each of them is not touching each other to prevent them from sticking together.

      When you want to steam them, you can steam directly from the frozen state, but just a little longer.

      Hope this helps.

      KP Kwan

  • Mun Yee Wong

    Reply Reply March 22, 2017

    Thanks KP for responding to my comment on your youtube channel. The reason I watched through youtube was due to the fact that I couldn’t get it loaded here. Anyway, I tried a number of har how recipes recently and my daughter wanted me to give up. She said shu mai is so much easier and tastier. Not a person to give up easily, I tried yesterday and they turned out pretty good, though not perfect yet. The dough was too wet when I overpoured 6g of water. But I had to add quite a lot of wheat flour to get the right consistency. Daughter was placated. You may like to know that I got my dough skin by pressing a ball of dough between plastic sheets using a flat glass plate. For me, it was so much easier than trying with the cleaver. Many thanks again!

    • KP Kwan

      Reply Reply March 22, 2017

      Hi Mun Yee,

      Thank for your response and glad that you tried it.

      Roll the dough between two plastic sheets in a brilliant way to roll the dough. I use the same technique to roll my Chinese egg tart pastry. You can check out this recipe on my blog too.

      I use a different player to play the same video on YouTube and my blog since this week. Try either one if the other does not work.

      Most importantly, your daughter was happy with it.

      KP Kwan

  • Mun Yee Wong

    Reply Reply March 22, 2017

    Hi KP,

    Nice to hear from you again! I make a lot of egg tarts using short crust pastry. I am a passionate novice cook and my mantra is ‘1001 recipes to try before i die.’ Are you serious about giving away a free recipe book when you publish it? I’ve already sign up and hope to have many more recipes to try! 🙂

    • KP Kwan

      Reply Reply March 23, 2017

      Hi Mun Yee,

      Certainly. All my readers who sign up for the book will get it free. I have a list so I can inform you once it is completed. The commitment also ensure I am not lazy and put the project aside 🙂

      KP Kwan

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