Har Gow, called Xia Jiao (虾饺) in Chinese, is dumpling with crystal skin and shrimp filling. It is the best-known Cantonese dumping. Together with Char Siu Bao, shiumai, and Egg tart, it is given the title “four kings” among the Cantonese dim sum dishes.
MY FIRST HAR GOW TASTING EXPERIENCE
I remember clearly the first time I tried Har Gow in my life. I was brought on a trip by my grandma when I was 7 to visit a relative Uncle Wang in Guangzhou. One day we all went to Yum Cha, the Cantonese tradition of brunch involving Chinese tea and dim sum. Uncle Wang ordered all the must-tries on the Dim Sum card, one of them of course was the Har Gow.
I was immediately attracted by this dish because I had never seen dumplings with crystal semi-transparent skin before. The pinky filling underneath the crystal skin also aroused my curiosity as a little girl.
After the first bite, it didn’t take me too long to finish the whole dumpling. Uncle Wang noticed that I wanted to have more and there was no more left in the steamer (one steamer came with only 3 Har Gow), he placed another order. At the end I finished 3 steamers (portions) all by myself!
Since then, this dish took a piece of my heart. And I had always remembered Guangzhou as the city, where you could enjoy the delicious Har Gow! It was also this experience that made me fall in love the Cantonese cuisine and its food culture. in the later stage of my life, I even worked my best to move and live in Canton and its nearby area Hong Kong!
HOW TO SUCCEED IN MAKING HAR GOW AT HOME
It took me a while to finally publish a recipe of Har Gow. I had tried a few times at home before, but all failed as I couldn’t get the right texture of the crystal skin. The reason for this was the choice of the flours.
Corn starch (粟粉) and potato starch
The crystal skin is made of combination of different starches. One of them is the wheat starch. The rest varies.
Many recipes of Har Gow suggest to use corn starch (粟粉) to mix with the wheat starch. I had tested a few times using corn starch. but the dough all turned out very fragile with zero elasticity! During the folding or after cooked on steam, the skin would crack or even broken. Additionally, it felt caky in the mouth! Nothing like the texture of the Har Gow skin in the dim sum restaurant: al dente!
The reason that the corn starch didn’t work out for me remains a mystery. I will give it another try in the future, with adjustment to the ration with the wheat starch, as well as change of the brand (same flour/ starch made by different brands may have different characters).
In the meantime, I have switched to another frequently used starch: potato starch. It has similar character to corn starch. But in this case, it was able to give me a skin more workable and more al dente!
Other tips on making good Har Gow
- Using boiling water to mix the dough
The boiling water cooks the starch and makes the dough elastic. Once the water is boiled, immediately pour it into the starch mixture and stir to let the starch get “burnt”. Rest it for 5 minutes to let it cool down before kneading.
- Knead the dough to let it thoroughly absorb the lard/ oil
Add in some lard or vegetable oil into the cooled starch then knead it to get a smooth dough.
- Always keep the dough hydrated
Once your dough is formed, it is suggested to always keep it hydrated. Brush a layer of vegetable oil and cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap. Start to roll the dough into dumpling wraps when you have got everything ready.
- Bamboo shoots & pork fat in the filling
I eliminated two traditional ingredients (bamboo shoots and pork fat) in my recipe because:
- Bamboo shoot is not a common ingredient. I wanted to make a recipe eventually handier, even for my Italian readers. Moreover, I wanted to try a version without bamboo shoot and see if it still worked. It turned out well.
- I eliminated the pork fat simply because I wanted a healthier recipe. That’s the purpose of home cooking, isn’t it? But instead, I used minced pork to maintain the juiciness from the animal fat.
- Don't be too ambitious with the filling when folding Har Gow
Shrimp will grow into slightly bigger size after being steamed, which may break the crystal skin. So don't be too ambitious taking the filling when fold the dumplings. Better take smaller portion than you think you could handle.
HAR GOW: CRYSTAL DUMPLINGS WITH SHRIMP FILLING (虾饺)Course: PRIMO, RAVIOLI CINESICuisine: Cantonese, CineseDifficulty: High
Har Gow, called Xia Jiao (虾饺) in Chinese, is dumpling with crystal skin and shrimp filling. It is the best-known Cantonese dumping.
- The Dough
Wheat starch: 120g
Potato starch: 40g
Boiling water: 160ml
- The Filling
Minced pork: 50g
Grated ginger: 2-3g
Chopped scallion: 1/2
White pepper: 2-3g
Light soy sauce: 2 tbsp
Oyster sauce: 1 tbsp
Salt: a little bit
Sesame oil: 1 tbsp
- The Dough
- Put the wheat starch and potato starch in a bowl and mix them together.
- Add boiling water into the starch mixture little by little meanwhile stir them. Leave it for 5 minutes to let it cool down.
- (after 5 minutes) Add the lard and knead the dough until the dough becomes smooth and compact.
- Brush some sunflower oil on the surface of the dough and cover it with plastic wrap.
- The Filling
- Finely chop half portion of the shrimp. Meanwhile roughly chop the other half.
- Mix the shrimp with pork, ginger and scallion.
- Add in the white pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce and salt. Mix everything well.
- Add in sesame oil at the end. The filling is ready.
- Har Gow
- Take a piece of the dough and roll it into a log.
- Divide into small pieces with each weights around 15g.
- Roll each piece into a ball. Then shape them into disk shape with a rolling pin.
- Put some filling at the center of the wrap and fold it with the same method as the dumpling (check the folding method #5).
- Put the Har Gow in the steamer leaving some space among each of them.
- Bring a pot of water to boiling. Put the steamer on top and steam for 5-6 minutes.