This is probably one of the most famous dim sum and absolutely delicious. This dumpling comprises a prawn filling and the dumpling skin is pearly opaque white and smooth like icing sugar. I remember my mum used to tell us stories about the origins of the har gow – back to our family roots in Guangzhou in a teahouse that sprung up beside the Pearl River Delta. It was run by old man Zhou who had a crooked back who caught the prawns jumping out of the river. There were so many of them that some even got caught in his scraggly white beard and he had big baskets full of fat juicy prawns ready to be made into the filling – that is if you could catch them – as they’d be fighting to jump out of the baskets and back into the river.
This dish is said to be the one that the skill of a dim sum chef is judged on. At the Sweet Mandarin Cookery School we’ve had competitions to see how many pleats one can imprint. Whilst you can go for a respectable five pleats, to really show flair, aim for seven upwards. It is tricky as the skin is so delicate that over-handling can result in a broken dumpling – the cardinal sin of this particular dim sum. The other trick to bear in mind is that the filling mustn’t be overcooked – prawns are very unforgiving and turn rubbery. Ensure that the filling is made first and left to stand whilst you work on the pastry. The time the filling is left to stand gives the salt time to work its magic and draw out the water from the prawns, ensuring they have the perfect stickiness for the dumpling filling. This pastry cannot be made in advance and refrigerated as it will split when rolled out. Therefore only make as much pastry as you need.
One final tip, this dim sum is made to be eaten in one bite so don’t overfill it. In Chinese dim sum etiquette, especially during Chinese New Year, we do not use knives. It is believed that if knives are used to cut the dim sum, then you will also cut the luck out of your life. That is why dim sum and, in particular this dish, is very popular – as they are to be eaten in one fell swoop with no knives needed.
Preparation time 40 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
2 tablespoons bamboo shoots
10 king prawns, peeled and de-veined
½ teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon potato starch
For the wrapper
60g wheat starch
25g tapioca flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
100ml boiling water
- Drain the bamboo shoots on a kitchen paper and chop into small pieces.
- Wash and then soak the king prawns in a damp paper towel. Chop each prawn into four pieces then flatten the prawns using a large knife or hammer until they are 5mm thick. Transfer to a bowl and add the bamboo shoots and ginger. Season with salt, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and potato starch
- Mix the filling in a clockwise motion so that it all sticks together. Transfer to the fridge until the pastry is ready. This will help the salt draw out any excess water from the prawn filling.
- To make the pastry, put both flours in a medium bowl and add the salt and oil. Mix the ingredients together and then quickly add the boiling water and mix fast. It will be incredibly sticky at this stage. Use your hand to continue kneading the dough till it becomes smooth. Cover the bowl with a wet cloth and set aside for 20 minutes to rest.
- Roll the dough into an approx. 18cm log and cut it into 12 even pieces. Press each piece with the palm of the hand and, using a rolling pin, roll the wrapper into a round shape. Add 1 tablespoon of filling to each piece of pastry and begin to pleat the furthest side of the wrapper. Bring the nearest side of the wrapper towards the pleated side and then crimp the tip to close the dumpling fully. The left thumb can be used to shape the back of the dumpling into a moon-shaped curve.
- To cook the har gow, fill a large saucepan or wok one-quarter full with water and put over a high heat. Place a cake rack in the centre. Place the dumplings on parchment paper in a bamboo steamer and transfer the bamboo steamer to the top of the cake rack to steam for 10 minutes.
- Serve the dumplings hot with Sweet Mandarin Sriracha Hot Sauce or soy sauce.
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