Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ha Gao (Shrimp Dumpling)

Ha Gao  (Shrimp Dumpling)

Ha Gao (Cantonese, also Romanized as Ha Gow, Har Gow or Ha Gau, meaning “Shrimp Dumpling”) is possibly the most classic dim sum delicacy, seen in every dim sum restaurant on earth, no matter how limited the menu.  It works excellently as an appetizer for a Western meal, however, in China it is exclusively a dim sum item or a street snack sold alongside other dim sum favorites.  When done well, Ha Gau has a spectacular appearance as well as taste.  Wheat starch is the key ingredient for the skin, and its sticky texture and semi-transparency, while very unusual to western tastes, is ubiquitous in Southern China and Southeast Asia.  When making this snack, you might find that handling the wheat starch wrapper for these dumplings is a challenge. The dough trades off its finished beauty with being sticky and structurally weak to work with. Having said that, because it has no gluten, the dough actually becomes easier to manipulate than wheat flour once you get used to it. I’ve tried to photograph the process in the hopes that this will help.  In any event, the effort will be rewarded...

1       oz         Pork Fat, finely diced (Optional...)
10     oz         deveined and shelled shrimp
1       oz         bamboo shoots, rinsed, drained well, chopped fine.
1       egg       white only, lightly beaten
1       tsp         sugar
1/2    Tab       cornstarch
1/2    tsp         salt
1/2    tsp         sherry
1/2    tsp         sesame oil
Dash    white pepper
Finely mince and pound or puree 1/2 of the shrimp.  With the other half, cut the shrimp into 3 or 4 large segments, depending on the size.  (For appearance and texture, you want large pieces of shrimp in the filling; the finely minced provides an overall binder.)   In a bowl, mix the shrimp and beaten egg white thoroughly.  Add minced pork fat, bamboo shoots, sesame oil, salt, white pepper, sherry and cornstarch.  Mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula.  Refrigerate while you make the skins.


1       Cup      wheat starch
1/4    Cup      tapioca Starch
1       Tab       Peanut oil
1/4    tsp         salt
1       Cup       boiling water
Sift the starches and salt into a bowl; form a well in the powders, then add the oil.  Pour the boiling water, measured with a pre-heated measuring cup, into the well and stir quickly with a rubber spatula.  Scrape the sides as you mix, to incorporate all the ingredients.  Form a ball of dough.  As soon as you can handle the dough, knead it vigorously for a full 3 minutes, occasionally compressing the ball forcefully as you knead.  Wheat starch dough is firm to the gentle touch, but extremely malleable.  This enthusiastic kneading is to insure that the starches and water and oil are smoothly and completely incorporated.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces and let it rest in a plastic bag for 6 minutes.  In the meantime, make certain your steamer water is boiling.  Prepare a parchment paper liner for the steamer tray—punch or cut 1/4” holes randomly in the paper to allow steam to pass through.

Compress each ball into a smooth, round shape and then roll on a flat surface to make a 3/4”to 1” dia.   Rope.  Put three back in the plastic bag and cut the remaining into 3/4” to 1” segments.  To make the skins: working on a high density polyethylene cutting board, place a piece of 4” square piece of parchment paper over the segment and flatten it one at a time with rolling pin, Chinese cleaver, or tortilla press (works great), making sure the skin is a uniform thickness of between 1/16” and 3/16”  This disk will be slightly irregular in shape; you can proceed with making the dumplings and trim the excess with scissors if necessary, or cut the skin now to appx. 3-1/4” diam. using a cookie cutter, empty tin can or similar round object(An empty 6-1/2 oz.  tuna can works very well).  You can make the skins all at once, if they are kept covered with plastic or damp cloth at room temperature.
Pick up the skin very gently (these wrappers are soft and tear easily—even if you nick it with a fingernail, this will likely produce a tear in the dumpling as it steams) put a rounded tablespoon of filling in the middle, fold the skin patially around the filling to form a trough; hold this loosely in the fingers of your left hand, with the thumb resting in the middle, over the filling.   Gently pleat the side furthest from you only, from right to left, using the left thumb and right index finger to guide the pleats against the side closest to you, while the right thumb provides backing.  Pleat along the dumpling, until the dumpling is enclosed.   You need not tightly seal the wrapper as you pleat—the concern at this point is not to stress the wrapper resulting in a tear.  Once it’s pleated, you can press the edges, sealing the dumpling and cutting off the excess if the wrapper wasn’t pre-cut.  Place as many dumplings as you can (without touching) on the paper-lined steamer tray. It is best to use all the wrapper dough right away; it works best when still warm.

Steam the dumplings for 5 minutes.  If it is necessary to take the dumplings out of the steamer tray—as opposed to setting out the tray as a serving dish—you should wait 3 or 4 
minutes while the skins cool somewhat; they are very soft and sticky while piping hot.

If absolutely necessary, these dumplings can be frozen once they are steamed, but they lose about 15% of their texture.  Thaw them on parchment paper or polyethylene cutting board before reheating, and steam for about 3 minutes as before

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to post such a complete method for making these dumpling. Your added insights and fine points will make my attempt so much easier.
    Jim in So Calif