August 28, 2023

Har Gow Shrimp Dumpling 蝦餃點心

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Our latest Dim Sum adventure!  Naturally it must be the world famous Shrimp Dumpling, also known as Har Gow.  Anyone can tell you that Har Gow 蝦餃 (and that other superstar Siu Mai 燒賣) is a must at any dim sum lunch!  (Psst..check out our fab Siu Mai 燒賣 recipe!)

Psst...For those who don't know what Dim Sum 點心 is, it's a food tradition started in Chinese teahouses where little steamers or plates of delicately made foods both savory and sweet were served to go with fragrant cups of tea.  Today this food tradition is still going strong in Dim Sum restaurants everywhere!

Okay, first, confession time: we've been having lots of har gow dumplings lately.  Cuz we wanted to make the perfect Har Gow and our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd attempts were just not quite right.  The dumplings that we managed to make were tasty but the wrapper, oh, the wrapper was quite the bitch to get right.  Too sticky, too thick, too lumpy, etc...

Attempt number four, finally, we got it!  Oh the Har Gow 蝦餃 we made!   Perfect and delicate little dumplings of deliciously sea sweet shrimp fillings encased in thin translucent skins, all wrapped with the quintessential 13 nos of pleats that form the distinctive half moon Har Gow shape.

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There are so many Har Gow recipes and I can say for a fact that we have tried many of them both from online and from books.  The many dumplings that came from these recipes were fine but the wrappers were disappointing.  We wanted to get as close as possible to the delicately pleated shrimp dumplings that are served at the fabulous dim sum restaurants.

Anyhoo, we finally got the har gow that we wanted!  Read on as we share our tips on getting that perfect har gow!

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You’ll want to make the perfect filling first.  It's pretty straightforward.  The flavor star of this dumpling naturally is sea sweet fresh shrimp.  We just used flash frozen shrimp which is pretty darn good nowadays.  

The shrimp should be processed into a paste.  You can also have shrimp lumps in your dumplings by reserving some of the shrimp and slicing into pieces.  However we found that the dumplings are easier to make if the filling does not have big shrimp lumps in it.  Traditionally the shrimp is all paste.

Easy way to process the shrimp is to just press down with the side of your big cleaver it you have one.  Smash mashed!  If you don't have a big mean 'ol cleaver just use food processor to blitz until just mashed.  Don't overdo it tho, cuz then the paste will be bouncy.

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Tender yet crunchy bamboo shoots 竹筍 and a bit of minced pork are the only other ingredients.  Bamboo shoots provide a tender and crunchy textural contrast to the filling.  It’s important to slice the shoots quite thin in order to have a smooth filling.

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The addition of a bit of minced fatty pork is traditional and provides a bit of porky flavor to the mix.  I think, though, that you could do without it if you’d like.

The rest is all seasonings.  There is salt, sugar, a pinch of white pepper, a splash of sesame oil.  Finally there is starch to bind the liquids in the filling.

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The last step for the har gow filling is the 'stir', in one direction, until the mixture comes together as a paste.  See how this photo looks different from the the last one.  That difference is all due to the stirring.  Now cover and let chill in the fridge while you make the wrapper.

Filling done, let's address the all important dumpling wrapper, the pivotal thing to get right in order to make the perfect Har Gow.  This type of wrapper, called Crystal Skin Wrapper 水晶皮, when cooked, becomes a thin translucent skin.  All the dim sum dumplings that have translucent skin use this type of special wrapper.  

We tried so many recipes for making crystal skin, all of which assured us that this would be the one to help us make the perfect crystal wrapper.  However, we found to our disappointment that these doughs came out either sticky, hard to pleat, hard to roll out or just too thick.  Dumplings could be made with these recipes, but they didn't look like the elegant har gows we had in dim sum restaurants and importantly the thick skins overpowered the mouthfeel of the delicate dumpling.

We finally found the method that works!  Please check out our detailed post on How to Make Crystal Skin Wrapper 水晶皮 to see what worked for us, how to make smooth and silky dough wrappers that steam up to be translucent and delicately thin.  Also very vital was that the dough be easy to work with and pleat, as the Har Gow dumpling has 13, that's right 13, pleats to make!

Once you've made the crystal skin dough you're ready to wrap!  Remember it's important to weigh the portions out so your dumplings come out the same size.  Then roll the wrappers out quite thin.  A trick with rolling out thin is to use silicon mat to roll on.

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So you’ve rolled out your wonderfully thin wrapper.  See how the color of the silicon mat is actually showing thru?  That's just about the right thinness.  Weigh the filling and add onto the wrapper.  If you find that the wrapping is tricky take away a bit of filling, then add more as you gain confidence in the folding of the dumpling.  

It's easier to weigh while the wrapper is still on the silicone mat.  Then you can peel it off, wrapper and filling, all at once.

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Next a bit of a trick to position and balance the dumpling in your hand.  Place your wrapper over the fingers of one hand with the filling in the middle right over your middle finger beneath.  By dropping your middle finger a bit the shape of the dumpling starts to appear.  

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Next to the pleats!  Hold the dumpling so that it looks like a 'taco'.  The side of the 'taco' furthest from you will be the 'straight' side the pleats are stuck onto.  The side of the 'taco' closest to you is the side that will be pleated.

Making the pleats seems tricky at first but it's actually not.  You just have to get used to it a bit.  Use the thumb of the hand holding the dumpling to push a fold of wrapper over to make the first pleat at the 'taco' end furthest out from your hand.  Use fingers from other hand to catch and press the pleat into the back 'straight' side.

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Repeat the pleating until you have reached the other side.  There should be 13 pleats traditionally but a few pleats less won't hurt the wee dumpling.   It takes practice to get the folds even.  

Check out our video showing in detail the Har Gow pleating technique:

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Your finished dumpling, with its 13 nos of pleats will, thru the pleating itself, take on the characteristic half moon shape of the har gow.  Pretty cool, huh?

Keep 'em covered as you wrap.  Soon it will be time to steam these lovelies.  While these are steaming prepare some tea.  Have a lovely afternoon tea along with your yummilicious and beautiful handmade Har Gow dumplings!  We love dim sum!!

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Har Gow Shrimp Dumpling
(makes 20 dumplings). Prep time: 30 mins    Cook time: 6 mins


    Dough wrapper:


Prepare the Filling: Peel shrimp shells and devein shrimp if needed.  Use the flat of a cleaver or a food processor to just mash up the shrimp meat.  Slice bamboo shoots to very thin 1/2 inch matchstick slices.  Add fatty pork and bamboo shoots to shrimps and stir the mixture in one direction only until a paste forms.  Add in salt, sugar, starch and stir, again in one direction, until combined.  Add in oil and sesame oil and stir, again in one direction, until combined.  Cover and chill in fridge while making the wrapper dough.

Prepare the Wrapper: Make the dumpling wrapper dough according to our recipe for Crystal Skin Dumpling Wrapper Recipe 水晶皮製作.

Roll out wrappers: Divide dough into 20 equal portions or weigh out into 10g portions.  Roll into balls and cover.  Take one ball and roll out into 3 1/4 inch circle wrapper.  Carefully peel up rolled out dough wrapper and place into middle three fingers of dominant hand.  

Add the Filling to Wrapper: Weight out 1/2 oz/15g of filling and place in a line along the middle of wrapper, just over your middle finger beneath.  Let your middle finger drop a bit and see a 'taco' shape form.  This shape is the beginning of your har gow.

Pleat the Wrapper: To close up the dumpling, make pleats by using the thumb of hand holding the dumpling to push out a fold from right to left, starting the first pleat at the furthest side of the taco from your hand.  Use the fingers of the other hand to press the pleat to the other side firmly.  

Continue to push the pleat out, secure the pleat, etc. until you have either made 13 pleats (the traditional no) or reached the other side of the 'taco'.  Press the pleats again to make sure they are secure.  Repeat for rest of the dumplings, making sure to cover the finished dumplings to keep them from drying out.

Check out our video of How to Wrap Har Gow for a closer look at wrapping and pleating.

Cook the Dumplings: Prepare a steamer first by adding an oiled sheet of parchment paper.  Don't forget the oil cuz the dumpling will stick!  

Tip: If using a stainless steel steamer wrap a kitchen towel around the lid, tying the ends up around the handle.  The towel will catch condensation drips before they end up on your dumplings.  If using a bamboo steamer the condensation is mostly absorbed by the bamboo but wrap a towel anyways to catch any stray drips.

Place dumplings on oiled parchment paper with 1/2" space in between.  Steam over medium heat for 5 mins.  Serve hot and yummilicious!

Prepare for Storage: If not eating right away place uncooked dumplings onto a tray and freeze.  Once frozen you can put the har gow in a ziplock bag.  Keeps for 2 months in the freezer.   To cook place frozen dumplings in the steamer and steam over medium heat for 7-8 mins.  

Delectable Dim Sum at The Hong Kong Cookery:



  1. I made this today, taking two shortcuts: I put everything through a meat grinder and used regular wonton wrappers. It was great, but I should have put a little bit more white pepper and bamboo shoots in it. And I should have chopped it up by hand. Maybe even put a little bit of ginger in? Anyway: thanks for this wonderful food blog. I was taught Chinese cuisine by a guy whose apprenticeship on a floating restaurant in Hongkong took 12 years and appreciate your recipes very much!

  2. Wow, taught by a cook from the floating restaurant! That's so super cool! The meat grinder is an interesting idea, I wish I had one of those. But I wouldn't put the bamboo shoots thru that, rather cut them by hand to keep the crunch. A bit more white pepper is always welcome in my book, love that distinctive kick. Hope you enjoyed your har gow! ~ellen

    1. I have been coming to your blog for years and years and never left a comment. I am sure there a many thousand people like me who are deeply grateful that you freely share your excellence in cooking with us.

    2. Thanks and lotsa foodilicious love back to you! 😍