HAR GOW!! A true yum cha (dim sum) favourite. Har gow (蝦餃 in mandarin) or crystal prawn dumplings are served steamed and filled with juicy, flavourful prawn (shrimp) meat wrapped in lightly translucent ('crystal') dumpling skin.
The authentic Cantonese style has minced bamboo shoots added but lately, ones without are becoming more and more popular. I like old school and so this recipe contains some minced bamboo shoots which I think add a nice layer of aromatic flavour profile to these little parcels of happiness.
Prawn dumplings are always served as a side, with other complementing dishes such as Chinese Broccoli, char siu bao (BBQ pork buns), other types of dumplings (Vegan or Pork Dumplings), fried rice (Chinese sausage fried rice or Prawn Fried Rice), stir-fried noodles like this Chicken Hokkien Noodles and so much more!
Perfect eaten as is or, with a side of super aromatic homemade Chilli Oil like the photo below!
I don't know about you, but a basket of har gow is always the first thing I look for and order at dim sum restaurants. During months of lockdown in Sydney, the cravings for yum cha food was REAL. So what is a person to do? Make countless batches of har gow until the flavour is JUST right (with many failed attempts along the way, of course). I'm very happy with this recipe and I hope you will too!
This har gow recipe is a labour of love.. and that casual peckish feeling in the belly.
Okay. Let's get into it!
- Prawns (shrimp) - for convenience, get the peeled, deveined prawns which usually comes in bags in the freezer section of the supermarket. If you're hardcore, feel free to peel and devein prawns at home. Just make sure you get your hands on the freshest prawns! Otherwise, they will turn out grainy in texture once cooked. It'd be a shame!
- Wheat starch - not to be confused with corn starch! Wheat starch can be found at Asian supermarkets (see package image below). I do not recommend any substitutes, I have tried replacing wheat starch with corn starch once without success. Everything went well until I lifted the lid after steaming. All of the dumplings broke apart during the steaming process. Stick with wheat starch!
- Tapioca starch - no substitute for this either. To my Australian readers, I have been able to get my hands on tapioca starch from both Coles and Woolies! Otherwise, Asian supermarkets will have these in stock.
- Shaoxing wine - a Chinese food essential! Adds depth and flavour to dishes.
- Sesame oil - usually used in very small quantities to avoid overpowering the overall flavour of a dish as sesame oils have a strong aroma. However, with prawn dumplings, you want more than just a couple of drops. Makes a big difference!
- Bamboo shoots - you can find these in small cans at Asian supermarkets or in the Asian aisle of big supermarkets (yes at both Coles and Woolies).
Equipments required (important!)
You'll need a dumpling rolling pin (otherwise, a normal large one will be fine too), a steamer or bamboo steamer baskets and a mini food processor.
The mini food processor is key here. To produce that juicy prawn filling just like those at yum cha restaurants, the secret is to blend the prawn filling into a paste.
Have you tried Asian pork/beef/fish balls (think, special pho, hot pot, noodle soups etc)? They all have that almost bouncy yet juicy texture. One thing in common: they have all been quickly blended into a paste before cooking. This is key to juicy har gow success!
Bear in mind, over blending is a no go either (will turn gummy). This is why in the recipe card below, I've put down the estimated blending time. Just seconds will do!
Note the emphasis on 'mini' food processor. This is because this recipe is using only 300g / 11oz of prawns. You can use a larger food processor if doubling or tripling the recipe. It's easier to work with a small food processor when blending small quantities of ingredients.
Ps. you can buy dumpling rolling pins from most Asian supermarkets. They're just like the normal rolling pins but much thinner which is ideal for rolling out dumpling skins.
If you don't have a food processor
If you don't have a food processor, you can adopt the OG traditional technique by crushing the prawns with a Chinese cleaver blade. More work is involved using this method as only a few can be crushed at a time into a paste. You've got to crush the prawns a few times to get that nice paste consistency.
Simply dicing the prawns into a mince-like paste will just not cut it. I've tried, the filling end up being a little grainy and separated.
How to make har gow
There are 4 core components to making dumplings: prepare the filling, make the dumpling dough, wrap and finally, steam.
The most tricky part will be the wrapping part. Don't worry, I've got you covered. You'll find a clear, how-to video just above the recipe card below!
Preparing the filling
Aside from blending the prawn filling, there is another trick that Chinese restaurant dim sum chefs use to add another layer of fanciness to their har gow: solid chunks of prawns inside the filling.
To do this, all you've got to do is cut up some of the prawns into chunks. If you have small-ish prawns, keep them whole. If using large ones, cut them in half or thirds. Cut enough chunks so that there is 1 piece per dumpling. This recipe makes 20 small dumplings so cut enough for 20.
Blend the rest with bamboo shoots and seasoning.
To avoid over blending prawns, first, blend the bamboo shoots into small pieces. You might need to stop halfway, scrape the sides of the food processor as the bamboo shoots can get stuck on the sides. This will only take a few seconds.
Then add remaining prawns, blend for 3 seconds before adding seasoning ingredients (sesame oil, white pepper, oil, salt, sugar and shaoxing wine). Blend for a further 5 seconds. Do not blend any further.
Transfer the prawn paste into a mixing bowl, mix in prawns chunks. Cover with cling wrap (plastic) then refrigerate until you're ready to wrap the dumplings!
Prepare and make the translucent dumpling dough
Now time to start preparing the dough.
Making dumpling wrappers from scratch is actually very easy but has one very important technique that cannot be overlooked.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt together with a pair of chopsticks (or a fork). Then, add the oil and BOILING hot water.
The ratio between the starches and hot water is important and precise. So you've got to use a food scale to weigh these ingredients. With too much tapioca starch, the dumpling turns out too chewy and with too little water, the dough will start to crack on the outer edges when rolling.
Tip: put the bowl with starch mixture onto a food scale then pour the required amount of boiling water straight from the kettle into the bowl.
Very quickly, mix the dough mixture. It should solidify and turn into a rough dough. If not, that means the water was not boiling. Discard and start over. There is no way to salvage it.
Then, transfer the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for around 3 minutes until a smooth dough is formed without any lumps. The dough should not be sticky.
Roll out the dough into a long cigar, about 30cm/12" long then divide into 20 equal pieces (or 16 if you want to make large dumplings). Immediately, cover the dough pieces with the mixing bowl used to make the dough or a damp tea towel. The pieces can overlap without issues.
Wrapping the dumpling
Time to wrap. To start, grease the rolling pin with neutral-tasting oil using a tea towel or paper towel.
If the day you're making this recipe is a rather hot day, I suggest sitting the prawn filling bowl on an ice pack to keep the raw prawns cool and fresh.
Don't worry, I've got a video below to show you exactly how to roll out the dumpling skins and fold dumplings.
To begin, take one piece of dumpling dough, roll it into a round sphere with the palm of your hands then place and press the dough onto the work surface into a disk. Then, roll the dough into a round translucent skin or sheet, turning regularly to keep it evenly round.
To fold a dumpling, spoon a small teaspoon worth of prawn filling into the middle of a rolled translucent skin. Make sure to include one chunky piece of prawn in each dumpling!
Pleat the dumplings with one hand holding onto the dumpling in a folded position but not sealed, and with the other, fold the dumpling with your thumb and index finger. Moving from one end to the other, forming small pleats. Make sure each pleat is well sealed before moving on to the next.
Repeat for the 19 remaining dumplings.
This is the trickiest part. Folding those pleats. Next time you're at yum cha, look carefully and count the number of pleats on a har gow. You'll be amazed at the skills of the dim sum chefs! Each har gow generally will have ten or more pleats!
Fun fact: Din Tai Fung (one of the best dumpling restaurants worldwide) chefs make sure each one of their dumplings has 12 pleats! That's some precise work, isn't it!
As a home cook, I'm happy with my eight or so pleats 🙂
You can fold these dumplings a few hours in advance before cooking. Simply lay them out onto a tray, without overlapping, cover with a damp tea towel or cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to steam.
Steam and serve
To steam, line the bamboo steamer baskets with baking paper (parchment paper). Roughly measure and cut the baking paper to fit the bamboo baskets. I like to cut small holes in the baking paper too to allow steam to travel.
Do not place the uncooked dumplings straight into bamboo steamer baskets. THEY WILL STICK and will break apart as soon as you try lifting it. All that hard work of wrapping each individual dumpling will be wasted!
When filling the baskets with dumplings, make sure to space them out. The har gow will expand as it cooks.
I used a medium-sized steamer basket and was able to fit 10 small dumplings per basket.
To steam, boil water in a large pot or wok. The amount of water is dependent on how large your pot is. Just make sure, at boiling point, the water cannot touch the baskets.
Finally, place the bamboo steamer and steam with the lid on, on top of the boiling pot/wok and steam on high heat for 7 minutes.
Serve as is or with a fragrant chilli oil dipping sauce.
Tips for making the best har gow at home
- Use BOILING hot water to make the translucent dumpling dough. Pour it into the starch mixture directly from the kettle. This will effectively 'cook' the starches, turning them into solids. I've used hot water that has been sitting on the counter for a brief couple of minutes. Guess what? It did nothing for the dough. Instead of an actual dough, the mixture was just liquid. If this happens to you, just tip it out, turn on the kettle again and start over.
- Use a mini food processor to blend the prawn filling mixture! The most important technique to juicy, delicious prawn filling.
- Grease the rolling pin with an oily paper towel or tea towel after rolling out each dumpling skin. Flouring the work surface will dry out the dough and thus making it impossible to work with. To prevent any dough bits from getting stuck on the rolling pin, a little oil will do just the trick!
- Do not overfill! Use around a heaped teaspoon per dumpling. Unlike flour dumpling sheets, crystal dumpling sheets don't stretch so be mindful of how much filling you use!
- If you accidentally put too much in, just scoop out the excess with a small spoon.
- Rule of thumb: you don't want to touch any of the fillings with your fingers when wrapping. This will prevent any sticky disasters!
- Practice practice practice! Don't worry if your first few don't come out perfectly. You'll get the hang of it! Watch my video below to get you started.
- If you've never wrapped dumplings before, I suggest you use store-bought dumplings skins (or wonton sheets) and practice using those first. You can follow my how to fold dumplings video using homemade dumpling sheets or my how to fold wontons video using store-bought wonton sheets. You'll find I dab a little water on the store-bought dumpling sheets (in the wonton video). A little water helps dumplings seal nicely. If using homemade dumpling sheets, this step can be omitted.
Good to know (FAQs)
Use a bowl! Place a deep, medium-sized bowl upside down in a large pot or wok, fill with hot water, leaving around 8cm/3" of the bowl uncovered. Bring the water up to boil. Place dumplings onto a plate lined with baking paper and sit the plate onto the bowl. Make sure to use a plate that would fit inside the pot/wok used. Cover and steam on high heat for 7 minutes.
To reheat, simply steam for about 5 minutes on high heat.
If you're using fresh raw prawns to make these dumplings, you can freeze for up to 2 months in airtight containers. To freeze, place the dumplings onto a baking tray, without overlapping and freeze for about 1 hour in the freezer. Then stack in airtight containers and freeze.
However, if using frozen prawns then it is best not to refreeze uncooked prawns and therefore, these prawn dumplings.
Around 50 calories each!
No, since wheat starch is used which contains gluten.
So many things! Pretty much any Asian dish goes well dumplings. Think stir-fries, noodles, soups, rice etc. Some suggestions: Chinese Broccoli, fragrant Chinese Sausage Fried Rice, Chicken Noodle Stir Fry or San Choy Bow just to name a few!
Dim sum is the Cantonese word for small dishes that are served at restaurants for breakfast and lunch. Dim sum covers both sweet and savoury dishes. Dumpling is a general term for dishes with fillings wrapped in dough such as my Vegan Dumplings and super easy Pork Wontons!
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Har Gow (Dim Sum Crystal Prawn Dumplings)
- Mini food processer or blender
- Steamer or bamboo steamer basket
- Rolling pin
Har gow filling (prawn dumpling filling)
- 300 g / 11 ounces prawns (shrimp) peeled, deveined
- ¼ cup bamboo shoots (canned) ~ 40g (note 1)
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
- ½ teaspoon corn starch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1½ tablespoon neutral-tasting oil
Har gow sheets (crystal dumpling sheets)
- 80 g / 2.8 ounces wheat starch (note 2)
- 40 g / 1.4 ounces tapioca starch (note 2)
- 125 g / 4.4 ounces hot, boiling water (note 3)
- pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon neutral-tasting oil
Chilli oil dipping sauce (optional)
- 2 tablespoon Homemade Sichuan Chilli Oil
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon caster sugar
To make the har gow filling
- Blend the bamboo shoots in a small food processer for a few seconds until minced.
- Take a few prawns and cut them up into large chunks. Depending on the size of the prawns, cut them into half or in thirds. Cut enough prawns for 20 pieces. Set aside.
- Add remaining whole prawns into the food processor with the bamboo shoots and blend for 3 seconds.
- Add remaining har gow filling ingredients and blend for a further 5 seconds. A thick paste should form.
- Transfer to a bowl, mix in reserved prawn chunks, cover and place in the fridge until ready to assemble. (note 4)
To make the har gow sheets
- Combine wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Mix with a pair of chopsticks (or fork) until combined. About 5 seconds.
- Add in oil and boiling (important) water. The best way to do this is to place the bowl on a food scale, carefully pour boiling water straight from the kettle. (note 3)
- Quickly, mix in a circular motion with chopsticks/fork until a lumpy dough is formed. Transfer dough onto a clean work surface and knead until dough is smooth. Do not flour the surface. About 3 minutes.
- Roll the dough out into a long cigar, about 30cm/ 12" long. Evenly cut and divide into 20 small pieces.
- Cover the dough pieces with the bowl used to make the dough from the steps above to prevent the dough from drying out. Otherwise, cover with a damp tea towel.
- To form a dumpling sheet, take a dough piece, roll it into a small ball with the palm of your hands. Lightly grease the rolling pin with oil using a paper towel or tea towel. Flatten the dough ball with the palm of your hand on the work surface. Then, roll the dough out into a thin circular sheet, as thin as you can get it to be without breaking. About 8-10cm / 3-4" in diameter. Do not flour the working surface. If the dough starts to stick onto the rolling pin, grease it again with oil.
- Take the prawn filling mixture out of the fridge and place the bowl onto an ice pack to keep it cold and fresh whilst folding the dumplings.
- Fold and pleat each dumpling with a small spoonful of prawn filling (~1 teaspoon each). Repeat to make 20 dumplings. Fold the dumpling as soon as the dumpling skin is rolled out, one at a time. Make sure to grease the rolling pin after each dumpling. Watch the video above for how to wrap a har gow.
To steam / cook
- Line the bamboo steaming baskets with prepared baking paper. (note 5) Depending on the size of your baskets, you may need to use 2 or 3 layers.
- Place dumplings into the steaming baskets without overlapping, with wiggle room in between each dumpling. The dumplings will expand during the cooking process.
- Boil water in a pot and once boiling, place baskets over the pot with the lid on. Steam for on high heat for 7 minutes.
To make the chilli oil dipping sauce (optional)
- Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.