Ping Pong's Chinese Dumplings, (Har Gow)

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I began on my quest to make steamed Chinese dumplings after enjoying them at the infamous Ping Pong, dim sum chain.

A little bit about Ping Pong: it naturally has all the flaws of a chain, seeking any opportunity to prep more than necessary was made apparent in the over cooked bok choy, a lack of seasoning here and there, and a long wait for pretty much everything on a weekend. But fortunately some of the dim sum is pretty decent and fairly reasonably priced.

It took me a while to research what exactly I liked, as googleing: ‘white sticky slightly clear dumplings’ didn’t give me the result I’d hoped for. Here’s a few facts I discovered:

• ‘Dim Sum’ is basically Chinese tapas, meaning small individual portions, normally steamed

• Wontons Vs Dumplings: Being of no Chinese heritage, I was idiotically getting confused with wontons and dumplings. Although both are parcels of stuff, wontons are traditionally prepared in a soup. Where as dumplings are served as a nibble along with tea.

Wonton pastry is quite similar to pasta, which can also be used for dim sum, however I was after making the clear jelly like dumplings, used in a Chinese favourite Har Gow. What I didn’t realise is that this is supposedly one of the hardest things to cook, I quote Wikipedia:

Gao (餃, Dumpling; 餃子 gau zi, Gow gee): Gao is a standard in most teahouses. They are made of ingredients wrapped in a translucent rice flour or wheat starch skin. Though common, steamed rice-flour skins are quite difficult to make. Thus, it is a good demonstration of the chef’s artistry to make these translucent dumplings

Great, and this was reinforced when I purchased the flour from my local Chinese supermarket, the lady looked at me strange as I passed over the wheat/corn starch, when I double checked I had the right stuff, she replied ‘you’re making Haaaar Gaaw?!’

Yes these are a little tricky but I can offer you a few tips for making them:

• Grease the rolling pin and surface each time you roll the skin, it makes it a lot easier

• I used a knife to pick the skin up once rolled

• Check out this link to watch someone making them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1fpglXwO7g

Enjoy!

Makes 24

For the filling:

8 ounces medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut rough pieces

3 Tbsp minced bamboo shoots

1/2 tsp soy sauce  (light is better)

1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp rice wine (optional)

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1/4 tsp ginger, grated

1 tsp cornstarch

1 egg white

For the skin:

200g wheat starch (wheat starch is different from wheat flour)

50g tapioca starch (tapioca starch is the same as tapioca flour)

You can also use a ready mixed combination of the 2 above in Chinese supermarkets, called either har gao flour or Hagou flour, so use 250g of this

1/2 tsp salt

240ml/ 8fl oz boiling water

1 tsp Vegetable oil, plus extra to help roll

Start by preparing the filling by mixing all the ingredients together, cover and chill so the flavours properly infuse for a couple of hours.

Then its onto the tricky bit, making the skins, do this by adding the boiling water to the flour, oil and salt and mix to combine. When you have a dough transfer this onto a clean board dusted with a little of the wheat starch. Knead for 10 minutes, until you have a soft smooth dough (you may need to add a little more water of flour to get to the right consistency – it should be soft but not sticky). Divide the dough into four equal parts. Use your palms to roll each part into an 8-inch log. Cut each log into 8 pieces. Place the pieces, together with the rest of the dough, in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to keep them moist.

Roll each ball in your hand, and then flatten. Put a little bit of oil on the squashed ball and rolling pin before rolling out into the skin. When its about 3 mm think (too thin and its difficult to shape, and too thick isn’t great), pick up the skin using a sharp flat knife scraping it off the board you rolled it on, hold it in your hand and place a small blob of the filling in the centre. Now the sealing bit is the faffy bit skilled chefs make fancy by adding pleats to the skin, I just simply sealed mine like a mini pasty. Place each dumpling in a steamer and make sure to leave enough space so that they do not get too crowded. And serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, fresh chopped chilli and red wine vinegar.

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