Dumpling Disaster

12 May
Har Gow Dumplings: steamed shrimp filling, rice dough

Har Gow Dumplings: steamed shrimp filling, rice dough

It happens to the best of us. Sometimes disaster strikes in the kitchen and no matter what tricks you pull out of your sleeve, there is no way to save the mess you have created. Although I bet it doesn’t happen to my sister Amy. Ever. šŸ˜›

At the gym a couple days back I was on the elliptical machine watching the tv screen in front of me. There was a Chinese cooking show on – and this was before work and before I had eaten breakfast. So there I was, staring at the screen, mouth watering as the chef showed off a perfect pair of Har Gow dumplings – beautiful plump steamed shrimp dumplings with a translucent rice-dough wrapper, flecks of green scallion peeking through. And suddenly that was exactly what I wanted for dinner.Ā  And yes, I could have just biked over to the restaurant near Rosenheimerplatz that does Chinese dumplings, but because I am enjoying cooking again in my own kitchen, I decided i would try to make them.

Dumplings are pretty easy to make normally – at least if you cheat and buy the dumpling wrappers already pre-rolled and cut for you. We had a fun evening a few weeks ago in NYC with one of our clients – a colleague and I went over to her place and I did a little dumpling cooking lesson for four of us on a Sunday evening. I had shopped a few hours before in Chinatown, something I had been aching to do while I was in New York and finally got the chance.

The thing is, I’ve never seen or used rice dough wrappers, only wheat dough. So naturally I figured I would just whip those up as well. When I looked up the recipe, they seemed pretty straightforward, and theoretically I could even buy the flour for the dough pre-mixed – it is a combination of tapioca flour and wheat starch. But when I went by the Chinese grocery to get it, they only had tapioca flour…and rice flour…no wheat starch. Hmm…

So I did one of these:

Dilbert: cooking substitutions

Dilbert: cooking substitutions

I bought rice flour instead of wheat starch. I have to admit…I don’t know how *bad* this is. What part of the grain is the “starch” – and how different is it from “flour?” I should have googled it to figure it out and I didn’t. Anyway…I got home and mixed up the dough and things really seemed to be ok. You need to roll the dough out into cylinders and then let it rest for a bit, which is what I did while I mixed up the shrimp filling. See, here is the dough…resting:

Dumpling dough: nice little innocent looking pillows

Dumpling dough: nice little innocent looking pillows

And indeed, everything proceeded according to plan. The filling done, I began the process of making the wrappers. Rice dough is nice and soft and as long as you have TONS of flour on your rolling pin and counter top to prevent the stuff from sticking to everything, you’re fine. TONS. They were a bit tricky to get perfectly round, but I did manage for the most part:

Dumpling wrappers: they look right, no?

Dumpling wrappers: they look right, no?

You scoop a tablespoon of shrimp filling into the middle and then wrap them up, pinching and pleating as you go. The dough was very delicate – much more so than store-bought wheat wrappers – which made it difficult, but not impossible. In the end I had a steamer full of the dumplings ready to go. They were a bit homely looking, but this was my first time so I figured for the next round I would get it right and even if they weren’t as beautiful as the ones I had seen on TV that morning, at least they would taste good.

I lined the steamer with ramps – I have them in my refrigerator anyway, so I figured they would impart a bit of a garlicky scent to the dumplings and keep them from sticking to the bamboo steamer.

Bamboo steamer filled with ugly (but tasty?) dumplings

Bamboo steamer filled with ugly (but tasty?) dumplings

And turned on the water to boil….cleaning up a bit as the dumplings steamed their way to a beautiful glossy finish. I hoped.

About seven minutes in I lifted the lid to take a peak. HORRORS! It looked like a huge mess of melting wax on top of chunks of shrimp.

I threw a pan on the stove quickly and dumped a tablespoon of oil in and cursed the fact that I don’t have a gas stove and would need to wait a few minutes for the thing to heat up. Meanwhile, I grabbed the dumplings off the steam and when the pan was hot, tried to spoon them out of the steamer and into the pan to saute them instead – maybe by frying them I could hold them together somehow.

Not to be. I ended up with a huge mess:

Utter disaster: dumplings do not look like this normally

Utter disaster: dumplings do not look like this normally

The ramps were no longer separable from the dumplings and the dough was a gluey mess that refused to fry up into anything resembling a dumpling. Sooo….lesson learned. In the end, they *were* eaten – bits here and there dunked into a bit of soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil…but my fantasy from that morning was far from realized.

Second try to come soon. Wheat starch…where the hell do I get wheat starch? šŸ™‚


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2 responses to “Dumpling Disaster

  1. Caro

    May 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    The thing you’re looking for is Weizenin – a good old product from east Germany which should be available also in bigger supermarkets

  2. diginibble

    May 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you for the tip, Caro! I’ll look for it at Edeka or somewhere.


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