Thursday, February 22, 2007

Shrimp and Edamame Dumplings

The mark of a good dim sum restaurant is a good shrimp dumpling. Har gow/xia jiao should be steaming hot, magically translucent, and expertly pleated. The wrapper should be tender and the dumpling should be bursting with fresh, pink shrimp with a slight essence of toasted sesame oil. Unfortunately, there are so many ways to go wrong. If the dumpling falls apart when you go to pick it up, then the wrapper is too fragile but if the wrapper is thick and rubbery, that's no good either. If there is too much bamboo, then they definitely skimped on the shrimp. All in all, a seemingly simple shrimp dumpling can be rather complicated.

My innate curiousity left me wondering how these dumplings are made; in particular, how the wrappers are made because they are so different from the usual dumpling or potsticker wrappers. So I researched some dim sum making and discovered that xia jiao can be made at home, albeit some of the ingredients were not commonplace pantry items. But I'm still missing a piece of the puzzle because as much as I try, I can only come to a close approximation. The dumplings I make are decent, but they're not perfect, like a good dim sum restaurant. Maybe this is a good thing because maybe not everything can be or should be made at home.

In this variation of the shrimp dumpling, I added some soybeans (edamames) to give it some bright green color. The edamames can be omitted and replaced with more shrimp for a traditional dumpling. The secret why the dough becomes translucent after steaming is because it is made with wheat starch.

Shrimp and Edamame Dumplings
1 1/4 C wheat starch (You can find wheat starch and tapioca starch at Asian markets)
1/4 C tapicoa starch
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 C boiling water

8 oz shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 C soybeans/edamame (if omitted, replace with 4 oz. shrimp)
2 Tbsp bamboo shoot, minced (this can also be omitted)
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice wine (Shao Hsing wine)

Peel, wash, and devein shrimp. Then chop, leaving some pieces small and some larger, and add to a mixing bowl.

Boil edamame for 2 minutes. Squeeze each bean out of the membrane layer that covers each bean. Roughly chop and add to shrimp.

Add minced bamboo, soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and corn starch to the filling and mix. Chill in the fridge while making the dough, allowing the flavors to develop.

Add wheat starch, tapioca starch, oil, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add boiling water at once and stir to bring the dough together.

When the dough can be handled, gently knead for 30 seconds to a minute. The dough will white and very smooth.

Break off about 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp of the dough and roll into a ball. Keep the rest of the dough covered. Using the side of a cleaver or the bottom of a pan flatten the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to a 3in circle. If a thinner wrapper is desired, roll the wrapper out after flattening.

Add about 2 tsp of the filling in the center of the wrapper and make pleats along half the wrapper. Overlap sections of the dough to create pleats, using your thumb as a guide. When half the circumference of the wrapper is pleated, seal the dumpling by pressing the pleated side with the unpleated side to form a crescent shape dumpling. If desired a triangular shape can be made by pressing the edges of the wrapper together at three points along the edge of the wrapper towards the center to seal in a triangular purse shape.

Before making the rest of the dumplings, begin boiling water for your steamer. Steam the dumplings for 8 to 10 minutes. The dumplings will become translucent after they cool for a bit after steaming.

Serve immediately.

Storing: These dumplings can be frozen but they must be steamed first. Then steam to reheat.

Yields about 24 dumplings.

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