EXACTLY WHAT DIM SUM IS SUPPOSED TO, BUT SOMEHOW FORGOTTEN TO BE,
LITERALLY, AS TO TOUCH HEART
Welcome to DIM SUM MONTH!
WHAT: I’m dedicating this whole month to the delicate art that is dim sum.
WHY: I’m slowly and painfully realizing how scarce a good, thoughtful and delicious dim sum can be. Even in Hong Kong – the supposedly promised land of dim sum – I found my expectation being shattered with sloppy, tired, and borderline unethical display of dimness. Frankly, I’m fed up.
HOW: Just as unfamiliar as most of you are in terms of making dim sum, I’m going to show you that it is possible for us to create these little baskets of happiness at home. We are going to take each conventional dim sum item, and mix them with a bit of thoughtfulness and fun. Almost every items can be made ahead of time, and hopefully at the end of the month, we’ll be able to host our own dim sum party that is more awesome than most.
Let’s start with the classic of the classics – crystal shrimp dumplings.
We are going to correct all of its frequently ignored mistakes: soggy and texture-less wrappers, and frankly, boringness. This recipe will yield a wrapper that is beautifully translucent, shiny, and just a bit bouncy to the bite, filled with a generous amount of whole tiger shrimps held together by fatty ground pork. Last but not least, a small dollop of mayonnaise made with shrimp oil and thickened up with cashew butter, will knock this out of the park.
It is a single bite that embodies a carnival of senses: textures, flavors, esthetics and imaginations. Which is exactly what dim sum is supposed to, but somehow forgotten to be, literally, as to touch heart.
* UPDATE 02/18/2017: Some readers have commented that their dough tears and was hard to handle. I’ve tested this recipe again and again, and it works out fine every time. The dough should be just slightly sticky after kneading. If your dough tears, it might be that it is too wet, or too dry. I’ve added a few lines in the instruction to help clarify. KEEP IN MIND THAT THE DOUGH IS THE EASIEST TO WORK WITH RIGHT AFTER IT’S MADE. You can plastic-wrap it for up to 2 hours MAX before forming the dumplings, but anything longer than that, the dough will become wetter and wetter, and will tear.
For this recipe, I strongly recommend measuring the ingredients by weight, especially for the dough.
- Heads and shells from 13~15 medium-size shrimps
- 5 slices (20 grams) ginger
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1/2 tsp ground paprika
- 3/4 cup (168 grams) canola oil
- 1 large yolk
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp fish sauce, plus more to adjust
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 3/4 tsp grated ginger
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) unsweetened cashew butter, or almond butter
- 3.5 oz (100 grams) fatty ground pork
- 1 tbsp egg white
- 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to adjust
- 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
- 12.7 oz (360 grams) peeled/cleaned small~medium tiger shrimp (see note!)
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp (150 grams) wheat starch
- 1/4 cup +3 tbsp (50 grams) tapioca starch
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup + 1 tsp (133 grams) boiling water
- 1 tbsp (14 grams) canola oil
- MAKE SHRIMP OIL MAYO: Combine shrimp heads and shells, ginger, garlic, paprika and canola oil in a small pot. Use a scissor to cut all the ingredients into small pieces, then bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to cook for about 5 min, stirring occasionally, until the shells are starting to brown. Add 2 tsp of water, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to release any brown bits, then turn off the heat. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solids. Chill the oil in the fridge until completely cold.
- In a large mortar, grind yolk, lemon juice, fish sauce, yellow mustard and grated ginger together. Slowly (1 tsp at a time) drizzle the cold shrimp oil into the mixture while whisking constantly to form an emulsion. Once all the oil has been added, you should have a loose mayonnaise. Now stir in the cashew butter to form a thicker paste, and re-season with fish sauce. Can be made the day before and kept in the fridge.
- If your mayonnaise is broken during the process, DON'T PANIC. In another bowl, mix 1 more yolk and a bit of lemon juice together, then bit by bit, whisk the broken mayonnaise into the yolk-mixture to re-establish an emulsion.
- MAKE SHRIMP FILLING: In a food-processor, grind fatty ground pork, egg white, sea salt and white pepper together until a paste has formed. Add 5~6 peeled shrimp and grind again until the mixture is thick and bouncy. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the rest of the shrimps, cornstarch and sesame oil. Re-season with more sea salt, then mix until evenly incorporated and coated.
- MAKE CRYSTAL WRAPPER: In a large bowl, whisk together wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt. Pour in the boiling water and stir with a fork to form a lumpy mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 min. Now add the canola oil, and knead the mixture until it's soft and smooth. The dough should be pliable and just barely sticky. If it's dry and crumbly, add 1 tsp more warm water. *
- You MUST make the dumplings within a couple hours after the dough is made. If you wrap the dough and refrigerate overnight, the texture will change and it will be ver hard to work with (it will tear easily).
- MAKE DUMPLING: Divide the dough into 15~16 equal balls and cover with plastic wrap. DUST THE DOUGH SLIGHTLY WITH MORE WHEAT STARCH TO PREVENT STICKING. Roll 1 ball into a thin sheet then cut with a 3" (8 cm) round cutter. Place about 1 1/2 tbsp of filling in the middle, then bring the sides upwards together and pinch together into 4 corners. Repeat with the rest. The dumplings can be made ahead of time. Kept in an air-tight container and kept in the freezer (not fridge!).
- STEAM/SERVE THE DUMPLING: Inside a steamer, place each dumplings on top of a thin slice of carrot (to prevent sticking). Steam on high heat for 5 min for unfrozen dumplings, and 8 min for frozen ones. Serve immediately with a small dollop of shrimp oil mayo on each dumplings. A tiny squeeze of lemon juice and a few dusting of lemon zest brings everything together.
A mindful reader (see comments) reminded all of us the importance of responsible eating. Please try your best to buy from sustainable source when it comes to seafoods, and in this case, tiger shrimps. Thanks!
Once the dumplings are made, they can be kept in air-tight containers inside THE FREEZER. If you want to make them more than a couple days ahead of time, I would suggest after they are frozen hard, transfer them into a vacuum bag (to prevent frost). Then steam right before serving.