insights to your shrimp dumplings
There are days, you know, not everyday, but days when I really… hate this. I mean, what is this anyways? A self-published “web-blog” about me making dinner. Talk about being a loving sponge when it comes to self-absorbing not to mention a shameless evasion from unemployment. Oops, did I not mention that? As many more dignified others who might do this as a hobby aside, I on my other sorry hand, just do this. No other self-sustaining professions at day, heck or even a non-profit charity to excuse myself of, it’s a testimony of prolonged immaturity and chronic, explicit laziness, hardly anything to be carved on my tombstone. So yeah, as this self-absorbing continues, sometimes I really hate this.
But not today, my friend. Not today. No matter how home-and-garden or lacking of social importance this is, today I have diligently answered an important question EVEN IF just to myself, and to you as well, who stick to the same reason why we keep cooking – pure curiosity, because for no other reason would you want to ask this: how they make the glass-like translucent wrappers for dim-sum dumplings? You know, the kind that arrives at your table after a steamer-cloud of suspense, looking so pretty you forgot to eat them for two seconds. Why? Let me just say first, that this is by no means the weekday-meals that I sold myself into doing sometimes. In fact, to put it utter-bluntly, no sanity can be translated into why you should make dim-sums at home, because the entire act of which is about enjoying small quantities of each from a large variety of items. Making twenty-something of the exact same dumplings for dinner is literally, senseless.
Too bad I am a senseless home-cook who saver with questions instead of contentment after being handed a great meal, mainly about… how the fuck did they pull this off? And if you were Master Oogway (wrong spelling btw) in Cantonese cuisine, perhaps you can hand me this one, the recipe of the glass-wrapper for one of their dumplings. I’m not talking about the classic shrimp dumplings with an opaque wrapper, recipe of which can be easily found on numerous cookbooks and websites. It calls for a type of gluton-free flour called wheat-starch (澄粉/小麥淀粉), an exceedingly confusing ingredient that’s almost exclusively found in strictly Cantonese groceries, and only if you know what you’re looking for. I have since tested for an alternative without it, here using only cornstarch and tapioca flour for similar results. I am including the recipe for this, but that’s not really what today is about.
This is what I’m here for, a jewel-like wrapper revealing just enough of what’s inside to make it too pretty to eat. It’s been on top of my how-to list, and after several failures, I have finally cracked the codes – it’s potato-starch, a common Chinese thickener that cooks into glass-like translucency, often mistaken as cornstarch and in some cases interchangeable, but not here. The sheen, the slick in texture and above all, transparency is what sets it apart. You may be frustrated to think that it sounds just as confusing and elusive like wheat-starch, but it isn’t. Common brands like Bob’s Red Mill makes it, and it can be found in almost all Asian groceries under the name of 太白粉. With the shrimp and spinach fillings these dumplings just looks and tastes so… OOMPH! Let me just say that your family would enjoy them tremendously, and gladly mop up the entire fleet of twenty-something of the SAME dumplings as somebody did. But… don’t be surprised if someone ask you what the hell made you do this at home. There’s no legitimate answers to be given. This is after all, completely senseless.
Makes: 20 ~ 25 dumplings
The recipe for two different types of wrappers and fillings are included, and of course they are totally inter-changeable. Both wrappers call for tapioca flour which I have linked with an online source (Amazon), as well as the potato starch because it’s less commonly found than cornstarch. NOTE: Despite the mystery, both wrapper-doughs are very easy to make, but NEITHER has ANY ELASTICITY to work with, meaning they DO NOT STRETCH at all. That makes it less forgiving when it comes to wrapping but after the first couple of trials, you should get the hang of it. I understand how wary some people are towards cooking in grams, but this is really where you want to start. These are conversions I grabbed from the internet which may or MAY NOT BE 100% accurate, but enough to give you a reference for a rough idea of quantities. But please, DO NOT rely on them completely. Do the grams:
- 119 grams of water = 1/2 cup
- 160 grams of cornstarch (which weights similarly to potato starch) = 1 1/4 cup
I recommend using shelled/deveined tiger shrimps in frozen bulks available in wholesales like Cosco, or big supermarkets. They have a very distinctive “crunch” or “snap” to their meat, and when sold frozen, are almost always guaranteed to be fresh and affordable.
Standard shrimp dumpling wrapper (without using wheat-starch): （Updated Feb 09, 2017)
- 150 grams of cornstarch + more for adjustment and dusting
- 4 grams (1 tsp) of sugar
- 3 grams (1/2 tsp) of salt
- 140 grams (140 ml) of boiling water
- 15 grams (1 1/2 tbsp) of vegetable oil
- 50 grams of tapioca flour
Set a large bowl on a digital scale, and weight/whisk together corn starch, sugar and salt. Bring a pot of water to boil, then pour it into the bowl until you have 140 grams of boiling water incorporated. Stir the mixture using chopsticks into a wet, translucent dough. Cover with plastic wrap until cooled enough to handle, then add the vegetable oil and tapioca flour. Knead the dough with your hands until perfectly smooth for a couple of minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky and will probably stick to your hands when you’re kneading it, but not impossible to work with. Add a bit more cornstarch if too wet, or little more water if too dry. Cover the the dough with plastic wrap until needed.
Glass wrapper: adapted from many many recipes combined （Updated Feb 09, 2017)
- 160 grams of potato starch + more for adjustment and dusting
- 10 grams of tapioca flour
- 4 grams (1 tsp) of sugar
- 3 grams (1/2 tsp) of salt
- 110 grams (110 ml) of boiling water
- 15 grams (1 1/2 tbsp) of vegetable oil
Set a large bowl on a digital scale, and weight/whisk together potato starch, tapioca flour, sugar and salt. Bring a pot of water to boil, then pour it into the bowl until you have 110 grams of boiling water incorporated. Stir the mixture using chopsticks into a lumpy, dry and floury dough. Cover with plastic wrap until it’s cooled enough to handle. Tthen add the vegetable oil, and knead the dough with your hands until perfectly smooth for a couple of minute. The dough should be soft, pliable and slightly sticky/tacky, but shouldn’t stick to your working surface too much. If it seems too dry, add just 1/2 tsp of water at a time, and knead again. Cover the the dough with plastic wrap until needed.
Standard shrimp filling:
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) of fatty ground pork
- 68 grams (2.4 oz/or approx 4 large) of tiger shrimps
- 1 tbsp of water
- 140 grams (5 oz/or approx 8 large) of tiger shrimps
- 1/2 tsp of sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
- 1/4 cup of finely diced chives, optional
Place fatty ground pork, 68 grams (4 large) of tiger shrimps and water in the food processor and puree into a sticky paste. Then add 140 grams (8 large) of tiger shrimps, sesame oil, salt and ground white pepper, and pulse until the shrimps are chopped into large pieces. Add the finely diced chives and pulse until just mixed in. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge until needed.
Shrimp and spinach filling:
- 115 grams (4 oz) of fatty ground pork
- 35 grams (1.2 oz/or approx 2 large) of tiger shrimps
- 80 grams (approx 1/3 cup after squeezed) of chopped cooked spinach after being squeezed dry of excess water
- 110 grams (3.9 oz/or approx 6 large) of tiger shrimps
- 3/4 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
Place fatty ground pork, 35 grams (2 large) of tiger shrimps in the food processor and puree into a sticky paste. Then add the chopped cooked spinach, 110 grams (6 large) tiger shrimps, salt, sesame oil and ground white pepper, and pulse until the shrimps are chopped into large pieces. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge until needed.
To wrap and steam the dumplings: Lightly dust the working surface with potato starch/cornstarch (depends on which you’re using). Take a piece of dough, about 1 1/2 tbsp, and roll it lightly in potato starch/cornstarch so it doesn’t stick. Roll it out into a circle about the size/thickness of normal dumpling wrappers. Place about 1 tbsp of filling in the middle and close the wrapper up with three pointy corners (or whatever shape you find easy to work with). Make sure to pinch the seams tightly together. Repeat until your are done with all the fillings (you may have more dough left). The process could significantly speed up if you’ve got a 2-people assembly-line set up.
You can steam them immediately, or wrap them individually and freeze for up to 1 week.
Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large wok, or the bottom-pot of a steamer. Brush oil over the bamboos on the steamer surface where you’re placing the dumplings (to prevent sticking, or even better if you have one of those steamer-fabric specific for this purpose, or a sheet of cabbage works fine, too). Place the dumplings into the steamer and place it over the hot water. Cover and steam on high heat for 5 ~ 6 minutes. The glass wrapper would seem more opaque when it’s hot, and turn more translucent once cooled down slightly.
The best condiment to serve with is, yellow mustard and sriracha sauce. That’s right.
Belinda @themoonblushbakerSeptember 9, 2013 at 11:33 PM
Oh what about the ranting privileges from running a blog? At least that is my perk of blogging. I can say what ever I want with some False anonymity.
I always love this type of dim sum, often only eating the pastry outside. I can not believe more people do not make their own! Yours turned out stunning!
Mandy L.September 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM
Belinda, yes the ranting part is fun, until the angry comment comes in..hahahaa
AdelinaSeptember 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM
I have to say, you are awesome! Beyond awesome – you are making me super hype that I will HAVE to try this. I don’t cook much anymore, let alone trying / experimenting with homemade dim sum! I live in a town where the only dim sum restaurant is about 45 minutes drive away, without horrible traffic. And, it is the worse dim sum restaurant and it is the only one. So….thanks to you for inspiring me with your wonderful post, I will MAKE time to try this. The “glass” wrapper’s image is pure beautiful that I think you should super size it, and frame it!
CarolineSeptember 10, 2013 at 2:00 PM
Amazing! You can open your own dim sum restaurant! The pictures are gorgeous, you are such a good photographer. I would love to make these but the idea of rolling each dumpling wrapper into a perfect flat little circle scares me to no end..doesn’t that alone take a couple of hours? I wished you lived closer so I could just pay you to make these for me! :)
Mandy L.September 10, 2013 at 3:32 PM
Adelina and caroline:
it’s easier than you think! Yes, the rolling out the dough part is intimidating at first, but after a few it gets really easy :)
VashtiSeptember 10, 2013 at 4:43 PM
Mandy I am IN LOVE with your blog.
Todd @ HonestlyYUMSeptember 11, 2013 at 5:12 AM
You have such creative recipes Mandy. And you make everything look SO good!!
nikkipolaniSeptember 11, 2013 at 7:37 AM
Beautiful post, Mandy. I’m looking forward to trying out your wrap recipes. Just one question, though, when you say to “weight/whisk together potato starch, tapioca flour, sugar and salt” and add boiling water until 100g, do you mean 100g is the total weight of all the ingredients (dry and wet) or the weight of the water? I guess what I’m asking is whether the tare weight is the bowl only or the bowl with the dry ingredients. Hope that’s not too unclear.
Mandy L.September 11, 2013 at 3:29 PM
Nikki, it means after you have incorporated potato starch, tapioca flour, sugar and salt into the bowl, you add in 100 grams of boiling water. 100 grams is the weight of the boiling water ALONE, not including the bowl and the other ingredients.
nikkipolaniSeptember 12, 2013 at 3:04 AM
THANKS! My scale has a habit of turning itself off while I’m busily adding ingredients and tallying grams, so I wanted to be sure I understood your instructions.
SofiaSeptember 11, 2013 at 4:39 PM
Your dumpling photos are so beautiful, I love how they are nearly transparent. Its true how making so many identical dumplings is senseless. I usually have an array of fillings and mix them them differently with each other just for fun and to vary the flavour too. What I havent done yet is making my own dough, and when I do I’ll be looking back here for tips. x
Mandy L.September 11, 2013 at 6:44 PM
Sofia, haha what I meant is making so many of the same “dim-sum” is senseless because just like tapas, the fun is to have MANY DIFFERENT KINDS in SMALL quantity! But, again, I have no problem eating just one type for dinner :)
SofiaSeptember 13, 2013 at 5:13 AM
Ah hahaha ok! Funny, I live in Spain and no one makes tapas to eat at home, too much work :)
ReikaSeptember 16, 2013 at 1:09 PM
THANK YOU SO MUCH for figuring out the (Cantonese) mystery of wheat starch!!! Potato starch/tai-bai-fen is always always in my pantry for Taiwanese dishes, but since I started making my own daikon radish cake every Lunar New Year cuz no store in Los Angeles makes it the way I like (=the Cantonese style daikon cake made only for the new year by a vendor in Yong-he market), I have found pretty good recipes which send me to Cantonese/Vietnamese market to scour specifically for wheat starch. And they say this wheat starch thing is a must. I am so using my handy tai-bai-fen instead of wheat starch next time.
Mandy L.September 16, 2013 at 3:41 PM
Reika, just a little FYI, the potato-starch in the recipe isn’t used to “replace” wheat-starch, but to create a dough with a much higher translucency than if using wheat-starch. So they are not quite the same. The “standard shrimp dumpling wrapper (without using wheat-starch)” (which does not have potato-starch in it) is a compromise, producing similar results if wheat-starch cannot be found since it’s such an uncommon ingredients. So potato starch CANNOT be universally interchangeable in place of wheat-starch. If anything, cornstarch is a much closer substitute.
ReikaSeptember 17, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Got it. Will experiment myself to see what I can do with wheat starch, potato starch, and cornstarch and finally settle the recipe for daikon cake. That’ll be a lot of daikon cake. Thank you for following up, Mandy!
ruthieOctober 7, 2013 at 8:22 PM
First time here, think I followed you from Food52. I’m enjoying your recipes and the great photos.
Could you tell me, are either of these doughs what is used to make the shrimp noodle sheets? A love that stuff and really want to make it at home. Thanks!
Mandy L.October 8, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Ruthie, I’m not quite sure what noodle sheets you are referring to but I’m quite certain the dough can’t be inter-changeable. This dough is quite firm specifically for holding up the shape and fillings of the dumplings well, so it may be tough to chew on as a whole bowl of noodles.
ruthieOctober 10, 2013 at 9:24 AM
It may just be a difference in naming from the US to Asia, but what I’ve seen called shrimp noodle is sheets of dough with the tiny shrimp embedded in them. You usually see them kind of folded over themselves in groceries and places where they also sell meat/fish and some prepared foods. My friend’s dad just ate them steamed to warm them with a little soy sauce and chili oil.
Does this sound like anything you have there?
Thank you, Mandy.
Mandy L.October 10, 2013 at 12:33 PM
Ruthie, I believe you may be referring to something called “chang-fen”, in which case the dough is completely different from this one. “Chang-fen” is made with rice flour, and is in batter form instead of dough form. The batter is smeared on top of a hot cheese clothes over a steamer, then pulled away once cooked. It’s used to wrap fillings like shrimps, or ground beef and etc. I haven’t attempted making that yet but if I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.
ruthieOctober 11, 2013 at 8:32 PM
Thank you! In the meantime that name will give me something too pursue.
Scott W.October 14, 2013 at 10:18 AM
I just stumbled on your blog while searching for some home style Cantonese recipes.
As a child, I can remember my Mother and Ah Pau making fun gor at the kitchen table. I’d be given a little piece of dough to play with while they transformed the ingredients to wonderful transparent dumplings.
I’ve since tried to recreate these delicacies from different sources with mixed results. My dumplings either tasted too starchy or were more opaque which I thought was because the skins were too thick.
Your wonderful pictures has inspired me to try another batch using potato starch. You’re now bookmarked and I look forward to more exciting recipes and the occasional reflection of my childhood.
MichelleDecember 10, 2013 at 4:22 AM
Thank you for the glass wrapper recipe. I tried it with a kale-carrot-seasame oil veggie filling. At first I had a hard time making the wrapper thin enough but not break. It takes a little practice but the translucency is worth it!
After wrapping many dumplings (I did two portions of the recipe), I got tired and decided to just take a tiny piece of dough, incorporate it completely with some filling, and made some chewy veggie “meatball.” They were fun to eat.
Anyways, thank you for your post!
Mandy L.December 10, 2013 at 1:32 PM
Michelle, I had the same problem initially with the wrapper, too. And afterward I realized it was because the dough was too dry. Next time add a bit more water to the dough, and dust it with potato starch to prevent sticking. It’s much easier that way, and makes a tastier dough as well!
AureliaFebruary 14, 2014 at 1:50 AM
I actually make a lot of dim sum at home – but less due to insanity and more due to now living in a part of America that doesn’t have dim sum (or good chinese) at all, within a 500 mile radius. Oh the joys of military spousedom! So I will actually make these, and using grams too! (I’m originally from England, so using “cups” as a measurement is more insane to me than using kitchen scales)
Thanks for shining a light on the mystery of clear dim sum wrappers!
LushlyMarch 14, 2014 at 6:10 AM
I LOVE everything about this: the food, photos, writing and what you have to say. Why do we cook this stuff? Curiosity! That’s why I do it too :)
ChrisApril 27, 2014 at 2:32 AM
Wheat starch can be purchased quite readily via the internet, if you are having trouble finding it in your local area. The brand I use is “Piyale”, and it works wonderfully in all manner of Asian and Eastern dumpling recipes.
DungJuly 21, 2014 at 1:21 AM
This looks delicious! I tried making the glass wrapper, but it always seems to break apart when I roll it out. Could it be that the dough is too dry and just doesn’t want to stay together?
mandy@ladyandpupsJuly 21, 2014 at 1:06 PM
Dung: yes I believe so! because that happened to me the first time and I realized the dough was too dry. A pliable dough would be sort of sticky but don’t worry, just dust with more potato starch and it should be easy to work with.
NoellaNovember 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM
Love your site! I’ve been obsessed with dumplings for a greater part of my life. I had first tried them in an Aussie yum cha restaurant and then later back in India in their tibetan morph. My mom and I tried our best to replicate the delicate textures of the wrapper but to no avail and we always ended up with delicious stuffing wrapped in leather. I did try experimenting with store bought wrappers which weren’t great either. Now, years later, I finally see we were supposed to use ‘gluten free’ wheat flour/wheat starch – which was not available in stores (in India) at the time anyway! Your recipes look amazing. I hope to finally make the dim sum of my dreams with them.
StephieDecember 10, 2014 at 2:42 AM
I tried your dumpling recipe. I just love it. I didn’t had any problem working with the dough but I like to know what is the purpose to add the cold water. It’s necessary to add it or simply it can be omitted.
Thanks a lot for sharing, Mandy! Hope you can share more dumpling recipes in the future,
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 10, 2014 at 3:10 PM
STEPHIE: potato starch and tapioca starch has no gluten, so they need to be partially cooked with the boiling water in order to come together as a dough. But we don’t want the dough to be cooked all the way through, therefore a combination of boiling and cold water is used. I hope this answers your question :)
AlbertFebruary 18, 2015 at 3:48 AM
Very good article on the translucency of potato starch and tapioca starch. I finally know why my dim sum always break up and aren’t translucent, i forgot to add the tapioca starch. One small thing though. I find that your recipe makes the dim sum a bit too elastic, maybe need to cut back on the tapioca starch.
mandy@ladyandpupsFebruary 18, 2015 at 1:53 PM
Albert, I kind of like the elasticity, but you can certainly adjust to your own liking (or add more water to make the dough softer). Thanks!!!
ElisabetjhFebruary 19, 2015 at 8:05 PM
Hi Mendy! This has become one of my favourite Sunday night recipes. I have made it many times (the standard shrimp dumpling paper) and it comes out perfectly. Until last Sunday the mixture never turned into dough, it stayed runny. I was so surprised that I checked my scale and made the recipe from scratch. Again, it was runny, nothing like the other times I made it. The only thing I did differently was to mix the mixture with a fork instead of chopsticks, but I cannot see how this could have caused the problem. Any ideas? (I will try again anyway)
My most important question is if these could be used for potsticker dumplings or they are inteded only for steaming?
Sarah WilliamsJanuary 27, 2016 at 8:59 PM
I followed your wheat starch substitution recipe for my pre made dumpling filling and it worked a treat! Here in Perth I find it ridiculously hard to fund wheat starch so I was relieved to see your recipe with tapioca and corn starch.
The dough was very sticky but I followed your advice and added a little corn starch when kneading/rolling and it was great! Finally a dumpling dough success.
Thanks very much for your recipe!
ElaineSeptember 25, 2016 at 5:39 PM
Hi Mandy. The glass wrapper recepie uses abt 130ml of water but the standard wrapper calls for 240ml.. I tried it and it can’t form a dough. Too watery. I have to add the hot water to the corn starch first then let it cool to add the tapioca starch?
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 27, 2016 at 11:13 AM
Elaine, sorry about the late reply. I haven’t made this in a long time so I can’t quite recall. Have you tried just adding water gradually until it forms a dough?
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 27, 2016 at 11:15 AM
And yes, you add the tapioca starch afterward
JennyOctober 17, 2016 at 9:33 AM
Hi Mandy, the filling of this recipe is absolutely delicious>> The shrimp is bouncy and has just enough pork to bind all together. I made these with the glass wrapper recipe you posted (yep when to the store and bought tapioca and potato starch) however, the wrapper itself was sooooo chewy once steamed. Is that how it should be? Have you ever tried using 澄粉？
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 17, 2016 at 2:15 PM
Jenny, perhaps try adding more water to the glass wrapper dough. 澄粉 is wheat starch and used for traditional shrimp dumplings. It is less “glassy” and more opaque. You can try playing with all 3 different types of starch and see what you like best :)
NancyNovember 21, 2016 at 7:15 AM
Hello Mandy….I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations, I learned a few things. So, thanks all!
Now, back to the recipes, which I WILL make very soon!! I’m actually drooling over the Har Gow, my favourite dumpling…soon, baby soon…Har Gow and Eggrolls are next on my list. I am searching for Asian foods that I can make into a “Special Lifetime Diet”. The cooking methods must fall under the following headings – Bake, Boil, Steam and Stir-fry. And, should probably include “Raw”.
All help gratefully received. ********Nancy
somphetFebruary 12, 2017 at 2:02 AM
140 grams (140 ml) of boiling water or 240 ?
mandy@ladyandpupsFebruary 12, 2017 at 2:28 AM
Oops sorry! 140 grams. Then add more (very little at a time) if needed to achieve a soft and slightly sticky dough.
EmmaApril 6, 2017 at 3:40 PM
You can find potato starch in kosher groceries especially around Passover(Easter time)
MichèleAugust 3, 2017 at 3:04 PM
I can’t locate wheat starch here in Australia! What would you suggest as a substitute, please?
AlexSeptember 30, 2019 at 3:34 AM
thanks so much for your post! i’ve been experimenting with your glass wrapper recipe all day, and have yet to produce a transparent or even somewhat translucent wrapper. i have no idea what i’m doing wrong-i’ve tried more moisture, less moisture, all thicknesses/thinnesses of wrappers, and it doesn’t change opacity after cooling, either. any idea as to what i’m missing? i followed the process and measurements to a t, no substitutions. perhaps an issue with my steamer basket?
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 30, 2019 at 1:06 PM
Alex, oh gee I’m sorry to hear that, but I really have no idea why. The steamer shouldn’t be an issue. Maybe instead of cornstarch, try and see if you can find wheat starch and use that. That’s the traditional ingredient in shrimp wrapper, though it isn’t very translucent.
RobDecember 10, 2020 at 1:01 PM
You are the best! I can’t find wheat starch anywhere……My local asian market looked at me like I had 3 heads…….I have potato starch and tapioca so I am giving this a shot…..I am sure it’s going to be great…..Thank You