Introduction: Har Gow Horrors - Shrimp Dumplings

Picture of Har Gow Horrors - Shrimp Dumplings

Grim some dim sum. Tea time terror.

Yup, there is something not right with the food I eat.  You shouldn't find this on the menu at your favorite Chinese restaurant let alone on your plate.  Make these yum yum treats to serve to your high-class friends...low-class too.

Har gow are classic shrimp filled steamed dumplings usually served at dim sum, kinda like brunch.  They are one of the many treats you select from the rolling serving carts in restaurants that serve dim sum.   At the end of the meal, the waiters count up the used plates on your table to tally up your bill.  What's next,  rat's bird's nest soup?

And if you want more tea, you signal others to politely pour you a cup by scratching the table in a tapping motion, coincidence?

CAUTION: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you are not allowed to use things like knives and the stove, teach your kids to cook.

NOTE: I did not make these in the shape of Mickey Mouse.  That would have been tasteless. Kids on the site, ya know.

Step 1: Scurry for Ingredients

Picture of Scurry for Ingredients

For the filling,

I used frozen shrimp because that was handy.  The package says they are cleaned but that only means the intestinal tract was gutted out.  You still have to rip off the crawler legs, tail and shell.

I would prefer to use fresh shrimp and go for the better softer texture than you get with frozen shrimp.

 It doesn't really matter what size the shrimp is since you will chop it up for the filling. But don't use those tiny tiny shrimp though.

Additional for filling,
a bit of chopped bamboo shoot or water chestnut
it adds a little bit of crunch 


ground pepper - can use white pepper
have a few whole peppercorns to use for the "eyes", black sesame seeds or something similar would work.

cornstarch - just a bit to help the mass bind

any other seasonings - drop of wine or soy sauce, etc.

For the dumpling skin:
You may need to find an Asian market or visit a market with a good international selection of imported foodstuffs.

Tapioca Starch - this gives the skin its translucent property

Wheat Starch - this is not the same as regular wheat flour

a drop of oil to keep it from sticking

boiling water to mix

Step 2: Prep the Skin

Picture of Prep the Skin

Have a pot of boiling water ready.

Use the following proportion: (of course you can play around with the proportions since the magic number is 3.14159265 or some other ancient Chinese secret passed down by master chefs and grandmas alike.)

1 part tapioca starch (I used 1/2 cup)
3 parts wheat starch (I used 1 1/2 cups)

mix the dry ingredients in a bowl

put in a dash of salt
put in a splash of oil

Try putting in a few drops of soy sauce if you want to color the batch of dough so you don't have that ordinary lab rat look.

Mix the ingredients

Pour the hot water into the mix and stir with a spoon or fork.

Add just enough water to congeal the mass.  Give the starch a minute to absorb the water.

Gather the mass together as it forms into clumps.

This part is like making your own play-dough.  When it is bearable to touch, coat your hands with some oil to keep the dough from sticking.  Mash down and form a ball from all the bits in the bowl.  Knead by folding and pressing the mass several times.

You can now divide it into golf-ball sized pieces and place in an oiled bowl.

Cover the bowl with a cover or damp towel so the dough doesn't dry out or get hard while you are forming the har gow.

Lest rest for about 20 minutes.

 In the meantime, get your steamer up to boil.  I used a rice cooker with the steamer rack.  You could also use a big pot with a steamer rack and plate or those bamboo steamers.

Step 3: Play With Your Food

Picture of Play With Your Food

Roughly chop your shrimp.  I guess if you chop too fine and have mush, you might as well go with Plan B and make shrimp toast, another dim sum favorite.

Toss together your filling ingredients and mix thoroughly in the bowl.

Grab a ball of dough and start forming the tail by rolling a strand of dough.

With the rest of the ball, flatten out to a thin disk.

There are many ways to do this, you can place the dough between plastic wrap and flatten with a rolling pin, can, base of a pot or smushed with a cleaver if you've got skillz.

With us, it was traditionally done with a heavy iron from my parent's Chinese Hand Laundry days or the more modern tortilla press(made in China).

I just pressed it out with my fingers and evened it out by looking through it at a light to see the thicker sections.

Press the tail on to the disk.

Put a spoonful of filling on the disk.

Wrap up the sides to meet in the center lengthwise.  Pinch the dough together so it sticks.

Try to pleat the dough where the legs and arms would be.  You then have an extra bit of dough to form the legs and arms.

Pinch the front and massage the stuffing to form the point shape of the front of the animal.

Roll it over.

Place two peppercorns to use as the eyes.

Use a fork to add details like the little claws on the feet and hands.  Maybe detail the mouth. 

Pinch some dough to form some ears.

Step 4: Trip to the Sauna

Picture of Trip to the Sauna

These are cooked by steaming in a hot pot.

Place the formed dumplings on a piece of parchment paper, a leaf of cabbage, or a leaf of lettuce like I did.  It helps you retrieve them since the dough will stick to the pot.

Put them in the steamer. 

Steam for about 10 -12 minutes.

Keep an eye on them, when they turn translucent and you see the shrimp turn a cooked pink/orange color, they will be done.  Overcooking makes the skins mushy.

Plate up and serve with soy sauce.

Pick out the peppercorns before eating since they will be too strong a flavor if bitten into.

Be the first on your block to serve Halloween Fusion food.  Bon Appetit!


darrenhall (author)2013-03-05

I love (well - loved) dumplings, until I saw the film by the same name - cannot bring myself to eat them now.

You have some great instructables - very cool.


susanchen2011 (author)2012-07-27


Arbitror (author)2010-10-14

This reminds me of newborn mice!

triumphman (author)Arbitror2011-08-25

food for cats!

bajablue (author)triumphman2012-02-27

And snakes! ;-D Rubber Boas love pinkies! ;-P~

kooyma (author)Arbitror2010-11-08


caitlinsdad (author)Arbitror2010-10-14

aaaagh, I think I just threw up a little...not

triumphman (author)2011-08-25

The little mousies that look like yours, only fried , well I just found the recipe for you, they are called, Jalapeno Chili Pepper Screamers, by caitlinsdad, in food: snacks & appetizers (instructable). They are breaded & fried in oil. Sounds yummy. Thanks for yours, can't wait to try it! Triumphman.

caitlinsdad (author)triumphman2011-08-25

ahem, that's me too!

triumphman (author)2011-08-24

These look like the Stuffed Halepino Pepper thingys someone made in an Instructable!. Awesome dude! You have some imagination. I love it!

krysteanuh (author)2010-10-14

!! Oh my gosh~! I love har gow~!
Well, in Mandarin, we just call them shrimp dumplings (xia jiao).
Nevertheless, I'm definitely going to try this. Awesome instructable~!

caitlinsdad (author)krysteanuh2010-10-14

Well, in Toisanese(Toi shan) we just call them ha gow.

michaelgohjs (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-14

i thought it was Cantonese? (Har Goe)

piperjon (author)michaelgohjs2010-10-19

In Arkansas we just call that "dang good eats, ah tell ya whut!" :D - Pj

kooyma (author)piperjon2010-11-08

and here in the midwest day-yuuum!

LOVE this- particularly the pink innerds showing through the skin at their little bellies
dude- you are my kind of brilliante!
I aspire to your level of sickness :O)

caitlinsdad (author)michaelgohjs2010-10-15

and you can pick from hundreds of the Chinese dialects and it still tastes good.

LittleWolf (author)2010-10-24

No, no!!

Ben was brown, Socrates was the white one!

In a less important note, your instructables are always awesome. I am making them for our halloween bash.

caitlinsdad (author)LittleWolf2010-10-25

Lemme guess, your big bad brother is scaring those little pigs in the houses down the block.

Civet (author)2010-10-17

Awesome Instructable, now i'm tempted to try this out. xD

caitlinsdad (author)Civet2010-10-17

hopefully not with civet filling.

Civet (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-17

Nah, although i was thinking of using other questionable meats as a substitute... xD

jessyratfink (author)2010-10-16

Truly gross. Don't think I could eat them shaped like that even if I liked shrimp, which means you did a good job. ;)

caitlinsdad (author)jessyratfink2010-10-16

Weenie...and I suppose served with mayo would have freaked you out. Persnickity eaters, hmmph!

jessyratfink (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-16

It just so happens we're talking about two of the things I hate the most... throw ranch in there and I'm done.

Cyberscann54 (author)2010-10-15

mix in some black food coloring to the dough to make them look more like the baby mice serve at a Halloween party

caitlinsdad (author)Cyberscann542010-10-16

that would make them really creepy.

iminthebathroom (author)2010-10-16

Not sure if this has been asked or not, after they have been formed, can they be frozen? or pre-cooked and then frozen for later re-heating?

I think you can but we have always made it fresh because it is so easy to make, I know it will keep a day or two in the fridge tightly covered. The problem there is you are dealing with seafood that will let out it juices and the skins will harden up. That said, your alternative fillings will freeze up well but the skins may get freezer burn and the texture may not be as good after you defrost or throw them straight into the steamer. You may have to overcook them to ensure the center filling is hot. There are frozen ones at the supermarket but I do not know if they work because of chemical additives, industrial flash freezing methods or if they have been parboiled before they are frozen. You could always experiment with a batch and have fun in the kitchen.

jennablur (author)2010-10-15

Wow, I must try them!

sunshiine (author)2010-10-14

I love it but could never never eat it!

caitlinsdad (author)sunshiine2010-10-14

Maybe if you put it on a stick...naaaaah.

sunshiine (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-14

NO WAY! You pegged me right! LOL.

peace-love-hugs (author)2010-10-13

WOW. Wonderful! How can I nominate this for the halloween contest!? XD It looks like a great recipie and PERFECT for halloween!

lemonie (author)2010-10-13

Nice, they look good disemboweled.


caitlinsdad (author)lemonie2010-10-13

I worry about you...sometimes.

lemonie (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-13

Title includes "horrors", I worry about you too....


iminthebathroom (author)2010-10-13

This is awesome, but any guesstimate as to how much bowling water added to the wheat:tapioca mixture you used?

maybe half a cup of boiling water. Just start mixing as you pour and the starches start to gum and ball up. Scrape the bowl with a spoon. Wait a minute for the starch to absorb the water and add a few more drops to mix in if too clumpy. Dig in with your hands to ball up and you can feel if it is too wet or sticky. It should be like smooth play-dough.

bluesquirrel (author)2010-10-13

For those of us that aren't seafood enthusiasts, what kind of meat mixtures could we use? In fact it doesn't have to be meat mixtures; are there any dessert recipes that would work?

I love3 the creepy translucence to this, but I won't try it unless it's NOT fish X3;;

caitlinsdad (author)bluesquirrel2010-10-13

Stuffing can be anything you like. There is ground pork or beef filling. You can go vegan with chopped mushrooms and leafy green veggies that have been previously wilted with onion and garlic (interesting point - Buddhists do not use garlic ) There is dim sum that is stuffed entirely of chives - a little too herby and grassy for my taste.

Come up with your own type of filling. I'm not sure if cheese works too well with this kind of dough and being steamed, try this instead.

caitlinsdad (author)caitlinsdad2010-10-13

and for dessert, you might try it with sweet red bean or lotus seed or sesame seed paste filling. But then you get into making sweet dim sum buns.

aeray (author)2010-10-12

Excellent! I've always thought that this type of steamed dumpling looks disturbingly... embryonic. Shudder.
I just ate, and now I'm hungry again, at midnight. Thanks.

caitlinsdad (author)aeray2010-10-13

You can have these prepped in the fridge ready to steam at a moment's notice. it does make a quick midnight snack or anytime is ghoulish..

Ninzerbean (author)2010-10-13


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