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  • Miranda Brown

Crystal skin dumplings (ASIAN 258 virtual lab)

I’ve always been a fan of crystal skin dumplings. They are quite popular in Guangzhou and Hong Kong -- if you have eaten dim sum, you’re already familiar with har gow (xiajiao 蝦餃) and chive dumplings. Variants are also found in other parts of Southeast China -- and in Southeast Asia. I'm looking forward to trying a recipe for a Vietnamese tapioca starch dumpling soon.




Start by selecting your starches.


You can make the dumplings with a combination of wheat starch and tapioca, or tapioca and potato starch (some versions use sweet potato starch). There are other possibilities.


One thing to note: I have had bad luck with food labeling at Asian markets. Sometimes the package says tapioca, but the bag is full of cornstarch (tai baifen 太白粉). The Chinese word for tapioca is mushu fen 木薯粉. If you don’t read Chinese, you can just order potato starch and tapioca from Amazon.They’re inexpensive and always in stock. As some of you may have noticed, wheat flour can be hard to find these days. So why not try a different source of carbohydrates? If you need gluten-free foods, this can be a good option for you.


I’ve played around with a few recipes with varying success, and adapted the recipes below from the woksoflife and cook52. Since I don’t have access to shrimp, I just improvised and used whatever was in the kitchen. You can season ground turkey with spinach that has been wilted in a wok, scallions, garlic, and ginger. For one pound of meat, I add a little cooking wine (about ½ teaspoon), a tablespoon of soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 4 T of cornstarch. I’ve also had good luck with wood ears (re-hydrated and minced).


Wrapper skin variants:


From WoksofLife


1 cup of wheat starch

½ cup of tapioca

1 ¼ cup of boiling water (make sure the water is at a full boil)

1-3 T of cooking oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (my improvisation)


From Food52 (this is by weight, but you can translate the values here).



Potato starch, 160 g

Tapioca starch 20 g

Sugar, 2 t

Salt, ½ t

Boiling water (100 g/ml)

Oil, 1 T

Cold Water (30 g or ml) (Note: I didn’t need all of this water.)



  1. Mix the starches together evenly in a heat-proof bowl, along with the other dry ingredients.

  2. Slowly incorporate the boiling water. As with regular dumplings, you’ll want to add the water little by little while stirring. The goal is to add as little water to produce a ball.

  3. Then add the oil. If you are making the potato starch-tapioca version, you can add the cold water here (but be careful, I didn’t need it all, and found myself adding a little starch to offset the sticky dampness).

  4. Knead the ball on a dusted surface. If the water isn’t boiling or evenly incorporated, you’ll see lumps or white cracks. The ball should be snow white and glisten.



5. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, covered in plastic.

6. After the dough has rested, knead it.

7. Cut the dough into three pieces and roll them into logs (just like you do when making wheat dumplings). Cover the portions that you are not using.

8. Cut the dough into slices (they will look almost like marshmallows). Ideally, they should weigh about 12-14 grams (a little more than the wheat dumplings). The wheat starch recipe suggests making the parcels bigger (dividing the dough into about 18 pieces, or 22 grams a piece). I find these too big.



9. Roll them out gently to a disc about 3.5 inches in diameters. Do not make these too thin. The dough is fragile and not stretchy.




10. Put a dollop of filling right in the middle. If you have a small dumpling, you should add no more than a teaspoon. For a bigger dumpling, you can try 1/2 -3/4 T of filling. You want to go easy here. The dumpling skin is fragile, so be conservative!

11. To fold, bring the two ends gently together to make a half moon. Then make a crease at one end (just as you would when making wheat dumplings). Carefully tuck and press the ends of the crease. Then fold the side furthest away from you in back. This is exactly the same fold that I use for wheat dumplings. You can find my step-by-step instructions, with arrows here.





12. Dust the bottom of the dumplings with some corn starch.

13. To prevent sticking, I would recommend placing the dumplings on silicon cake pans (these are very cheap), nested in the steaming compartments. You can lightly brush a little oil on the pans. If you don’t have the silicon pans, you can use parchment paper brushed with oil. Some cooks suggest using lettuce. I haven’t done this, and I haven’t had much luck preventing sticking until I started using the silicon pans. Be sure to space your dumplings, otherwise they will glue to each other.

14. Steam the dumplings for about 8 minutes. I would *not* recommend using Instant Pot for this job. The dumplings will lose their shape.

15. For a dipping sauce, I mix a little fish sauce together with the juice of one lime, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of minced scallions. This isn't a traditional Hong Kong relish, but who cares these days?

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