The dumpling wrappers for these steamed crystal dumplings (shuǐjīng jiǎozi) are so thin and translucent that they inspired the name.
You’ll find these tasty treats on rolling carts in dim sum restaurants that offer a wider variety of dishes, but they’re less frequent and popular than the har gow shrimp dumplings.
The best of Cantonese dim sum, this dish is delightfully chewy and flavorful.
What Makes a Crystal Dumpling?
Crystal dumplings and har gow dumplings are both types of Chinese dumplings.
The translucent appearance of crystal dumplings is achieved by including tapioca starch (a root starch, unlike wheat starch and cornstarch).
The wrapper structure and workability are improved by adding wheat starch to these dumplings.
Among the ingredients for the filling are aromatic shiitake mushrooms, crunchy carrots, and healthy spinach.
This makes the dumplings visually appealing, with various colors showing through the wrapping.
The bright colors make for a stunning presentation, but after you bite one of these delicious dumplings, you may have found your new favorite Chinese dim sum!
For the Crystal Dumpling Skin:
- 14 tablespoons of wheat starch
- 3/4 cup of tapioca starch
- 3 tablespoons of cornstarch (plus more for kneading)
- 1 1/4 cups of water
- 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
For the Crystal Dumpling Filling:
- 8 ounces of ground or hand-chopped pork
- 4 medium dried Shiitake mushrooms
- 3 cups of baby spinach
- 1 small finely diced carrot
- 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons of oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon of white pepper
Make the dough for the wrappers:
- Mix the cornstarch, tapioca starch, and wheat starch in a bowl until uniform in color and texture.
- Put the vegetable oil into a medium pot and add exactly 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil while covered. Once it begins to boil, take it off the heat quickly since you don’t want to lose too much of the liquid.
- Into the saucepan with the freshly boiled water, whisk in roughly a third of the starch mixture using a stiff rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Lumps of opaque and transparent starch will start to form. Pour in a further third of the starch mixture and stir for 1 minute or until a paste-like consistency form. Add the remaining starch and knead for 2 minutes until a shaggy dough forms. It will have the appearance of being dry, with unincorporated starch. Make sure the saucepan is well-covered, and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Make a thin layer of cornstarch dust and spread it out over a dry, clean surface. Take the lid off the saucepan and use the rubber spatula for kneading the dough by folding it over and over for three minutes. Knead the dough for 1–2 minutes on a floured surface until it is smooth. The dough should be silky and elastic after being worked.
- Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin with cornstarch, and roll the dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches thick and 1 1/2 inches long.
- Slice the dough into 36 pieces, each weighing between 12 and 14 grams (a digital scale is helpful for this). You may prevent the dough from sticking together by coating it lightly with cornstarch and covering it with an inverted bowl while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
- It takes around two hours of soaking in hot water for dried shiitake mushrooms to regain their original texture and flavor. Dice them very little. Bring roughly half the water to a wok or a medium pot boil. You should get an ice bath ready as well.
- When the water is boiling, add the spinach or other leafy greens and toss for 15 to 30 seconds, until they are barely wilted. To cool the blanched greens, strain them in a metal strainer or Chinese spider and then plunge them into the ice water. The greens should be removed from the ice bath using the sieve, the leaves squeezed dry, and then placed on a cutting board.
- After the water has come to a boil, add the mushrooms and carrots and stir for a further minute. Place in a bowl of icy water.
- After cooling, carefully chop the spinach leaves and combine them with the drained carrots and mushrooms in a bowl. Pork, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch, salt, sugar, white pepper, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and vegetable oil should be added. Blend together to ensure proper incorporation.
Assemble the dumplings:
- Roll out some cornstarch using a rolling pin. Each piece of dough should be rolled out into a disc with a diameter of between 3 and 3 1/2 inches on a surface sprinkled with cornstarch.
- Prepare the wrapper by placing around 1 spoonful of filling (about 14g) in the middle. You can make it into a square, rectangle, triangle, or square with four corners (see photos). After you’ve filled all the wrappers, you can start rolling them up.
- Steam the dumplings over boiling water on medium-high heat for about 6 minutes, or until transparent, in a bamboo steamer coated with perforated parchment paper.
- Hot chili oil should be served alongside these crystal dumplings.
NOTES & TIPS:
If you use a serving size of 6 dumplings per person, this recipe will create 36 dumplings, or 3 dozen. All of the stats are for 6 dumplings.
You can prepare the dumplings up to 24 hours in advance and store them in the fridge, or you can freeze them on a sheet pan (spread out and covered) until solid, and then store them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Steam for an extra 1–2 minutes if cooking from frozen.