Har Gow at Fan’s Restaurant in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Har Gow are used by many Yum Cha afficionados as a benchmark, or standard, for assessing the skills of a Dim Sum kitchen. Fan’s Restaurant in Dartmouth serves Dim Sum on Saturdays and Sundays at lunch time, and mostly, what they offer is pretty good. Unfortunately, even a cursory glance at their Har Gow suggested poor quality and the actual experience only confirmed it.
The Har Gow served on this occasion were spaced far enough apart to avoid them sticking together (which some places manage to screw up), and there were 9 folds in the wrapper, which is a little over midway up the skill ladder for such things. Thirteen folds is regarded as high quality and a lot of Dim Sum places will only do 7, or sometimes only 5. Fan’s, accordingly, managed to score well on these two points, but, sadly, that was the only area in which these dumplings rose above a fail.
First, the ‘frilled’ top of the dumplings were actually lying flat against the bottom of the steamer, which is unusual and rather robs the presentation of some prettiness. The most glaring defect, however, was apparent in the opacity of the wrapper. On the menu, Fan’s attempts to claim superlative status for their Har Gow by describing them as 水晶蝦餃皇, which specifies them as being ‘Crystal’ Prawn Dumplings. Sadly, they fall far short of the mark here, for the usual thin, translucency of Har Gow wrappers to suggest a crystalline quality, while these were thick and almost a solid white.
Biting in to the wrapper was a confirmation that they were not well made. They were too thick, very doughy in texture, and way more chewy than they should be. Sadly, whereas some poorly wrapped Har Gow redeem themselves with a good filling, this was not the case here. The pieces of shrimp were cut into fairly large chunks (which is a perfectly acceptable variation), but they were a bit texture-less and did not have a lot of flavor. There also seemed to be a bit of a raw dough in the center, as though some flour was used as a binder but was not properly cooked. This only occurred with one of the dumplings, actually, but it was still very disappointing. I do not know for sure, but I suspect that these Har Gow were purchased frozen by the restaurant and then not properly handled. Kind of a shame..