Har Gow (蝦餃) at the Chu Shing Restaurant in Ottawa
Chu Shing is one of my favorite places for Dim Sum in Ottawa. The only thing I don’t like about the place is that I have a preference for ordering from a menu rather than push-cart service and they employ the latter. Still, their Dim Sum selections are almost always good, and their Har Gow, on this occasion, though not the prettiest I have ever had were absolutely delicious.
Har Gow is the Cantonese pronunciation of 蝦餃 ( Xiājiǎo, in Mandarin) which simply means ‘Shrimp Dumpling’. They are wrapped in much the same way as is usual for Jiaozi, except that the pleated dough forms a more spherical shape, rather than a crescent, and the dough itself is not made with wheat flour, but with a combination of starches, giving it a translucent appearance when steamed.
This type of fold always has an odd number of pleats, with 7 or 9 being common and it is said that 13 pleats is the mark of an expert Dim Sum chef. Here, Chu Shing managed 5 pleats for some and 7 for others. This suggests, if nothing else, that the Har Gow here are made on the premises rather than being frozen, commercially prepared ones bought from elsewhere (which is not uncommon).
Beyond that, the overall appearance was not as polished as you sometimes see. The wrapper itself was actually well made and steamed to a pleasing translucency and texture, but it suffered a little by being very slightly dry on the surface. This is more of a service issue rather than a kitchen problem, though, and is one of the reasons I am less keen on push-carts in Dim Sum restaurants as some items spend a little too long between being cooked and arriving on one’s table.
What made these 蝦餃 remarkable was the quality of the shrimp filling. First and foremost, the shrimp were very fresh and had a lovely, bright flavor. In different interpretations, the shrimp can me minced to a paste, sometimes with other ingredients added, or it can consist of whole small shrimp, large chunks, or something in the middle of the range.
Here at Chu Shing, the Har Gow contained large chunks of chopped shrimp. One factor that really makes a difference is a proper preparation involving a lengthy rinsing under cold running water. This removes a glycol-protein slime from the surface, which is harmless but negatively affects the texture. Chu Shing clearly employed this technique and the result was wonderfully crisp and toothsome. Overall, despite the less than perfect appearance, these Har Gow were excellent.