Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cilantro Shrimp Chinese Dumplings

Some people don't like the taste of cilantro. They say it tastes "soapy". Or that it tastes like medicine. I am not one of those people.

I like cilantro. I like its leaves, roots, stems and seeds (coriander). The roots are great for making curry pastes; the stems can be used in a pinch if you can't find a market that sells the whole plants. The leaves and seeds are used in dishes around the globe, from Thailand to Argentina. It is a must for fresh salsa and brings a unique piquancy to coconut grilled spareribs.

I also like shrimp and dim sum. So when Wandering Chopsticks chose cilantro for this month's Weekend Wokking challenge, I decided to make these dumplings. Traditionally, the filling is made with garlic chives rather than cilantro. When using garlic chives, it's necessary to blanch them first before mixing them with the shrimp. Using cilantro instead of the garlic chives, no blanching is necessary. Both the filling and the dough for the dumplings take very little time or effort. For people who like cilantro, this makes a wonderful appetizer. The recipe for the dough and the original recipe for the garlic chives filling come from Ellen Leong Blonder's wonderful Dim Sum, a book with clear, easy to follow recipes and beautiful, instructive watercolors.

Wheat Starch Dough

1 1/4 cups wheat starch (available in Asian markets)
3 TBS tapioca flour (also labeled tapioca starch)
1 TBS glutinous rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp oil

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in water and oil. While the dough is still hot, turn out onto a board floured with 1 tablespoon of wheat starch. Knead, while it is hot, until the mixture is smooth. The dough should be similar to the consistency of mochi, soft but not sticky.

Divide the dough into thirds and roll each third into a six-inch log. Cut the log into six one-inch cylinders. Cover loosely with a damp cloth to keep from drying out.

Place a cylinder of dough cut-side up between two six-inch squares of parchment or wax paper. Press down with a the broad side of a cleaver to form a 3 1/2 inch circle. This is really simple and takes very little time to master. Peel away the parchment, fill with about 2 teaspoons of filling, pleat and seal. It's important that you fill each circle as soon as it is pressed because the dough will dry out quickly otherwise. Cover the filled dumplings with a damp towel until ready to cook.

Cilantro Shrimp Filling

6 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped in 1/4 inch dice
2 loosely packed cups of cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch

If making by hand, chop shrimp into quarter inch dice. Finely chop cilantro. Mix together and add other ingredients. You can also make this using a food processor if you like. Combine ingredients in food processor. First add cilantro and pulse until finely chopped. Add shrimp and pulse briefly. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until just mixed. Place about 2 teaspoons filling onto each dumpling skin. Pleat dumplings and join. Flatten to make 2 inch patties.

Heat a seasoned frying pan that you can cover with a lid over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering and almost smoking, place about half the dumplings in the pan. Make sure they don't touch each other. Cook the dumplings for about 2 or 3 minutes on each side, pressing with a spatula to flatten slightly, until they crisp and begin to brown.

Holding the lid over the pan, pour in 1/2 cup of water and immediately cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 3 minutes, by which time the dough should be somewhat translucent. Remove the lid and raise the heat to medium and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until the water evaporates. Turn the dumplings to cook until both sides crisp slightly and turn light brown. Transfer the dumplings to a plate, cover with foil and keep them warm in a low oven until all the dumplings are cooked and ready to serve. Unfortunately, these dumplings do not freeze well, so they are not something that can be made ahead of time.

I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. The host this month is BlazingHotWok. If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month.


  1. I hated cilantro as a kid but now I think it tastes wonderfully refreshing. I love it in both Asian dishes (especially pho!) and Mexican dishes. My honey hates it though so I usually don't cook with it but when I taste it at a restaurant, I always love the flavor!

  2. I agree, I love cilantro - and this looks absolutely delicious.

  3. I've bookmarked these! One day when I find the wheat starch (it's so difficult, even out here in Asia!), I'll give these a shot! :)

  4. Thanks. Cilantro and shrimp have a natural affinity for each other. There's a Mexican restaurant in town that serves killer shrimp empanadas with a cilantro salsa that is almost like cilantro chutney. I think anything with shrimp and cilantro would taste good.
    Manggy, I would imagine that if you went to a Chinese market in Manila or in an area where there are more ethnic Chinese living, you might be able to find wheat starch. It's called cheng fen (澄粉 ), and may be labled non-glutinous flour. It's usually sold in 1 pound bags here in the US.


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