Mum’s recipe for gok tsai 角仔
Makes about 20
1 rice bowl* of wheat starch
1 rice bowl of rice flour
1 rice bowl of tapioca starch (if you want it a bit chewy and stretchy but optional)
1 teaspoon** salt
3 rice bowls of just boiled water
Vegetable oil (or oil of your choice), for kneading
A handful of beans, diced
About 5 or 6 shiitake mushrooms, diced
A small handful of wood ear mushrooms (soak for about an hour max, then diced)
A small handful of tiny dried shrimp (soak at the same time as wood ear)
1 bean thread vermicelli cake (we use the 40g individual packets), softened in warm water and cut into shorter lengths with scissors
Handful preserved radish, diced
If you want to include meat —
A portion of lap yuk (Chinese cured pork belly) OR pork neck OR chicken, diced. Use as much or as little as you want.
Chopped chilli (optional)
Oil of your choice (vegetable or peanut is fine)
About 2 teaspoons salt (taste as you add)
Half a teaspoon of sugar
Half a teaspoon of pepper
Soy sauce to taste
Oyster sauce to taste
Start with the filling. In a wok or frying pan, fry each ingredient individually on medium-to-high heat with some vegetable or peanut oil. Place each ingredient in the same big mixing bowl as you finish frying them. Leave shrimp, beans and vermicelli until last — fry the shrimp, then add the beans. Stir until soft. Add the vermicelli and stir. Lower the heat and add salt, sugar, pepper, soy and oyster sauce. Add chillies if using.
Add the vermicelli, shrimp and beans to the rest of the fillings in the big mixing bowl and stir to combine.
For the dumpling skin, combine the starches, rice flour and salt in a big mixing bowl. Add the hot water one bowl at a time and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Then, using rubber gloves (if the water is still quite hot), add oil to your hands and knead the dough — stand above the bowl, fold the dough in on itself and push your knuckles in — it should mostly stay in a big ball, not flatten out like bread. Re-oil your hands if needed. Do this for about 8 minutes.
Brush a ‘steamer’ pan with oil. A steamer pan is usually metal with holes in the base and sits in a pan filled with water. If you have bamboo steamers, they will also work.
Section the dough into a few small balls to start your first dumplings and cover the bowl with a tea towel or foil to keep warm.
Taking a small balled section, flattened into a round (I recently discovered taco makers to help with making dumpling and they are brilliant for this, but I used to flatten them with my fingers, or a rolling pin could work).
Place filling into the middle and fold over into a semicircle. Press the dough together to seal, then using your thumb, fold into small pleats along the seal. Place in the steamer pan. Continue until you’ve used up all the dough or all the filling.
Steam the dumplings for about 15 minutes. Eat on their own or with a side of stir-fried vegetables – we usually have these for breakfast.
When Mum first started making these dumplings, we used wheat starch only. But friends and family experimented with different types of flours and starches and a few years ago she started adding rice flour. Depending on what is available you can use just wheat starch and rice flour. For a slightly springier skin, you can try one rice bowl of wheat starch, half a rice bowl of tapioca starch and half a rice bowl of rice flour. Cha guo is made with the same filling and glutinous rice flour.
* We used small rice bowls (around 200-ml volume) to measure for this recipe; Mum usually just measures based on habit and instinct.
** We don’t have standard measuring spoons at home; teaspoon measurements are made using sugar teaspoons.