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How to Hack a Bamboo Steamer for Dumplings

Don’t have one? No problem. We teach you how to mimic a bamboo steamer using what you already have in your kitchen. 

Published Dec. 8, 2022.

Originating in China, bamboo steamers' most widely known use is probably cooking and serving dim sum dishes. Inside, their bottoms are level, making them ideal for steaming any food that needs to sit flat during cooking. Meanwhile, their woven construction allows moist air to pass through without accumulating on the bottom.

Undeniably, they are the best way to cook my recipe for Har Gow (Crystal Shrimp Dumplings) and most other dumplings. You just place the dumplings inside two steamer baskets (most steamers come with multiple tiers), stack them, and set them in a covered wok filled with a couple inches of boiling water. 

But if you don’t own a bamboo steamer, don’t worry. You can steam dumplings with something you already have. A plate. 

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The following trick will work with dumplings that cook in less than 10 minutes. With longer cook times, too much water accumulates on the plate, sogging out your dumplings. 

How to Steam Dumplings Without a Steamer 

  1. Arrange dumplings on an oval platter (or square plate) about 2 inches shorter in length than the diameter of the wok lid (or diameter of Dutch oven) that you are using. 
  2. Bring 3/4 to 1 inch water to boil in wok over high heat.
  3. When water is boiling, set the plate in the wok (it will rest on wok sides) or set it on a bowl placed right side up in a Dutch oven. Cover and steam.

Steam the dumplings an extra minute or two beyond what is recommended, and be sure to transfer them to a serving platter immediately after steaming so that they don’t absorb the moisture that’s collected on the plate. 

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