Corner Café

September 18, 2008

Koo Chai Kueh (crystal pastry version) / Chinese Chive Crystal Dumplings 韭菜粿

Filed under: Dim Sum — SeaDragon @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,


Chai Kueh (菜粿), or vegetable dumplings, are a speciality of the Teochew dialect group from Southern China. There are three basic types of vegetable dumpling; they are Chinese chive (koo chai) dumplings, jicama (yambean or bangkwang) dumplings and bamboo shoot (soon) dumplings.
These dumplings can be made with either a rice flour pastry or a wheat starch pastry depending on preference. The rice flour version is usually made into a flat round shaped dumplings. The wheat starch version is usually wrapped up into a crescent shape and the pastry will turn translucent after steaming and look more spectacular.
The filling, apart from the main ingredient in each type of dumpling, may include some shredded or minced pork, fresh prawns, Chinese celery, Chinese dried mushrooms, fried peanuts, dried shrimps, fried beancurds or lard croûtons. However the main ingredient usually carries the main bulk of the filling.
For my homemade version of Chinese chive (koo chai) dumplings, I decided on the wheat starch pastry and I also added a lot more meat to my dumplings so they become a more sustainable snack. However please adjust the ingredients of the filling according to your preference.


Makes approx. 15 dumplings

Crystal Pastry:
160g wheat starch 澄麵粉
20g tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml (1 cup) boiling water
2 teaspoons lard, or peanut or canola oil

some shallot or garlic flavoured oil

Chinese Chive Filling:
200g Chinese chives
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil

150g minced pork
Marinade for minced pork: 2 teaspoons light soy sauce; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon sugar; dash ground white pepper; 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil; 1 teaspoon potato starch 生粉

3-5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked
25g dried shrimps, soaked
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
Chinese Chive Filling:
1. Marinate the minced pork for about 1/2 hour. Dice the soaked mushrooms and shrimps. Rinse and cut the Chinese chives into approximately 1cm length.
2. Heat a wok until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil and briskly stir-fry the Chinese chives for about 20 seconds. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Immediately dish up to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess moisture from the chives.
3. Add another tablespoon oil to the clean wok. Add minced garlic and stir-fry briefly until fragrant. Add marinated minced pork, diced mushrooms and shrimps. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir-fry until the meat is cooked and dried. Dish up to a plate to cool. Stir in the drained chives. Set aside.


Crystal Pastry:
Put wheat starch, tapioca starch and salt into a mixing bowl. Pour in boiling hot water and stir quickly with a pair of chopsticks to mix into a dough. Wait briefly until the dough cool down slightly and then knead the dough until smooth and pliable. Add lard and knead in to mix well. Divide into 15 equal portions (or 18-20 smaller portions if you preferred). Round each piece of dough into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a moist teatowel or cling wrap.

After adding boiling water, the dough should look lumpy, rest for a few minutes before proceeding to allow the starch to properly absorb the moisture.

After resting, knead the dough until smooth.

Add lard (or oil) and knead to mix in.

To make the dumplings:
1. Lightly grease the smooth working surface and the flat sides of a Chinese cleaver with a little canola oil. Flatten a dough ball with the greased cleaver into a round wrapper. Lift up the wrapper from the working surface with the blade of the cleaver.
2. Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper and fold the wrapper in half into crescent and seal the edges. Pleat the edges if desired.
3. Place the wrapped dumpling on a greased plate sealed side up. Repeat filling and wrapping with the remaining dough balls and filling.
4. Steam over high heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and brush with some shallot or garlic flavoured oil. Serve hot with chilli sauce.


Taste: Translucent, slightly bouncy pastry with delicious Chinese chive filling
Consume: Best served hot
Storage: Cover and store in the refrigerator, re-steam or shallow-fry before serving.
Recipe References:


  1. sd

    i have better make some of these dumplings. the koo chai in the garden are getting old, they are flowering already.

    Comment by lily ng — September 18, 2008 @ 5:20 am | Reply

  2. thanks for d posting…thanks to madam lily ng for d link too… i m interested and wondering if u have d recipe for d jicama filling?

    Comment by ellie — September 18, 2008 @ 9:06 am | Reply

  3. Lily,
    Haha, maybe can put the flowerbuds into the kuih too.

    The most basic is just stir-frying shredded jicama with a little minced garlic, soaked & chopped dried shrimps, add seasoning (the usual like light soy, salt, a little sugar, a little sesame oil & dash of white papper), cook until the filling is soft and is dry. You can also add some minced pork/chicken, soaked & chopped dried mushroom, taukwa cut into strips, shredded carrot, etc. if you preferred.

    Comment by SeaDragon — September 18, 2008 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

  4. dear SD, i really appreciate your reply as i been yearning for this chai kuih!!! the only way to find it here is to make it ourself! =)

    Comment by ellie — September 19, 2008 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

  5. Hey! I just made chai kueh.. and its a failure!!
    First of all, I didnt quite know what to expect with the dough. So it was practically trial and error…
    It was hard for me to knead it as it was too sticky.. I thought it was lack of oil.. so added more oil..
    But distaster! Maybe you have any tips or video tutorial.. coz I couldnt find any in youtube!

    Comment by Dee — September 19, 2008 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

  6. Dee,
    Oh dear…
    The dough is slightly sticky at the beginning. You have to pour the boiling water in all at once and stir quickly to mix immediately, then let it rest for a couple of minutes, then start kneading. It will be slightly sticky at the beginning but persist with it and it will come together. If not add a little more wheat starch. Only add the oil after the dough is smooth and pliable. HTH.

    Sorry, I don’t have any video.

    Comment by SeaDragon — September 19, 2008 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

  7. Thanks for the tips!
    Perhaps I didnt let it rest, as i was kneading it while its hot ( yikes, not a clever move ).
    Ill try to make another batch tomorrow and ill tell you the verdict! hehe..

    Comment by Dee — September 19, 2008 @ 11:16 pm | Reply

  8. wow this is one of my favourites! I always make my mum buy a lot when I’m back in Malaysia – and yours look terrific! Thanks for the recipe

    Comment by Tastes of Home — October 1, 2008 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  9. Yummy…. i love it with prawn filling.

    Comment by Fanny — October 2, 2008 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

  10. Hi SD,
    I used to help my mum make this for sale as my mum is a hawker.
    The skin is made from scratch-milled rice.
    a lot of work tho & time consuming…then we have to cook the rice batter till its thicken.
    think back to those old days…:)

    Comment by Connie — October 9, 2008 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  11. Connie,
    Wow, you are lucky, your mum must be an extremely good cook. I love those old fashioned recipes, they should never be lost. Is it possible for you to share the recipe in my forum? But if you can’t, I do understand.

    Is the scratch-milled rice the same as broken rice?

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 10, 2008 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  12. Dear SD,
    Well my mum is not pro la, she makes these (kuih)so that she can earn a living cos my father pass away while we (3 sisters) were still very young.
    I will try to memories the steps and ingredients but the weight is 1 problem…
    When we cooked the batter, we didn’t really measure o weight it you know. give me some time,
    I’ll post it at your forum.

    Milled rice, you have to soaked the rice a few hours, then milled it (very hard to express hahah I’ll try to take the picture la) the miller got 2 stone rubbing each other so the rice will become very fine and smooth…

    Comment by Connie — October 13, 2008 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  13. Connie,
    Oh, you mean the stone rice mill, I know what it is. We used to have one when I was very young, it was two big, heavy manual grinding stones, right. I was too young to remember what my mum used to make using the milled rice, probably something like chai tow kuih/orr kuih, but I do remember watching the stone mill being used to grind the rice.

    Thanks about the recipe, take your time, there’s no hurry. It is alright the recipe is agak-agak, I know most old recipes are like that, they were always done by feel and knowing the texture of the dough etc. I think to me more important is the steps of making it and what the ingredients are, and the accurate recipe can be worked out based on experimenting later on.

    Comment by SeaDragon — October 13, 2008 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

  14. Oh…my favorite dumpling !!! Thanks for the recipe…I should have a try…

    Comment by Ai Lien — October 14, 2008 @ 11:12 pm | Reply

  15. Hello SD,
    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, I’ve been craving koo chai kuih for the longest time!
    I couldn’t find any wheat starch flour so I substituted it with gluten free flour.
    Didn’t have tapioca flour, and used cornstarch instead.

    Turned out OK I guess, just ate 4 at one go! 😀
    Mine isn’t as translucent and springy like yours… 😦
    And nowhere near as pretty too!

    Comment by Cheryl — January 14, 2009 @ 4:25 am | Reply

  16. Cheryl,
    You’re welcome.

    Comment by SeaDragon — January 15, 2009 @ 9:09 am | Reply

  17. Hi,

    Tried the recipe using different ingredients and it turn out very well. Better than I expected for a first timer.

    Thank you

    Comment by YSC — February 1, 2009 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  18. Hi, do you have the recipe for the rice flour version? Thank you.

    Comment by lochydc — April 6, 2009 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

    • There are a couple of recipes for ‘Soon Kuih’ at ‘Home Cooking Club’ which use rice flour for the pastry, although I haven’t try them myself.

      Comment by SeaDragon — April 7, 2009 @ 8:30 pm | Reply

  19. Hi SD, I have tried your recipe for today but the Crystal Pastry for the skin is hard after coming out from the steamer. Do not why? Any advice?

    Comment by Elaine — June 17, 2009 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

    • Elaine
      Hmm, it shouldn’t be hard, but Q in texture. Maybe the skin is too thick, try making it thinner next time. Another reason maybe you let it dry out too much when shaping the dumplings? Try to wrap as quickly as you can and cover the pastry with a damp cloth.

      Comment by SeaDragon — June 18, 2009 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

  20. Hi Sea Dragon
    Tried to make the dumplings today… failed miserably with the dough. It was too sticky. I used wheat powder instead of wheat starch – is that different?

    Thanks for your help!

    Comment by Baci — June 21, 2009 @ 6:16 pm | Reply

    • Hi Baci,
      What is wheat powder? Ground wheat?

      Wheat starch is the starch extracted from wheat flour. This pastry must be made with the starch, there’s no substitution. Hope this helps.

      Comment by SeaDragon — June 21, 2009 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

      • Thanks Sea Dragon – will the dough be very sticky when I make it? I will try this weekend.

        Comment by Baci — June 24, 2009 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

        • Yes, it will be a bit sticky at the beginning, but keep kneading and the stickiness will go away. Just got another recipe from ‘Ming Court’ in Hong Kong (from MasterChef Australia), they used less water in their recipe, about 50ml less (mix of cold and hot water). So maybe can reduce water if yours still get very sticky.

          Comment by SeaDragon — June 27, 2009 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

  21. hi, sea dragon, can i just check with u is wheat flour same as wheat starch? cause i tried wheat flour mix wif plain flour. but it doesnt work. 😦

    Comment by Jing — July 28, 2009 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

    • Jing,
      Have a look in the ‘Flours & Starches’ in the side bar, I’ve pictures of wheat starch in there. It depends, I would assume the wheat flour you buy should be wheat starch if it is made in Hong Kong or Taiwan. The term wheat flour is very confusing as it could refer to plain flour as well since it is ground from wheat! To make sure it is wheat starch, its Chinese name must be written as 澄麵粉.

      If you want to make crystal skin pastry, DO NOT add plain flour! That’s what we want to avoid as the skin must only be made with starch!

      Comment by SeaDragon — July 29, 2009 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  22. Hi SD

    Thanks for this great recipe, the whole family loved it – I have been wondering how the crystal pastry was made for ages. At first I had trouble getting the Tapioca starch though – but manage to find it – well worth the search. Cheers

    Comment by Simbobs — August 22, 2009 @ 3:15 am | Reply

  23. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Can you share
    one with rice flour pastry? Thanks.

    Comment by Okbok — May 18, 2010 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

    • I don’t have a tested recipe for the rice flour pastry. But I’ve got one by Agnes Chang which is a Hakka version in Chinese, can you read Chinese?

      Comment by SeaDragon — May 21, 2010 @ 9:25 am | Reply

  24. Hi SeaDragon,
    I cannot find any tapioca starch. Do you have any ideas for substitution?


    Comment by Lee — August 14, 2011 @ 2:07 am | Reply

    • You can try using cornstarch (I have not try it myself). The other solution is to just use all wheat starch, that is 180g wheat starch in total.

      Comment by SeaDragon — August 14, 2011 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  25. Today I have try it out by using 100gram tang mien foon 70 gram rice flour 30 gram cornflour 400 gram boiling water salt and 1 tbsp onion oil ,add all together and stir it with chopstick,leaver it
    cover for 20 mins and rub it with 30 gram of tapioca four.wrap it with ingreds ,then rub the skin with onion oil. Steam it for 20 mins

    Comment by Nellie Teo — December 15, 2013 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

  26. I tried and they came out as crystal pastry using wheat starch and tapioca starch well done me thanks.

    Comment by Squid — September 9, 2014 @ 7:37 am | Reply

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