Gluten-free steamed turnip dumplings (soon kueh)

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This fantastic dumpling recipe from Shu Han Lee includes a recipe for gluten-free wrappers, a veg-packed turnip filling and a sweet dipping sauce. Perfect for Chinese New Year celebrations, these homemade dumplings are worth trying.

First published in 2015
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Chinese New Year is not here yet, but this is when it's most exciting. The week before Chinese New Year is when the new clothes get shopped for, the garish lanterns go up, the tacky music floods the radio stations, and when tubs and tins and jars and packets of goodies start piling up on the living room table. That was until four years ago though, when I moved to London.

They say Chinese New Year is about the people and not so much the clothes/lantern/music/goodies, and in a sense I guess you are right, because it is pretty much the only time in the year when I meet some of my relatives. But because it's the only time in the year when I meet some of these relatives, these meetings unfortunately usually look like this: a hot and crowded living room, a row of blank faces staring at the TV pretending there's something interesting going on, and maybe a cluster of people bravely attempting to strike conversation. There never was that heartwarming scene of people folding dumplings together. (We still all love one another though).

But I thought I would start getting this dumpling business down. I got some friends over for a premature Chinese New Year dinner, and instead of having food ready on the table, I made them work for their food. We made two sorts. There was a gluten-free girl, so none of your usual potstickers or shortcut wanton wrappers. We did steamed cabbage dumplings, using cabbage leaves to wrap a juicy pork-and-scallion filling, and one of my favourite dumplings, soon kueh, turnip dumplings. They have a slippery smooth thin wrapper made of tapioca and rice flour that I absolutely love, and that isn't used in any other dumpling except soon kueh. The filling is actually made from bamboo shoots ('soon') and jicama (yam bean), not a turnip per se, but I've done it before with a British turnip from the farmer's market and though it's not the same, it's not half bad at all. I also skipped the bamboo shoots (taste-wise it doesn't affect much) but then I don't know if you should call it soon kueh. Hmm.

The soon kueh we made were, well, rustic. The skin was slippery, smooth and soft, but frankly not very pretty, I already chose the best ones to photograph. But within the ugly shapeless wrapper is a wonderful burst of flavour from the stewed turnips and mushrooms that are plump with sweet juices from the dried shrimps. And anyway, homemade dumplings aren't meant to be exquisite works of art; they're meant to be imperfect, delicious, and an excuse for you to get messy with your favourite people.





  • 150g of rice flour
  • 50g of tapioca flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 300ml of boiling water


Dipping sauce

To serve

  • crispy shallots, (optional)
  • sambal chilli sauce, (optional)
  • oil, for brushing


Begin by making the soon kueh dough. Mix together the rice flour, tapioca flour and sea salt flakes in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water evenly over the mixture and immediately stir to combine. It will be extremely hot so leave until cool enough to handle
Knead to make a smooth sticky dough, then dust with more tapioca flour and continue kneading, until the dough is sticky but kind of tacky. Cover and leave the dough to rest for at least 10 minutes but ideally a few hours
Meanwhile, make the filling. Soak the dried shrimps and shiitake mushrooms in separate bowls of warm water until soft, about 10 minutes and 40 minutes respectively
Drain the shrimps and set aside. Remove the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid and thinly slice
Place the dried shrimps, garlic and groundnut oil in a large frying pan and fry until fragrant, then add the mushrooms and cook until nicely golden. Add the shredded turnip and carrots with the chilli (if using), soy sauce, sugar, white pepper and sesame oil and fry until the liquid has evaporated
Add the mushroom soaking liquid and simmer until the liquid has mostly reduced and the turnip and carrots have softened. Set aside until ready to cook the dumplings
To make the dumplings, roll the dough into a log and cut into 16 small, even-sized balls. Roll each ball into a thin circle, dusting with tapioca flour. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle but you can use a bowl to cut around if liked
Place 1 tablespoon of the filling into the centre of the wrapper, fold the bottom half up, bring the edges together and press to seal. Repeat with the remaining dumplings, although the turnip filling may become a bit wet/soggy at the end so you might have to drain off the liquid
To make the dipping sauce, mix equal quantities of blackstrap molasses and dark soy sauce together in a small bowl. Set aside to serve
Place the dumplings on greased steaming trays and steam over a high heat for 10 minutes, or until puffed up. Transfer to greased serving plates (they will stick if you don't) and brush with a little oil
Serve with the dipping sauce and ideally some spicy sambal sauce and a garnish of crispy shallots as well
First published in 2015

Shu grew up in Singapore and continues her nation's obsession with food in London, where she writes about food that's seasonal, British, yet Singaporean at the same time.

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