Dumplings are one of the few foods that are very nearly impossible to make unappetizing. Last month, we brought you a hot dog sliced to look like an octopus lounging on a bed of green ramen seaweed. It’s not hard to make a pink, rubbery, phallic-shaped meat product look like something that makes you want to hurl. A delicate portion of seafood, pork, or vegetables folded tenderly into tiny dough pockets, on the other hand, presented a challenge.
Just because they are difficult to make gross, however, does not mean that the stalwart home cooks of Pinterest haven’t taken creative liberties with them. You have pork dumplings styled like little piglets, pillowy hedgehogs, delicate goldfish. New York’s RedFarm even serves a pristine row of perfectly color-coded Pac-Man dumplings.
As precious as those all are, we were two women on the hunt for something nasty. Deep in the furrows of Instructables, we found a human with a similar outlook on life. Instructables user Caitlinsdad had crafted a masterpiece that he dubbed Har Gow Horrors: translucent-skinned mouse-shaped dumplings with eerily pink shrimp insides. In Caitlinsdad’s words, “I did not make these in the shape of Mickey Mouse. That would have been tasteless.”
“This reminds of newborn mice!” said commenter Arbitror, and posted a photo of a mess of newborn mice, still pink and hairless. We persevered.
The recipe called for a combination of tapioca starch and wheat starch that would render the dumpling skin transparent. We fucked up the dough and, in a pinch, we went with the flour dough recipe from Molly Yeh’s Chicken Potstickers, an old favorite of ours. Whichever dough you decide to make for your dumplings, here’s how to turn those bad boys into disgusting little rodents:
Break off a golf-ball-sized mound of dough, then cover the rest of the dough with a damp paper towel to keep moist. Break off a pinch of your golf ball and roll it between your hands into a long, creepy tail. Roll the rest of the ball into a flat circle. Smush the tail into the circle so that you have a kind-of flat sperm disk.
Spoon about a tablespoon of filling (shrimp, in our case) into the center of the dough circle. Fold each side up around the filling and pinch the dough together. Now gently flatten the crease downward and pinch four little mouse legs outward in disparate directions.
Turn your proto-monster over and pinch two tiny ears outward from the pointy not-yet-face. Push two peppercorns (we used black, but pink or red would also be awful) into the face as eyes.
Repeat with the rest of your dough until you have enough to form a rat king.
Now it’s time to steam your dumplings. Place a round of parchment paper or a leaf of cabbage into a bamboo steamer. Position the mice in the steamer so they are spread out enough that they don’t touch at all. Cover the steamer and place it over a pot of simmering water for about ten to fifteen minutes (ten if you are using a shrimp or vegetable filling, fifteen if you are using pork or chicken). Enjoy with some soy sauce mixed with rice wine vinegar.
We had entirely different experiences crafting the dumplings. Gabriella could not get the dumplings to hold shape—her first attempt at a mouse looked like a mutated Komodo dragon. She resorted to making a fish, then a giant fleshy vagina, then a tiny dough penis, until she worked up enough courage to make a baby mouse. Anna made perfect, eerie replicas of mice that even a real mouse would probably be confused by. That’s because she is a witch.
The day after we made these, Gabriella’s boyfriend’s dog opened the fridge while nobody was home, ate two entire blocks of cheddar cheese, then scattered the remainder of the dumplings around the apartment, untouched. Mouse dumplings: so gross that even a dog who houses everything knew better than to eat them. Mission accomplished.