Wheat flour minus gluten equals…

wheat starch! Until yesterday, I’d never heard of this kind of flour. I was faced with the name 澄粉 in one of the Chinese cookbooks I’d just purchased. This Chinese-English glossary gives a set of rather misleading English terms:

澄麵粉/澄粉/澄麵 non-glutinous flour / wheat flour / wheat starch

I certainly don’t think ‘wheat flour’ in English would refer to this specialised gluten-free wheat product. Part of the translation problem is because ‘wheat starch’ is so rarely a part of western cooking, and correspondingly, the English term sounds unfamiliar. [Ironically, the opposite product – gluten/seitan is a common vegetarian food product in the west.]

Wheat starch is a great option for those with gluten-intolerance, but as celiac resources point out, normal wheat starch cannot be guaranteed to have zero gluten as there may be some contamination. Those who need to be strictly gluten-free should look for Codex grade which has a gluten level of less than 200ppm.

But for those of us with a lower degree of intolerance, regular wheat starch is a good thing to add to our cupboard of staples. And this actually opens the door to a whole new branch of cooking because many dim sum dishes and steamed Chinese cakes use wheat starch. Har kow, woo kok, lor bak kou, bao with various fillings, chwee kueh, mooncakes, etc. all use this to give a ‘bite’ and sometimes a translucent appearance as well.

Until I read the dim sum recipes, I was really scratching my head trying to understand and put a finger on this 澄粉.The Cantonese name is tong mein fun, which also rings a bell (thank you kuali.com for food names in Chinese dialects that we use in Singapore/ Malaysia! My Mandarin dictionary did not help me here at all :P).

I was also wondering where on earth to get this specialised flour, but after seeing this photo of the packaging (note how it is labelled as ‘tim sum flour’) kindly posted by Baking Mum, I realised I’ve seen this in Singapore supermarkets, so no problem to find it :).

**See my earlier comments on buying flour & using gluten.
**More info on my page about flours for Chinese & Japanese snacks.


2 Responses

  1. Where can I purchase wheat starch? I want the product to make certain chinese dumplings. I will want an amount for one family use thus large copmmercial sources are not what I am looking for

  2. Dear Donald,
    I’m afraid I can only advise on shopping in Singapore — where wheat starch can be found on regular supermarket shelves. In other countries, perhaps a Chinese grocery store will have it.

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