Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Splendour of Dim Sum Delicacies...

Dim sum!!! Need I say more? Dim means point 👉 and sum is heart 💗. With the traditional cart trolleys wheeled around, just point to what appeals to the heart. As a dim sum aficionado, pretty much everything appeals to mine, and the splendid array is vast and glorious. In Toronto, there have been less restaurants serving dim sum on these rolling push carts where waitresses make their rounds chanting out their delicious wares, stop at your table side and lift the lids off stacked bamboo steamers to show what's piping hot underneath. Replaced is a menu list of offerings at each table, where patrons check off the kinds and number of dishes desired. From steamed dumplings, pan-fried taro cakes to deep-fried spring rolls to wrapped and stuffed morsels such as BBQ pork buns or lotus wrapped glutinous rice, and the light sweet finale of desserts such as mango pudding or custard egg tarts, it's almost impossible to not find something deelish to please even the pickiest eater! 

Dim sum teahouses originated in Guangzhou, the Canton region, and eating is an all day affair with crowds noshing in the early morning to well past midnight. Dim sum eateries are located in Chinatowns all over the world, but Hong Kong is where dim sum has been refined, perfected and turned into the late-morning ritual that locals prefer to call yum cha (drink tea), cause dim sum can't be without a pot or two of Chinese tea. 

Har Gaw (shrimp dumpling) and Siu Mai (pork dumpling) are the most popular and are known to be the two plates that bear the hallmark of a good dim sum joint. I am impartial to these delicacies and have always made steamed chicken feet in black bean sauce to be the litmus test. I can't get enough of those gummy cartilage-filled feet and toes :). At home, one can't possibly make the huge selection available at the restaurant, but I have recreated a few favourites which have been winners with my family and I plan to try my hands on a few more in the near future, such as the chicken feet. Here is a gallery spread of just some of the deliciousness at a morning gathering with my entire family and some of my home-style dim sum faves you can recreate at yours....

At Milliken Bar & Restaurant

Steamed chicken feet is also my son's favourite!! Mmmm... feet!

Ahhhh jook-- rice porridge or congee is Chinese ultra-comfort food, often eaten for breakfast it can be enjoyed all times of the day even as a late-night snack. And of course it is served at dim sum houses. From plain to flavoured, ours hand-down favourite has got to be popular pork and preserved egg congee. Here is my pork bone congee recipe with black and salted duck eggs-- I've always loved the classic flavour combination of pork, salted duck eggs and a thousand year old black eggs. A bit of saltiness, some creaminess from the contrasting egg duo and overall savoury meaty porridge makes for nourishing eats and a dim sum accompaniment with other tasty morsels. 

Pork Bone Congee with Black and Salted Eggs

Cantonese-style "Sui Gow" (水饺) are large boiled Chinese soup dumplings that literally translates to "water dumplings". These are different from wontons which are wrapped smaller and while there are many versions out there, the classic wontons are made of just chopped shrimps. At dim sum establishments, you can always find some form of dumplings cooked up in various styles, and with boiled sui gow or typcically called wontons, the dish comes with a side of chili oil for dipping (as per restaurant photo gallery above).

Sui Gow or Water Dumplings

Dumplings!! Boiled, steamed, pan-fried or deep-fried is a treat at dim sum. Take a look at my post- Dumplings 101 for lots of info. on ingredients, wrapping technique and different cooking methods. This particular pan-fried pork and shrimp (gow ji) recipe is a family favourite and cooked up in an extra crispy-base fan-like version.

Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Dumplings

Char Siu Bao (BBQ pork buns) is everyone's top dim sum favourite! These delectable filled buns soften and open like flowers as they steam and kids everywhere adore them! Their history dates back to when ovens were rare in China and most foods, including these buns were cooked in steamers over the fire. My filling is brownish in colour due to using roast pork siu yok (instead of char siu-- which you can replace), double soy and oyster sauces-- give these a try!

BBQ Pork Char Siu Buns

Dim sum enthusiasts relish in spring roll offerings as well as families at home. While many chefs everywhere create new recipes, this classic Chinese version with shredded pork and multi-veggies stand the tests of time...

Classic Spring Rolls

Hands-down, Pan-Fried Stuffed Bean Curd Rolls are easily my ultimate favourite dim sum delicacy. They are filled with crunchy vegetables such as bamboo shoots, black mushroom fungus, bean sprouts and carrots, and when pan-fried the tofu skin takes on a crispy aromatic flavour that is savoury with every bite served with its complimentary dip of Worcestershire sauce. Sheets of dried bean curd (yuba) are made from the skin that forms on the surface when soy milk is heated. The skin has no flavour or aroma until they are cooked, and rapidly absorb the flavours of seasonings and other ingredients. They are pliable and great for wrapping, but needs to be cooked before eating.

Pan-Fried Stuffed Bean Curd Rolls

Taro Cake are sometimes available at dim sum establishments, but turnip cakes are more popular. An auspicious food eaten during the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival, this is my mom's specialty. See my post as I roll up my sleeves to make it with her guidance and assistance. eaten with a bit of soy sauce mixed with chili sauce, its comfort and heaven!

Pan-Fried Taro Cakes

Pearly meat balls are so called because it looks like a precious pearl! Less popular at dim sum but sometimes it may make an appearance. This pork recipe is from my Taiwanese friend Kate who says its very suitable for all family members to make together; for elders, it gives them an opportunity to move their hands and participate in this fun activity; for children, they get to roll up their sleeves, and have fun while rolling meat balls!

Pearly Meat Balls (before steaming)

If you are a dim sum aficionado, you will be familiar with popular "lo mai gai" aka Chinese sticky rice wrapped and steamed in lotus leaf parcels with chicken, Chinese sausage and shiitake mushrooms. To make it hassle-free, I prefer to steam my version in one large lotus leaf-lined steam basket which produces a fragrant pot of moist, savoury sticky rice ready to be scooped and enjoyed by the entire family. One that is easy to eat and ultra-satisfying!

Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice

On the fifth day of the fifth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar marks Dragon Boat Festival-- this is an incredible time when dragon boat races are held all over China and the time when zong zi is made to celebrate. Zong zi is a Chinese version of tamales-- bamboo leaves are wrapped around glutinous sweet sticky rice mixed with all sorts of filling- savoury or sweet and boiled until ready. My favourite is savoury with seasoned pork belly, Chinese cured sausage, peanuts and duck egg yolk. It is a labour-intensive process as well as a wrapping-technique to master and the reasons why it is only made around Dragon boat festival! Some dim sum restaurants also offer this as a specialty on their regular menu.

Sticky Rice in Bamboo Leaves Parcels- Zong Zi

What are your favourite dim sum delicacies? And which one will you consider to attempt from home?

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