Friday, October 30, 2009

Hong Kong, China: Dim Sum

Dim sum is a uniquely Chinese. It consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes, and other items often served in individual bamboo streamers. When several are ordered they make a wonderful meal. The words literally mean, "touch your heart."

I was introduced to dim sum during a visit to Hong Kong several years ago. A friend took us to a dim sum restaurant where a wheeled cart, like an English teacart, went from table to table and, after viewing the picture menu, we chose what we wanted to try. On the back of the menu was the history of dim sum. It seems that a demanding empress ordered her royal chef to prepare a special meal for her. Afraid to make a mistake, he made many individual items sure to "touch her heart." Dim sum was a success and became linked to drinking tea especially with travelers journeying along the famous Silk Road. They needed a place to rest, so teahouses opened up along the roadside, and after a while teahouse proprietors began adding a variety of snacks in the form of dim sum. My favorite is char siu bao, barbecued pork in a steamed dumpling; and har kau, shrimp wrapped in thin dough fashioned to look like a purse and steamed. Dim sum is a great way to sample new foods without ordering an entire plate of one item.

The Hong Kong Peninsula, one of the world’s most exquisite hotels, has a variety of programs whereby guests can learn about a variety of things from feng shui to how to make dim sum.
At the Peninsula Hotel, Chef Wah taught John and me how to make Shrimp Dim Sum and Chive Dim Sum. Basically the pastry is the same but chive water is used for the Chive Dim Sum. Interestingly, Chef Wah explained, "No matter where you go in the world, the Shrimp Dim Sum has a pure style. It always has the same ingredients and shape. You can be creative when shaping the Chive Dumpling." We found shaping the little purse-like dumplings more difficult than it looks but as Chef Wah explained, "It takes practice. I make 400 to 500 every day."

Chive Dumplings
1 pound finely minced shrimp meat
1 cup diced chives
1/2 cup diced Chinese mushrooms
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chicken powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Mix ingredients and chill for four hours.
Shrimp Dumplings
6 ounces finely minced shrimp
3 tablespoons finely chopped bamboo shoots
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chicken powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Mix all ingredients for the stuffing and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Dim Sum Wrappers
(It is possible to buy wrappers.)
2 cups wheat flour
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1 3/ 4 cups boiling water for shrimp dumplings
1 3/ 4 cups boiling chive water for chive dumplings. To make chive water boil three ounces of diced chives in two cups of water until green and strain and use instead of plain water. Food color can be added if needed.

Mix ingredients adjusting as necessary for dough to be of the proper consistency. Form a small ball, roll out until thin, place stuffing on top, press closed to make a purse shape for Shrimp Dim Sum, or any desired shape for Chive Dim Sum, and steam for 4 minutes.

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