Too often we get caught up with the sight of all these fragrant and steaming baskets of dim sum dishes that we simply take no mind in the story behind it. Here are some of your favourites with their beautiful stories tucked within all those flavours.
Har gao looks deceptively simple, but this dim sum dish actually makes for the perfect test for a chef’s ability to take note of the fine details. Shrimp is a delicate meat that doesn’t need much cooking to reach the perfect juiciness and texture. This will reveal if the wrapper is rolled just right to give it the translucent nature, enough to show the pink shrimp hidden inside. This will also show that chef’s pleating game. Traditionally it should have 7 pleats or preferably 10 on each. You see, it’s not just a tasty morsel but a delicate work of art.
The dough used in har gao is the foundation on which other dim sum dishes are made. A good one, no matter how thin, does not split open after steaming. The design is also unique, so special that even PUMA took notice. When the shoe brand collaborated with Hypebeast for “The Dimsum Project” in 2013, they designed sneaker which featured a subtle shrimp camo behind a translucent layer that looks like a har gao wrapper.
Another key ingredient is the use of bamboo shoots as it adds a textural contrast. It gives an earthy quality and a creamy texture. This addition was the brainchild of the creator way back during the beginning of the last century in Guangzhuo, China. Anxious to beat the competition, he made use of the freshest shrimp he could get from the harbor and adorned it with fresh bamboo shoots and pork.
This open-faced dumpling is among the crowd favourites, which also earned several other interpretations in different countries. It was first documented during the Song Dynasty, and was a staple at Chinese teahouses during the silk expeditions. Aside from its taste, its “makeshift sack” wrapping style is what makes it more distinct. The sides are noticeably squeezed to form a flower shape.
The classic siu mai recipe calls for a shrimp and pork filling. Other versions also calls for a sticky rice in the mix. What makes it more distinct is its yellow cover which is made out of wonton. However in some cases it is made with any edible seaweed. It can come with various toppings such as a crab roe or a whole prawn. In certain parts of China these are sold five to a skewer and filled with white fish paste.
Siu mai has been widely loved in different regions in Asia. It is called siomai in the Philippines and they make it with any type of ground pork mixed with peas and carrots. In Indonesia, they refer to it as shumai and it is made out of fish and a mix of vegetables. Japan also has their version called the shuumai, and it is twice larger compared to its other counterparts. But one thing is for sure, that regardless of the name and place of origin, this is a dim sum dish that is definitely a treat for the palate!
Xiao Long Bao
Buns have been one of the tastiest delight as the dimsum cart rolls along. Eating it is not just about biting into the soft white exterior, but first diffusing the heat trapped within. It got its name, which means “small basket dumpling,” because it is made in these small steamer baskets called xialong.
Tracing its origins in China, the buns they have come in two types, and this would depend on the leavening used for the skin. Those that are unleavened comes with a very thin skin which becomes slightly transluscent when steamed. The leavened type results in a soft and fluffy bun which is one of our crowd seller at Tak Po.
The bun should be soft and fluffy, but also thin enough to let the flavours of the filling shine through. Aside from the regular dim sum filling, a broth turned molded into gelatin cubes are added inside. This gives it more taste and texture which actually creates a full meal already.
As delicate as the process is, the eating part is just as tricky. You can’t simply bite into a bun fresh out of the steamer. This could burn your tongue badly, so to avoid the accident, poke a whole on top of the bun. Slowly sip the broth as you make your way towards the meat that oozes with flavor from all the mixture of spices and vegetables.
Xia long baos are already mass produced today and also comes frozen sold worldwide. This may be convenient but it would mean missing out on the sumptuous goodness of the fresh and handmade ones.
Rice Noodle Rolls
This is not your typical long and slender noodles, but rather flat ones that are sort of reminiscent of lasagna. These rice noodle sheets are made out of rice flour, tapioca or glutinous rice, and water. These rolls often come filled with either pork, shrimp, vegetables, beef and other ingredients. It is drizzled with seasoned soy sauce. What is interesting is that this dish is also referred to as “chee cheong fun”. “Chee cheong” means pig intestine and “fun” means noodle. It is named as such because after it is steamed or cooked, it resembles pig intestines.
It comes in several interpretations in different regions in Asia. In Vietnam, they are treated as a crepe eaten with pork fillings for breakfast. In Malaysia and Singapore, we often see this served with sweet black sauce called timzheong, served either dry or wet. Either way these are all good and tasty.
If all these has you drooling, come visit Tak Po today for a revelation of all these sumptuous dishes. It’s Cantonese cooking at its finest as we deliver you a fare of dim sum dishes. Call us to reserve your table and avoid the long lines.