In this second installment, let’s take a look into other dim sum dishes that are worth the fair. Aside from giving you flavour and texture, these dishes also give you a good back story which makes these more interesting.
Many call it “a bowl of comfort” making it one of the most loved dishes in the Chinese cuisine. Although there are different variations from other countries, but the ones you can get from a dim sum menu is something that awards you with a beautiful layer of flavours.
To look back on its history, we can see that rice has been revered as divine in most Asian countries. Even if it is served in its simplest form, it became a staple for every meal. However, rice seems so precious to be simply treated just as ingredient. If you love your rice, then you would know that it comes in different types. For instance, the Japanese and Koreans prefer the slightly glassy or translucent kind, while the Chinese likes the long-grained, non-aromatic rice. The Thai and Vietnamese love the fragrant jasmine rice, while in Bhutan, they love the red and sticky kind. And as many as there are different types of rice also comes the myriad of interpretations of congee available.
This dish goes way back at least 1000 BCE where it was not just considered a food for the peasants but for royalty, in fact, it was even deemed a staple in banquets. Historically, congee was created using different types of grains such as, barley, millet, tapioca, wheat, sorghum and corn. The Qing dynasty created a manual on how to prepare this dish, and by the time of the Huang Yungu dynasty there were more than 237 different ways to prepare a steaming bowl of congee. That is just astounding, that for something that is seemingly simple soon paved the way for a plethora of choices!
One story that came out about this dish is about a man who faced the dilemma of serving 10 guests. Having not much to start with, he asked the cook to stretch the rice by adding more water to the pot. He further instructed that for everytime he called out the cook’s name, he is to add more water to the rice. However, the man forgot his own instructions and kept on calling the cook’s name but for different other reasons. So when it was time to bring out the dish, it turned into a thick porridge.
What is interesting about congee is that it is versatile, since it can be eaten without any addition of flavours at all, or it can be enjoyed sweet or savoury. Restaurants today, including Tak Po, has are serving elaborate versions by adding different toppings, such as pork, fish, or chicken. Some even go for more exotic pieces such as pig’s feet or century eggs. With the right amount of spices the congee we are able to enjoy today gives as a beautiful revelation of flavours in every comforting spoonful.
One of the interesting names in a menu are this fan-like dumplings that are served slightly burnt on the outside, which is actually one of the beautiful things that result out of a certain mishap.
So the story goes that a royal chef was supposed to boil zhao ji, a Northern Chinese specialty dumpling, but he walked away and his dish seemed to have skipped his mind for a couple of minutes. When he came back the water boiled off with the zhao ji stuck to the pot. This is how the potsticker came to be, which in Chinese is actually means, “stuck to the wok.” The cook, who probably thought that he had no choice, pried the dumplings and served it to the guests. Surprisingly, they all loved it due to the contrast of the tender skin and its crusty bottom.
Today, it takes skill and timing to create just the right crisp and toast. What is also interesting is that this recipe was adapted by the Japanese and made their own version of it, hence the gyoza. It was even called the gateway dumpling as it is present in several menus in western countries. In fact, it is even referred to as “Peking ravioli” in Boston.
Another popular dim sum specialty is the Teochow dumpling, or what is also known in Chinese as Fun Gor or Chaozhou dumplings. It gives a combination of both savory and sweet. What makes this so interesting is the fact that it is filled with a riot of ingredients such as ground pork, shrimp, chives, garlic, chopped peanuts, shitake mushrooms, and dried radish. Due to the interesting fiesta as its filling, there is less flavoring used depending on the freshness and quality of the ingredients.
The dumpling wrapper on the other hand is not like that of the other dim sum dishes as it is made from a mixture of flour and plant starches mixed together with water. It can also come in de-glutinized wheat flour, tapioca flour, and corn or potato starch.
What is so interesting about this is that it is like a Chinese version of a beautifully wrapped burito with all your ingredients or fillings enough to serve as a complete meal. However, in this case it comes in small beautifully pleated dumplings. It’s become so widely loved that even Hawaiians made their own version called the pepeiao, which is the Hawaiian word for ear, and that is because it is shaped like one.
This dumpling is actually part of the Teochew cuisine which bears some similarities to Fujian cuisine. Known for their seafood and vegetarian dishes the family of dishes in which this dumpling belongs in is commonly regarded as healthy. Adding to that, it uses less oil and focuses more on steaming, poaching, and braising; in fact even congee is part of this family.
As you might have observed, these three dim sum dishes are the healthier kind. It’s giving you good food, great flavours, and healthy too. Grab your own fare and reserve a table at Tak Po today and get a taste of authentic Chinese cuisine at the best prices.