Uniquely Chinese, dim sum consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes, and other items often served in individual bamboo streamers. They are similar to hors d’oeuvres, but 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 tea cart, went from table to table and, after viewing the picture menu, we chose what we wanted to try.
According to the information on the back of our menu, dim sum originated when a demanding Chinese empress ordered her royal chef to prepare a special meal for her. Afraid to make a mistake, the chef made many individual items sure to “touch her heart.”
Dim sum was a success with empress and became linked to drinking tea with travelers journeying along the famous Silk Road. These travelers needed a place to rest, so teahouses opened up along the roadside, and teahouse proprietors began adding a variety of snacks in the form of dim sum.
I like the whole concept of dim sum because we can order a variety of eats and share. It makes a great way to sample foods without ordering an entire plate of one item. My favorite dim sum is char siu bao, barbecued pork in a steamed dumpling and har kau, shrimp wrapped in a light dough fashioned to look like a purse and steamed.
I also like the concept they’ve developed at the Peninsula Hotels where guests can attend The Academy and can learn about a variety of things from feng shei to how to make dim sum.
During our trip to Hong Kong, Chef Wah taught John and me how to make Shrimp Dim Sum and Chive Dim Sum. Basically the pastry is same, but chive water is used for the Chive Dim Sum.
“No matter where you go in the world, the Shrimp Dumpling has a pure style,” Chef Wah told us. “It always has the same ingredients and shape. You can be creative when shaping the Chive Dumpling.”
I found shaping the little purse-like dumplings is more difficult than it looks, but, as Chef Wah explained, “It takes practice. I make 400 to 500 every day.”
If you’d like to try your hand at making Dim Sum, check out Chef Wah’s recipes here.
www.peninsula.com/hong_kong/en/default.aspx — by Sandra and John Scott, RFT Contributors