Dim sum is 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 teacart, went from table to table and, after viewing the picture menu, we chose what we wanted to try. On the back of the picture menu it explained 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 and 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 a light dough fashioned to look like a purse and steamed. I like the whole concept of dim sum. We can order a variety of eats and share. A great way to sample foods without ordering an entire plate of one item.
I also like the whole concept of the Peninsula hotels where they have The Academy whereby guests can learn about a variety of things from feng shei to how to make dim sum.
On our trip to Hong Kong in April 2009, 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 Dumpling has a pure style. 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.”
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
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 one must boil three ounces of diced chives in two cups of water until green and then strain and use instead of plain water. Food color can be added if needed.
Mix ingredients, adjusting if necessary to for dough. Form a small ball; roll out until thin; place stuffing on top; press closed to make a purse shape for Shrimp Dumplings or any desired shape for chive dumplings, and steam for 4 minutes.