WHAT IS DIM SUM?
These Asian words always sound strange but what is it? Aaah, great question. In large metropolitan areas like New York City, Chicago, Loss Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle where there is a huge population of Asian immigrants, Dim Sum is their version of an Asian Brunch between breakfast and lunch. In China, Dim Sum was offered at traditional tea houses, now they are being offered in restaurants and we say "Yum Cha": translated as "Drink Tea Meal" ( referring to small dishes of scrumptious dishes served with tea.
How did it get popular? With new interesting food trends, you'll see a gathering of citizens and immigrant congregating at a restaurant, kiosk or a food stand. The first thing that comes to mind is, "whatever it is it must be good" and you stnd in line like the others, maybe start a conversation with the couple ahead of you and just ask a question of what type of food? and why is it so popular. For Dim Sum, we might know a friend that loves to try different foods or a colleague that always tries different food or on a business trip and the host offers Dim Sum instead of breakfast lunch. Word gets around and around.
But the question still unanswered is "What is Dim Sum?" In the traditional literal sense Dim Sum refers to 2 dishes savory and sweet that complements a cup of tea.
Dim Sum probably originated in Southern China but there is a hint it may have started in North China and eventually made its way to Canton. Dim Sum was a way to bring family and relatives togther and the local snacks were produced by local markets. Today, as Dim Sum spread throughout the Southern region of China, new innovative additions were discovered. Today there are over 1,000 selections to choose from.
Dim Sum involves all sorts of cooking techniques, from steaming to braising, to pan frying to frying in small dumpling size snacks.
If you are fussy about Asian food, at a Dim Sum, there is always something that will appeal to you. Now, in China, Hong Kong, the list of Dim Sum dishes focus on the regular items because they sell faster and are popular to everyone. But some restaurants offer very exotic dishes. If yoru daring, I say go for it!
Now, ever since I was a kid growing up, every Sunday we would go with Grandma to enjoy Dim Sum with the family. I always loved it when the little old ladies are pushing their food cart with lots of goodies loaded on each cart. They would come around and you would wave and they would stop by showing all those goodies under aluminum or bamboo covers to keep they hot.
The most common Dim Sum starts with a Shrimp dumpling. Wrapped in a translucent thin rice skin, there's a large piece of shrimp with ground bamboo shoots steamed to perfection. A slightly chewy texture of the rice covering. The combination of shrimp and bamboo shoots pair well together. Dip the dumpling in the soy sauce which enhances the overall flavor and sweetness of the shrimp and bamboo shoots. The Chinese name of the shrimp dumpling is called "Har (shrimp) Gow (dumpling). They come in a dish of 3. The next common favorite is a combination pork dumpling made with ground pork, shrimp and shitake mushrooms wrapped around a wonton wrapper. The magic flavor is the combination of the sweetness of ground pork, shrimp and mushroom but its the pork fat that makes the dumpling moist and delicious. This pork dumpling is call Siu Mai and its considered an open faced dumpling. You may encounter various versions of sui mai to include ginger, sesame oil and water chestnuts. The next most popular Dim Sum is spareribs with black beans. Now, its not a regulr sparerib that we are used to, its more of a sparibs that has been cut into very small morsels that include the bone cartlidge and fat. Sounds interesting the mixed with black beans and cornstarch to help marinate the rib with soy sauce. It's then steamed until the sparerib is so tender. Jalepeno strips added to the small dish of spareribs makes for a delicious and very tasty dish, slight flavor of soy sauce, not over powering and the black beans adds a subtle taste but not overwhelming. The Chinese term phonectically pronounced is "Pi Quiett." Another favorite Dim Sum item comes in a form of what the Chinese call "Bao". It's called a Roast Pork Steam Bun "Char Siu Bow" Jing ga (steamed). The bao contains a diced roast pork with onions in a sweet and salty sauce in the center and steamed to a fluffy cake consistency that is so delicious and savory. That combination of sweet and salty is not over powering but pairs well with the the cake texture white fluffy coating. Finally, Tyson Chickens was so grateful to the Asian community in these United States by taking a chicken part that ordinarily would have been discarded but found that the Asian community desired it, that part was chicken feet. Yes, you heard it chicken feet. It's of course clipped of their nails, washed thoroughly, marinated in soy sauce, deep fried then steamed with a special sauce. The beauty of chicken feet is the skin is so delicious and all collagen is natural and beneficial for your joints and skin. The finally finally there is a fried dumpling with a ground pork filling made with a tapioca dough when deep fried makes the tapioca ball crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside and for dessert there is this yellow egg custard called "Don Tot" in a flaky rust.
The size of each dish dictates the amount and as the old ladies hnd the dishes to you they stamp a special card letting the waiter know what was ordered and cost.
The perfect pairing in terms of teas is Green tea and Chrysanthemum tea. Yes, the flower is considered sweet and dried and used as tea. I piece of rock sugar is dded but both teas complement your Dim Sum while also rinsing your insides of grease in your digestive system.
When this Covid-19 Pandemic is over I hope to go visit my favorite place for some long overdue Dim Sum. Actually I can order on-line but haven't had chance and looking at what they offer is very limited.
So, trust Chef Woo Can and if the opportunity is there to try Dim Sum I highly recommend it. Before Covid-19 I had Dim Sum trips but becauses of CDC guidelines for large gatherings, its been put on hold.
Chef Woo Can You Can Too at www.chefwoocan.com
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