Monday, March 7, 2011

Dim Sum 101

Yum chaYum cha , also known as Ban ming , is a dining experience which involves drinking Chinese tea and eating dim sum dishes. Yum cha in Cantonese literally means "drink t
Dim Sum is most commonly linked with the tradition of yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots with intrepid travellers along the ancient Silk RoadSilk RoadThe Silk Road is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, as well as North and Northeast Africa and Europe...
needing a place to rest. In this way teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, also began visiting the teahouses after a while for a relaxing afternoon breakTeaTea is the agricultural product of the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the Camellia sinensis plant, prepared and cured by various methods...
. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, people believing it would lead to excessive weight gain. However, later on it was discovered that tea aided digestion, and so teahouses began serving a range of snacks.

More specifically, the unique culinary art form of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and hearty dining experience. While dim sum (touch the heart) was originally not a main meal, only a snack, and therefore only meant to “touch the heart”, it is now a staple of Chinese dining culture. In Hong Kong, along with most other major cities and towns in GuangdongGuangdongGuangdong is a province on the southern coast of People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...
province, many Chinese restaurants start serving dim sum around the wee hours of dawn. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercise like tai chi and wu shu. Nowadays, for many in southern China yum cha is treated as a revered weekend family tradition. Consistent with this, dim sum restaurants typically only serve the treats until mid-afternoon, and serve other kinds of Cantonese cuisineCantonese cuisineCantonese cuisine comes from Guangdong Province in southern China. Of all the regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, Cantonese is renowned both inside and outside China. Its prominence outside China is due to the great numbers of early emigrants from Guangdong...
in the evening.

Cha siu baauCha siu baau, also spelled char siu bao, are Cantonese barbecue pork buns . The buns are filled with barbecue-flavoured cha siu pork. They are served as a type of dim sum during yum cha and are sometimes sold in Chinese bakeries.-Variety:.
Traditional dim sum includes various types of steamed buns such as cha siu baau, dumplings and rice noodle rolls (cheong fun), which contain a range of ingredients, including beefBeefBeef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle . Beef is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of Middle east, Australia, Argentina, Europe and the United States, and is also important in Africa, East Asia, and Southeast Asia...
, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetableVegetarianismVegetarianism is the practice of following a plant-based diet including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds, mushrooms, with or without dairy products and eggs. Vegetarians do not eat meat, including red meat, game, poultry, fish, crustacea, and shellfish, and may abstain s. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge and other soups. Dessert dim sum is also available and many places offer the customary and now ubiquitous egg tart (particularly flavoursome in Macau)Egg tartThe egg tart or egg custard tart is a pastry commonly found in Hong Kong and other Asian countries. The tarts consist of an outer pastry crust that is filled with egg custard and baked.-History:...
. As stated above, having a meal in a Chinese teahouse or a dim sum restaurant is known as yum cha (
飲茶), literally "drinking tea", as tea is typically served along with. Popular flavours are chrysanthemum, green, oolong and pu’er.

Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and fryingFryingFrying is the cooking of food in oil or fat, a technique that originated in ancient Egypt around 2500 BC. Chemically, oils and fats are the same, differing only in melting point, but the distinction is only made when needed. In commerce, many fats are called oils by custom, e.g...
, among other methods. The serving sizes are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. It is customary to order “family style”, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. Because of the small portions, people can try a wide variety of food in this manner. Dim sum dishes can be ordered from a menu or sometimes the food is wheeled around on a trolley by servers. This is a particularly fun way to dine as diners can see exactly what they are getting. Traditionally, the cost of the meal is calculated based on the number, size, and sometimes colour of the dishes left on the patron's table.
Dim sum restaurants have a wide variety of dishes, usually several dozen. Among the standard fare are the following:

Gao (, Dumpling; 餃子 gau-zi): Gao is a standard in most teahouses. They are made of ingredients wrapped in a translucent rice flour or wheat skin, and are different from jiaozi found in other parts of China. Though common, steamed rice-flour skins are quite difficult to make. Thus, it is a good demonstration of the chef's artistry to make these dumplings.
·         Shrimp Dumpling (蝦餃 har-gau): A delicate steamed dumpling with whole or chopped-up shrimp filling and thin wheat starch skin.
·         Chiu-chao style dumplings (潮州粉果 chiu-chau-fun-guo): A dumpling said to have originated from the Chaozhou prefecture of eastern Guangdong province, it contains peanuts, garlic, chives, pork, dried shrimp, Chinese mushrooms in a thick dumpling wrapper made from glutinous rice flour. Usually served with a small dish of chilli oil.
·         Potsticker (鍋貼 who-tip) Northern Chinese style of dumpling (steamed and then pan-fried jiaozi), usually with meat and cabbage filling. Note that although potstickers are sometimes served in dim sum restaurants, they are not considered traditional Cantonese dim sum.
·         Shaomai (燒賣 siu-mai): Small steamed dumplings with pork, prawns or both inside a thin wheat flour wrapper. Usually topped with crab roe and mushroom.
·         Haam Sui Gaau (鹹水餃, salt-water [i.e. savoury] stuffed-dumpling): Deep-fried oval-shaped dumpling made with rice-flour and filled with pork and chopped vegetables. The rice-flour surrounding is sweet and sticky, while the inside is slightly salty.

Bau ( bau): Baked or steamed, these fluffy buns made from wheat flour are filled with food items ranging from meat to vegetables to sweet bean pastes.
·         Char siu baau (叉燒包, char-siu-baau): The most popular bun with special Cantonese barbecue pork filling. It can be either steamed to be fluffy and white or baked with a light sugar glaze to produce a smooth golden-brown crust.
·         Shanghai steamed buns (上海小籠包 seong-hoi-siu-lung-bau): These dumplings are filled with meat or seafood and are famous for their flavour and rich broth. Originally from Shanghai, they are not considered a traditional Cantonese dim sum. They are typically sold with pork as a filling.

Rice noodle rollA rice noodle roll is a Cantonese dish from southern China and Hong Kong, commonly served as a variety of dim sum. It is a thin roll made from a wide strip of Shahe fen , filled with shrimp, pork, beef, vegetables, or other ingredients. Sweet soy sauce is poured over the dish upon serving...
s or cheong fun (腸粉 cheong-fun): These are wide rice noodles that are steamed and then rolled. They are often filled with different types of meats or vegetables inside. The rolls are fried after they are steamed and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Popular fillings include beef, dough fritter, shrimp and barbecue pork. Often also topped with a delectable sweetened soy sauce.

Phoenix talons (鳳爪 fung-zao): These are chicken feet, deep-fried, boiled, marinated in a black bean sauce and then steamed. This results in a texture that is light and fluffy, while moist and tender. Fung zao are typically dark red in colour. One may also sometimes find plain steamed chicken feet served with a vinegar dipping sauce. This version is known as "White Cloud Phoenix Talons" (白雲鳳爪 bak-wun-fung-jau).

Steamed meatball (牛肉球 ngau-juk-kau): Finely-ground beef is shaped into balls and then steamed with preserved orange peel and served on top of a thin tofu skins.

Spare ribs: In the West it is mostly known as spare ribs collectively. In the East, it is char siu when roasted red, or paai-gwat (排骨) when roasted black. It is typically steamed with douchi or fermented black beans and sometimes sliced chilli.

Lo mai gaiLo mai gai, pronounced in Cantonese speaking regions or Nuo mi ji pronounced in Mandarin speaking regions, is a classic dim sum dish served during yum cha hours. The dish is also called steamed chicken in lotus leaf wrap or steamed glutinous rice in lotus leaf wrap.-Description:Lo mai gai is...
糯米雞 lou-mai-gai): Glutinous rice is wrapped in a triangular or rectangular shaped lotus leaf. It contains egg yolk, dried scallops, mushrooms, water chestnuts and meat (usually pork and chicken). These ingredients are steamed with the rice and although the leaf is not eaten, its flavour is infused during the steaming.

CongeeRice congee is a type of rice porridge that is eaten in many Asian countries, made by prolonged boiling of rice in copious water, with flavorings. The word congee is possibly derived from the Dravidian language Tamil word கஞ்சி kanji...
juk): Thick, sticky rice porridge served with different savoury items. The one seen most often is "Duck Egg and Pork Porridge" (皮蛋瘦肉粥 pei-daan-sau-ruk-juk).

Sou ( sou): A type of flaky pastry. Char siu is one of the most common ingredients used in dim sum-style sou. Another common pastry seen in restaurants is called "Salty Pastry" (鹹水角 haam sui gok) which is made with flour and seasoned pork.

Taro dumplingTaro dumpling is a variety of dim sum served within Chinese cuisine. It is a standard dish in dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong and around the world. Among overseas Chinatowns, it is often sold as a Chinese pastry....
芋角 wu-gok): This is made with mashed taro, stuffed with diced shiitake mushrooms, shrimp and pork; deep-fried in crispy batter.

Crispy fried squid (魷魚鬚 yau-yu-sou): Similar to fried calamari, this battered squid is deep-fried. A variation of this dish may be prepared with a salt and pepper mix. In some dim sum restaurants octopus is used instead of squid.

Rolls ()
·         Spring roll (春捲 cheun-gyun): A roll consisting of various types of vegetables — carrot, cabbage, mushroom, wood ear fungus — and sometimes meat are rolled inside a thin flour skin and deep-fried.
·         Tofu skin roll (腐皮捲 fu-pei-guen): A roll made of tofu skin.

Cakes ()
·         Turnip cake (蘿蔔糕 lo-bak-go): Cakes are made from mashed daikon radish mixed with bits of dried shrimp and pork sausage that are steamed and then cut into slices and pan-fried.
·         Taro cake (芋頭糕): Cakes made of taro.
·         Water chestnut cake (馬蹄糕 maa-tai-gow): Cakes made of water chestnut. It is mostly see-through and clear. Some restaurants also serve a variation of water chestnut cake made with bamboo juice.

Chien chang go (千層糕 cin-cang-gou): "Thousand-layer cake", a dim sum dessert made up of many layers of sweet egg dough.

·         Egg tart
·         Egg tartThe egg tart or egg custard tart is a pastry commonly found in Hong Kong and other Asian countries. The tarts consist of an outer pastry crust that is filled with egg custard and baked.-History:...
蛋撻 dan-tat): Composed of a flaky puff pastry dough or non-flaky cookie dough with an egg custard filling that is baked. Some high class restaurants put bird's nest on top of the custard. In other places egg tarts can be made of a crust and a filling of egg whites and some where it is a crust with egg yolks. Some egg tarts now have flavours such as taro, coffee and green tea.
·         Jin deui
·         Jin deuiJian dui is a type of fried Chinese pastry made from glutinous rice flour. The pastry is coated with sesame seeds on the outside and is crisp and chewy. Inside the pastry is a large hollow, caused by the expansion of the dough...
or Matuan (
煎堆 or ): Especially popular at Chinese New Year, a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds and deep-fried.
·         Dou fu fa (豆腐花): A dessert consisting of silky tofu served with a sweet ginger or jasmine-flavoured syrup.
·         Mango pudding
·         Mango pudding (芒果布甸 mong-guo-bo-din): A sweet, rich mango-flavoured pudding usually with large chunks of fresh mango; often served with a topping of evaporated milkEvaporated milkEvaporated milk, also known as dehydrated milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk. It differs from sweetened condensed milk, which contains added sugar. Sweetened condensed milk requires less processing since the added sugar inhibits...
·         Sweet cream buns (奶皇包 naai-wong-baau): Steamed buns with milk custard filling.
·         Malay Steamed Sponge Cake (馬拉糕 ma-lai-gou): A very soft steamed sponge cake flavoured with molasses.
·         Longan
·         Longan Tofu: almond-flavoured tofu served with longans, usually cold.

For the best dim sum in the City of Angels, make sure you stop by the city’s most distinguished Cantonese restaurant, Lin-Fa (Siam City Hotel). Available on weekends between 11:30 and 14:30, Lin-Fa serves an amazing all-you-can-eat dim sum buffet with a selection of 24 impressive and delectable treats to choose from. Priced at just Bht 490++ per person including a soup, noodle dish and dessert. Tel: 02-247-0123 for bookings.

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