Dim Sum: A Guide


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The savoury

These dumplings are usually served with vinegar and thinly-sliced ginger to further enhance its flavors. This dish is a fatty and savory one made with steamed pork ribs cooked in black bean sauce, garlic, and oil. This dish is basically chicken feet that are fried, boiled, and then steamed in black bean sauce for it to be the soft, chewy, and flavorful dish we know it to be. This kind of dumpling is usually referred to as Teochew or Chui Chow and is filled with chopped peanuts, garlic chives, dried radish, shiitake mushrooms, and sometimes ground pork and dried shrimp.

Turnip Cake, sometimes called Radish Cake or Carrot Cake, is a pan-fried dish with shredded white radish, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, and mushroom. In the north, rice dough is an important part of the winter and spring holidays, since the winter solstice is celebrated with little rice-dough balls in a sweet soup these appear again during Chinese New Year to symbolize togetherness. Exterior dry and sandy; interior savory and moist. The shell of a crab claw is removed, leaving only the part covering the pincers as a handle. Then a forcemeat of shrimp—either mixed with pork or crab or shrimp alone—covers the meaty part of the claw, forming a ball.

This forcemeat may be seasoned with ginger, green onion, and rice wine.

Dim Sum Go Go

This forcemeat is rolled in a double-bound coating cornstarch, egg wash, then bread crumbs before it is deep-fried; may also be steamed without the breading. The Cantonese approach to shrimp forcemeat is to present the shellfish in all its glory, with only a bit of fat to amp up the mouthfeel, plus seasonings to perfume the whole.

The shrimp is chopped by hand so as to achieve good variation between coarse and fine, and is carefully chilled to make the shrimp as firm as possible. Variations on this theme include wrapping the shrimp mixture around blanched asparagus tips or stuffing black mushroom caps; both of these are steamed rather than fried.

Exterior crunchy and dry; interior initially soft and juicy, and then just the sweet flavor and firm texture of crabmeat. Large, starchy taro root is cooked and mashed like a potato, and then mixed with wheat starch, lard, and boiling water to form a thick paste. Ground pork is the main ingredient for the filling, although fresh shrimp, barbecued pork, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and green onions may be added to form a rough mixture in a light gravy.

The cooled taro paste is formed into a firm dough that is then cut into individual pieces that are filled with the meat mixture. These are rolled by hand into a loose football shape. There are two basic kinds of taro: the large, football-sized roots, and the small immature ones that are little larger than golf balls. The smaller ones are juicier and more fibrous, remain a pale gray when cooked, and tend to be steamed, peeled, and added to braises, where they can range in texture from as soft as a potato to as vegetal as a cooked bamboo shoot; their flavor is generally mild and somewhat like a cross between a bamboo shoot and a potato.

Exterior webbed and brittle, then soft and pasty; interior meaty and gravelly. Cantonese-style roast duck is usually served in portions of a half or quarter bird. No matter which style of roast duck is served and there are a number of different recipes , the brown skin is usually fairly crisp, with the fat layer distinctly separate from both the skin and the slightly pink meat.

The duck will generally have a sauce that varies from lightly to very sweet, and the meat itself will be savory and juicy. The meat is cut into roughly half-inch slices in the kitchen prior to serving, but the bones remain in the duck , and the pieces will be reassembled to look like a complete section. Sometimes served over a scattering of sweet and savory cooked soybeans , most often with a small bowl of plum sauce on the side.

Dim Sum Guide

Restaurants will generally offer only one kind of duck that is seasoned with salt, pepper, rice wine, and either Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce. Exterior crispy and sweet; interior initially fatty and then lean and juicy. A whole suckling pig is prepared as follows: the skin is lacquered with repeated layers of maltose and Zhejiang vinegar, while the meat is marinated with hoisin sauce, sesame sauce, and other seasonings. The result is an extremely tender meat with an almost gelatinous texture.

The roasting process lifts the skin off the meat so that it becomes brittle, and the fat and meat layers become distinct.

Dim Sum: A Survival Guide

The skin may be eaten separately from the meat with steamed buns and hoisin sauce if these accoutrements are provided usually at fancier banquet dinners. But this is not the custom at dim sum teahouses, where the suckling pig is sometimes served without any adornment. Exterior brittle; interior initially fatty and then leaner and juicy; bones soft and very much like cartilage.

A soft, tropical pudding—containing the pulp of ripe mangoes blended with milk, sugar, gelatin, sugar, and sometimes eggs—that is chilled and served cold in individual cups; often molded into decorative shapes. Usually a pale orange in color, with small pieces of mango sometimes folded into the pudding or added as a garnish; some chefs drizzle condensed milk over the pudding.

Probably derived from the traditional British favorite blancmange, which is sweetened and thickened milk or cream that is most often flavored with almonds, molded, and served cold.


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Various sizes. Variations include coconut and tapioca with chunks of taro or canned fruit. Exterior and interior uniformly soft and creamy, often with bits of mango in the dessert. Chinese puff or short pastry in individual tartlets hold a light, sweet custard that is baked until barely solid. The pastry is akin or identical to that of curry turnovers, cut into small circles, and fitted into round tartlet pans, then blind-baked and filled with a sweet, rich custard mixture—basically egg, milk of some sort, and vanilla—and cooked again until the custard is tender.

These tarts can be enjoyed warm or cool.

Custard tarts are, in all likelihood, a Guangzhou interpretation of the English custard pie made sweeter and in small tartlets rather than as a single, open-faced pie. The Portuguese custard tart pasteis de nata , has a browned top, and is another recent variation. Exterior crisp and flaky; interior soft and eggy. Airy balls of sweetened, glutinous rice dough, the outside covered with white sesame seeds before being deep-fried.

A Guide to Dim Sum - Kikkoman UK

This popular Chinese New Year treat is now an everyday dim sum offering, and while fillings may vary, sweetened red bean is the most common. Hot, crisp, and round right out of the fryer, they quickly deflate and soften as they cool. Because they are not confined to one single area—and appear in various guises throughout China—they have local names to match, such as ma yuan sesame balls in cold Manchuria near Russia and zhen dai jeweled bags all the way down in the tropical island province of Hainan in the South China Sea.


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Though the balls are usually two inches, some restaurants and street hawkers make them larger: six or more inches in diameter. Exterior slightly crispy and covered with toasted sesame seeds, yields to a tender layer of sweet rice dough; interior a marble of sweet red-bean paste. Regular Chinese bread dough that has been slightly sweetened and formed into smooth, round buns with the seams hidden on the bottom. The filling is a bright yellow custard usually made with eggs, sugar, butter, cornstarch, milk, condensed milk, and custard powder.

When cooled, the filling is formed into balls, tucked into the raw bread dough, and typically steamed though they may also be baked.

HOW TO EAT DIMSUM (Dim sum 101) - Fung Bros Food

If the bun is served hot, the filling will often be runny , like the yolk of a soft-boiled egg. Exterior shiny white and slightly sweet springy bread; interior a bright yellow custard that is sometimes soft and semiliquid when warm and then solid when cool. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from the Chinatown issue of Lucky Peach, a quarterly food journal published by McSweeney's.

It's available for purchase here. Subscriptions are available here. You can also follow Lucky Peach on Twitter. The photography was sourced from dim sum fans on Flickr. Carolyn Phillips's upcoming book on Chinese cuisine will be published by McSweeney's in Easy recipes and cooking hacks right to your inbox. We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features, and analyze our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web.

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Pork spare ribs are just another way that Dim Sum embraces finger foods. Jin Deui. These sesame seed pastries are made of fried dough, and often filled with red bean paste. Along with egg custard tarts, they are a popular dessert item. Rice Noodle Rolls. These steamed rice noodle rolls are most often filled with either shrimp or beef, finished with a soy sauce. They're similar to dumplings in many ways, but can be a bit more difficult to eat. Potstickers generally come in two varieties, pan-fried or steamed, and are usually filled with vegetables and pork, shrimp, or chicken.

Har Gow. These translucent shrimp dumplings are soft, steamed, and go especially well dipped in the many sauces that hang out in the center of the table. Suggest a correction.

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