Its been said that Dim Sum is the original brunch – small morsels of food that just keeps coming so you can graze at a leisurely pace. In reality, a dim sum experience in Asia or even a decent place in London’s Chinatown is far from leisurely, with trolleys or trays of food being paraded around the room emitting steam and delicious smells amidst the large tables and endless chatter. We were spoilt living in Hong Kong as across the street from our apartment building in Ap Lei Chau was a large Cantonese restaurant which was our go-to place on Sunday mornings, normally whilst recovering from a late night! If we timed it right we didn’t have to queue for too long, but this only whetted the appetite for the har gau, siu mai, turnip cake, char siu rolls etc, etc!
But I’ve often wondered why dim sum is only served in the morning – admittedly it is normally served the early hours until around 2pm. But in a way, the concept is similar to tapas, although that is served all day, but not for breakfast! Throughout Asia its possible to snack on dim sum style items all day long and you can find various types of Bao and dumplings in whichever country you maybe in.
Living in in the suburbs it’s not that easy to get our Dim Sum fix without either heading up to Chinatown, or to Wing Yip in Croydon, so on a recent cold, wet and grey day, I decided to try my hand at making my own. My mother used to make wontons and the kids especially would enjoy her wonton soup for lunch every once in a while, and my aunt made us amazing fried wontons last time we were in Malaysia…they both used the shop bought wrappers, so i followed suit.
I haven’t written the recipes up as I made it up as i went along! I did look at a couple of recipes online to make sure I was on the right track, and I tasted the filling before cooking by frying a little morsel. The tricky bit was shaping and steaming… and the Vietnamese rice paper rolls.
Firstly I attempted Siu Mai – little dumplings filled with minced pork and prawn. I used equal quantities of pork and prawn but roughly chopped the raw prawns before mixing them together with a little sesame oil, minced garlic, sliced spring onion, soy sauce and pepper. Using the round dumpling wrappers (although next time maybe they should be square) I put a ball of the filling into the middle and scrunched the wrapped around the outside – not very elegant, but it seemed to work.
I also made some shrimp dumplings – using the same wrappers. In a mini food processor I minced raw prawns with ginger, spring onions, salt, pepper and soy sauce. I placed a little into the centre of a wrapper and folded over into a half moon shape.
Both of these were steamed in bamboo steamers over boiling water.
I also made some vietnamese spring rolls – rice paper wrappers filled with minced pork, garlic, spring onions, chopped coriander, a little chopped chilli, fish sauce and some soaked rice vermicelli noodles, When rolling these try not to split the wrapper as it will split more during cooking, These are pan fried in a little sunflower oil.
The final dish I made is really simple – friend tofu with five spice and chilli. Cubed tofu tossed in flour, five spice and a little salt. Pan fry this in some oil. Once finished, drain the oil and throw in some shredded chilli, ginger and Spring Onion for two minutes, then placed over the Tofu.
The testimony to the success of my dim sum attempt was that every plate was cleaned… we felt that the siu mai could be better (a little dry) but everything else was spot on. So little unconventional to have this on a Sunday evening but it worked.