Dim Sum Guide: Shrimp Rice Noodle

 Posted by on March 26, 2012 at 6:06 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 262012
 
Shrimp Noodle
Shrimp rice noodle rolls

Shrimp rice noodle rolls

Love shrimp? How about rice noodles? Well, you will absolutely enjoy the classic dim sum dish shrimp rice noodle (har cheung fun). If I had to pick one dim sum dish as the standard by which to compare dim sum restaurants, this would be it! If a restaurant can prepare shrimp noodles just right, they can pretty much slam dunk all the other dim sum dishes.This is one of my all time favorites and can even win over finicky kid palates.

This is a relative simple dish–steamed shrimp wrapped in wide rice noodles drenched with sweetened soy sauce–but very difficult to get the texture and the sweetness of the sauce exactly right. The shrimp should be large and firm to the bite and should not have any aftertaste.

Shrimp rice noodle with sweetened soy sauce

Shrimp rice noodle with sweetened soy sauce

Make sure the dish is not sitting in the dim sum cart already smothered in sauce. This would make the noodle a little too mushy. The sauce should be applied right when you order it. Once in a while, I’ll find that the shrimp has a slightly off-taste suggesting they used less than fresh shrimp.

Shrimp noodle, like any dish made with rice noodles, is not suitable for refrigeration as the noodles lose their soft succulent texture very quickly. Devour them as soon as they are served!

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Mar 252012
 
Steamed lettuce with oyster sauce

Steamed lettuce with oyster sauce

Steamed lettuce with oyster sauce (   ) is a deceptively simple dish with complex flavors. It is one of the few vegetarian dim sum dishes around and is quite delicious and healthy for you. In most dim sum restaurants, steamed lettuce will not be found in the rolling carts, you’ll need to special order it from the kitchen.

This dish is simply steamed iceberg lettuce that is subsequently coated with oil and oyster sauce. Oyster sauce, a staple of Cantonese cooking, is thick brown sauce made from oyster extracts, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and other  seasonings. As a general rule, Chinese people do not eat raw vegetables including lettuce.

I don’t usually consider iceberg lettuce to have much flavor in its raw state, but steaming lettuce seems to bring out its full potential. The somewhat crunchy and chewy texture of steamed lettuce and the fusion of oil and oyster sauce really does wonders on the palate! You may never go back to raw iceberg lettuce again after eating this dish.

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Dim Sum Guide: Steamed Meatballs

 Posted by on March 24, 2012 at 6:53 am  Food & Cooking  1 Response »
Mar 242012
 
Steamed Chinese meatballs

Steamed Chinese meatballs

A classic dim sum, steamed Chinese beef meatball (ngau yuk),  is a treat for carnivores. The meatball is made of ground beef (some restaurants may add pork) and sits on top of a layer of bean curd skin. The garnish on top is usually green scallions, peas, or watercress. The server will ask if you want your meatballs cut in half or served with a dash of Worcestershire sauce when she hands them to you. I’ve often wondered how this non-Chinese sauce ever got introduced to dim sum.

Steamed Chinese meatballs taste quite different from the meatballs you may make with spaghetti. Steamed meatballs are firmer and smoother in texture and are lighter. These meatballs are so delicious that my son ate five meatballs (make sure you cut them into tiny pieces first) in one sitting when he was a finicky toddler!

 

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Mar 232012
 
Steamed spareribs with black beans
Steamed spareribs with black beans

Steamed spare ribs with black beans

Steamed spare ribs (pai gwut) is a major treat for meatlovers. The pork ribs are cut cross-wise into small pieces and steamed with fermented black beans and a touch of sesame oil. Sometimes, the dish will be garnished with hot peppers but any spiciness is subtle. The juice in this dish, unfortunately high in salt and fat, is great on rice. I’ve seen some mediocre restaurants use larger pieces of spare rib for this dish.  The small ribs and tips are much better.

Steamed spareribs have bones!

Steamed spare ribs have bones!

Warning: It takes some effort and attention to eat this dish if you don’t want to chip your tooth. After a few pieces of practice, however, you should be able to carefully nibble around the bones. It’s acceptable to spit out your bones. In some places in China, diners will spit them out on the floor but I don’t recommend you do this if you want to be welcomed back by the restaurant. Steamed spare ribs have quickly become a dim sum favorite of my kids.

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Dim Sum Guide: Fried Taro Dumplings

 Posted by on March 22, 2012 at 6:58 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 222012
 
Fried taro dumplings
Fried taro dumplings

Fried taro dumplings

Everyone should experience the contrasting textures of fried taro dumplings (wu gok), one of my favorite dishes. The shell of this dumpling is made from soft taro root paste and the filling is minced pork. Upon deep-frying, the crispy shell reminds me of the spiky hair of a rabid sports fan. The sensation of the fluffy light shell is quickly followed by the steamy, creamy flavor of the taro and, finally, the slightly salty pork filling. The combination of flavors and textures is unique.

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Mar 212012
 
Steamed stuffed bean curd rolls
Steamed stuffed bean curd rolls

Steamed stuffed bean curd rolls

If you are hungry for something delicious that will fill you up quickly, then go for some steamed stuffed bean curd rolls (sin juk guen). Dried bean curd skins are stuffed with a generous amount of minced pork, shrimp, bamboo shoots, and other ingredients then deep fried and steamed in a savory light sauce. I especially like the thin and pleasantly chewy nature of the bean curd skin in this dish.

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Mar 202012
 
Rice congee

Rice congee

Congee or rice porridge (juk) is a breakfast mainstay for many millions of Chinese people.  Congee is made by boiling rice until it disintegrates into a thick porridge or rice soup.  You’ll often see the server sprinkle a garnish of green scallions and crispy thin noodles just before serving this dish.

Congee has been a staple of Chinese cuisine for thousands of years. It was apparently created as a way to extend rice supplies in times of famine and shortages.  Varieties of congee abound in different regions of China and many other Asian countries also have their own version of this time-tested food.

Congee with preserved duck eggs and pork

Congee with preserved duck eggs and pork

Common additions to congee include pork, beef, and fish and other seafood. One of my favorite varieties of congee is a version with preserved duck eggs and pork. Preserved duck eggs are admittedly an acquired taste and not that many non-Chinese people I know have acquired the somewhat bitter taste of these black-green eggs. So this type of congee may not be the best introduction to this food if you’re a congee rookie.

To take congee to a whole new level, you’ll want to try eating it with fried bread sticks (you tiao). Sometimes you’ll need to special order these delectable bread sticks from the kitchen but they are worth the wait.

Dunking bread sticks in congee

Dunking bread sticks in congee

Take a small section of the bread stick and soak it in your bowl of congee for several seconds until the bread stick has absorbed some of the congee but it is still somewhat crispy. The bread sticks are great just by themselves as well.

Depending on what ingredients are added, congee is usually low-fat and easily digestible so it may be a good choice when you’ll recovering from a gastrointestinal illness.

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Mar 192012
 
Pan-fried stuffed green peppers
Pan-fried stuffed green peppers

Pan-fried stuffed green peppers

The mixture of shrimp paste and green peppers in pan-fried stuffed green peppers (ha yu yeung lot jiu ) is a marriage made in heaven. The stuffing is a paste made with minced shrimp and sometimes with fish meat. Restaurants vary widely in other ingredients added to their pepper paste. The stuffed peppers are pan-fried until the paste becomes slightly brown and crispy. This dish is best when accompanied by a mild black bean sauce. The firm and slightly crunchy texture of the pepper contrasts well with the salty seafood flavor of the paste.

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Dim Sum Guide: Fried Turnip Cake

 Posted by on March 18, 2012 at 7:46 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 182012
 
Chinese fried turnip cake

Chinese fried turnip cake

Chinese fried turnip cake (law bok gow) is made from a paste of shredded Chinese turnips and rice flour.  Typically bits of dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, and sometimes mushroom are added to the paste. After steaming, the cake paste is fried until the surface turns a crispy golden brown.  Some restaurants may sprinkle diced scallions and/or oyster sauce on top as a final garnish.

I really like the subtle turnip flavor of this dish as it provides a good contrast to the other dim sum dishes.  Turnip cake is also less fatty than many other dim sum dishes. Chinese turnip, however, may be somewhat of an acquired taste for people who are not used to eating root vegetables.

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Dim Sum Guide: Salt Water Dumplings

 Posted by on March 17, 2012 at 7:53 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 172012
 
Salt water dumplings
Salt water dumplings

Salt water dumplings

Salt water dumplings (hom sui gok) are a great combination of several memorable flavors. Being deep-fried, you’ll first encounter a crispy outer crust around an inner sticky and somewhat sweet rice flour dough. After you bite through the doughy shell, you’ll reach a savory, salty filling of minced pork and Chinese vegetables. A great combination of flavors!

Minced pork inside salt water dumpling

Minced pork inside salt water dumpling

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