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The Definitive Dimsum


pastameshugana
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So, the family and I have been spoiled by a wonderful selection of dimsum here in Bangalore. One restaurant serves almost nothing but different varieties, each with it's own special sauce.

Naturally, as a cook, that means I've now set the task of mastering it. I'm going to cook dimsum until my wife shoots me or I perfect a few varieties to impress the friends with (that's what it's all about, right? ;) )

Anyhow, I'm looking for some general guidance and specific ideas.

General Guidance:

-Basic wrapper preparations from scratch? I've seen the thick 'bread' type, the thin rice dough, ultra-thin sticky potato wrapper...any ideas on best way to make each?

-Basic rules of thumb about steaming, pan-frying or deep-frying them?

-Should certain things be pre-cooked?

Ideas:

-What are your favorite flavors/combos?

-Unique presentation ideas

-Sauces other than soy and chili paste?

I'm all ears, and I think it would be great to have all this info in one place.

Thanks a million in advance!

Edited by heidih
edit out admin (log)

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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Is Bangalore dim sum any different from Hong Kong?

Best of luck with your endeavor. Dim sum is one of those things that very few people in China actually cook; they just go out to restaurants. So I think you might have a hard time finding information on how to make it yourself. And so much of it is hands-on technique, like how to fold the wrappers and work the dough, that would be hard to learn through a book or website. Perhaps you could just offer to work for free at your favorite restaurant during prep time, maybe even offer to pay to have them teach you.

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Okay - now I realize I'm in deeper than I thought! heidih, thanks for the great links.

Kent Wang, I've been around a lot, but one of the places I haven't been is Hong Kong, so I couldn't tell you.

Chris, the ones that I know I'd like to try are regular 'momos' (at least that's the standard term here in Bangalore, which seems to generically describe just about anything!). But I've had very nice varieties of chicken, pork and vegetarian ones, usually pinched into a crescent shape and steamed.

One place also serves Sui Mai which seems to be the same stuffing, but with an open top. I've had very nice varieties of fish/shiitake, shrimp, crab. The fish ones had translucent green wrappers and were formed into an 'x' shape. The shrimp were round, with pink wrappers.

Kent, funny you should mention it, but I arranged a 'stage' a few months back at one of my favorite places, but the 'dumpling guy' was gone that day, and I spent my time honing my prep skills instead of learning the momo secrets. I'll have to give it another shot.

One of my most burning questions is: Should meats like chicken/pork be cooked before the dumplings are steamed? What would be advantages/disadvantages?

Thanks so much for all your help!

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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Chris - as I'm reading through the other posts, I think I may be a bit confused. Most of what I've been describing are steamed, and most of what I read about dumplings are boiled...so is the difference between 'momo' and 'dumpling' the cooking process?

I confess I'm a chinese food neophyte, so maybe it's a silly question, but I want to know more!

One of the other threads had this link about folding/pleating: http://www.digsmagazine.com/nourish/nourish_dumplings.htm

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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I thought that 'momo's referred to Tibetan dumplings..... Where are the people that run the dimsum place from? I've only ever heard Tibetans call dumplingy things momos....which would make sense for India-immigration.

Anyway, quick answer: so-called 'dumplings' in China are myriad and can be steamed, boiled or fried. The wrappings can be wheaten, rice-flour, even beancurd skin.... Think of the difference from Nan to Idlis in India -they're all 'bread' but not!

The same sort of thing happens here in China. Most of the threads are talking about northern style wheat based boiled jiaozi - what southern Chinese call "jiaozi" is very different.

Also, if you're talking about classic Cantonese dimsum, I'm with Kent....go to a restaurant!!! In all my years learning Cantonese cooking from our maids in HK, I never learnt more than 1 or 2 dimsum recipes - we just all went out to eat them...

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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Just did a little searching on google and 'momos' appear to be a kind of Tibetan-Chinese-Indian hybrid dumpling. Some are shaped like pleated crescents, some like pleated buns, while yet others resemble xialongbao. Not having ever eaten these before I don't know how similar they are to traditional Chinese dumplings. It's possible you might get more help from the India cooking forum.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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Okay, well that explains a lot! In Bangalore, the majority of the food service industry is either run by, or staffed by what the B'loreans call 'northerners.' That's a gross simplification, but basically means anyone from the northern states commonly known as the Seven Sisters (wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Sister_States ) and their cuisine is much influenced by Nepal, et al.

Okay - so I'm going to start experimenting with a few dumpling ideas I've gotten from some threads here, and I'll snap and post pics as I get them. Of course I would be foolish to try to master the whole art, but It's something I need to 'own' you know? I love feeding people to much to leave this one out.

My ultimate goal (maybe I'm crazy) is to get down enough varieties, with some different dipping sauces to make a meal. I'm thinking starter to savory to dessert all in a dumpling package, maybe 7 or 8 courses. One of the ideas I've robbed so far that I like is one steamed chicken variety using cabbage as the wrapper (props to Jamie O).

I'll keep you updated!

Edited by pastameshugana (log)

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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Ok, so I took stab #1 last night. Unfortunately, I was feeling ill (as was my youngest of three 'helpers'), but I promised the kiddies momos, so I had to deliver on my promise. I made some eggless dough, just flour and water, rolled it thin and cut out the circles with cups. The first batch ended up too small:

Photo0565.jpg

The second batch, with a larger cup to cut was better:

Photo0569.jpg

My 'shaping' certainly leaves a lot to be desired, as most of them ended up looking like misshapen alien tumors....I definitely need some practice!

Photo0570.jpg

For the stuffing, I blended chicken breast (leg meat would've been better), garlic, fresh ginger, coriander and chives. By the time I got to this point, I felt like I was about to keel over, and had no appetite at all, so I totally forgot salt (which they desperately needed) or even a bit of MSG (which I unfortunately don't have, and Mrs. Meshugana is preggo so that's off limits for now).

Once I got them steaming I also let them cook way way too long, mostly on account of the fact that I was feeling so queasy that the mere thought of undercooked chicken was worrying me.

Anyhow, when they were done, the kids loved the dry little hockeypucks! We used soy and sweet chili sauce for dips, and they weren't all that bad.

What they needed:

Salt!

Fat!

Moisture!

I'll definitely try again and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime - happy eating!

Edited by pastameshugana (log)

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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Kent, here (at least in Bangalore) it's almost exclusively chicken or veg. Pork is available, but it's either very bad or very expensive. With the high muslim population (20% or more), and little to no pork in the native cuisine, it's hard to find. There's also quite a bit of lamb/mutton, but we don't have a taste for it.

:(

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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Bengaluru is a haven of "old book" stores where finding a cheap windfall may not be out of the question; or, libraries like the British Council may have a copy:

Here are some old favorites, and some newer ones as well, to whet your interest. Check under "Dim Sum" Amazon books, for more titles.

Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads by Florence Lin and Peter Lavigna (Paperback - Nov 1993)

8 Used & new from $64.46 [Amazon]

The Dim Sum Dumpling Book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Paperback - Nov 1995)

11 Used & new from $35.00

Chinese Dim Sum (Paperback)

by Wei-Chuan School (Author), Wei-Chuan Publishing (Author) $14.93

Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder (Hardcover - April 9, 2002)

Buy new: $25.00 $16.5046 Used & new from $8.01

Dim Sum Made Easy by Lucille Liang (Paperback - Nov 28, 2006)

Buy new: $12.95 $10.1542 Used & new from $5.00

Some excellent varieties of cultivated mushrooms, e.g. Calocybe indica, called Milky Mushrooms in the trade, are now available in Btown. You could experiment chopping these up into your ground chicken to provide moisture, flavor & tenderness to the final steamed product without incorporating additional fat or cabbagey flavors (chopped napa or other cabbages being the other simple option).

BTW, Momo & Tingmo are very, very definitely TIBETAN, BHOD, the correct name, and not ethnic Nepalese. That last epithet has no meaning by itself anyway, because depending on altitude, latitude & longitude, Nepal is home to endgamous ethnic groups that until very recently [and even now] have little in common with each other [language, food, religion, culture].

The reason one finds momos in a "Nepali" restaurant is due to the very strong Tibetan influence in Nepal AND Northern India [Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Himachal Pradesh, Mussoorie, Dehra Dun], especially post-diaspora. Momos have become a pan-Indian phenomenon in the last 2 decades with the maturing of the 2nd generation (nisei) of Tibetans in India, much as pizza & bagels became pan-American after WWII.

In the restaurant business, nothing is as it seems. "Indian" restaurants in the UK are not at all run by Indians, "Japanese" retaurants in the US rarely by Japanese. "Mexican" tortillerias in NYC are run by the Chinese! Therefore, to conclude from finding momos at a "Nepali" restaurant in London that they are a Nepali dish, is marvellously flawed logic.

People from Arunachal Pradesh, from the Tawang region, are Monpas, with an ancient and rich heritage paralleling and conjoined with that of U & Tsang of Tibet. There is NOTHING that Nepal has contributed here with respect to momos and Sino-Tibetan cookery. The latter part of the statement holds true for every state of North-east India, that, incidentally, lay on the path taken by Tibetans fleeing the occupation of their country.

Eastern Nepal, the gateway to Tingri/Dhingri in Tibet, lies firmly within the Tibetan sphere. The Sherpas & Tamangs further west are also within that cultural universe, not of Nepal. So the food reflects this cultural [and formerly political] fact. I am sorry that my sensitivities are showing because the Nepal government today is in the process of wreaking indescribable havoc on the Tibetan diaspora that has sought refuge within it, and continues to do so on defenseless group. To conflate Tibetan food under Nepalese suzerainty when the former are in the process of being inexorably extinguished culturally & racially in their homeland, seems just a bit unbearable.]

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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Gautam, well spoken (what's your day job?) ;)

Thanks for the leads on those books, I'll get searching.

BTW - where are you finding good mushroom varieties in BLore? I've been hopeless so far.

Thanks a million,

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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to conclude from finding momos at a "Nepali" restaurant in London that they are a Nepali dish, is marvellously flawed logic.

Not when combined with the experience of eating them in Nepal over 30 years ago when the border was firmly closed. Also, the Nepali staff in the restaurant said they were Nepali. I wonder if it's still there.

But as I said, I could be wrong.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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