Review: Chinese Snacks
By Huang Su-Huei
1985: Wei-Chuan Publishing ISBN-13: 978-0941676113
Wei-Chuan Publishing has a number of publications devoted to snacks and light dishes and this is one of the better ones. It has a very good selection of ‘small-eats’ (小吃) but potential purchasers of the book will be well warned that many of the recipes are definitely not for novices…
The Chinese character title on the front cover reads:
The first two characters are pronounced diǎnxīn in Mandarin, but the Cantonese pronunciation ‘Dim Sum’ is now a familiar one to most westerners. The name is usually translated as ‘touch the heart’ (although I think ‘hit the spot’ better conveys the sense of the words) while the second two characters (zhuānjí) mean ‘special collection’.
Content and Organization
This 100-page book contains 98 recipes organized into three different categories. The first of these, ‘Flour Snacks’, is the largest and covers leavened and unleavened dough based items that are either baked, steamed, boiled or fried.
The format of the book is essentially the same as all the other Wei-Chuan publications with one or two recipes on each page and an illustration for every completed dish and, for almost all, a series of step-by-step photographs detailing the methods involved. There is an introduction at the beginning but it is very brief indeed and, unlike other books by this publisher, it covers only some required utensils and does not list or describe any special ingredients.
The range of recipes in this book is pretty decent. Many Dim Sum cookery books are very heavy on the dumplings and pastries but this covers a fairly diverse selection with some interesting dishes that I have not seen before. In particular, there are a couple of soups based on nuts and a stuffed lotus root preparation that I would very much like to try if I can lay my hands on the right ingredients.
My only caveat regarding this publication is that, though the recipes are very clearly written, some readers are going to be a bit frustrated by the complexity of some dishes and the skill level needed to execute them. This is especially true of a few of the dumplings, most notably the ‘Four flavor dumplings’, the ‘Phoenix-eye dumplings’ and the ‘Steamed Long-life cakes. I tried the ‘Four-flavor’ when I first purchased this book and have to confess to a singular lack of success. There are a few cases where the step-by-step illustrations are really not enough and could have been improved by including some large, more detailed photographs.
Despite the aforementioned limitation this book is still better than many I have seen and, although it is not the best in my collection it is one I can recommend as being well worth purchasing.