Review: Chinese Dim Sum
By Lee Hwa-Lin
1993: Wei-Chuan Publishing ISBN-13: 978-0941676243
This is the first Dim Sum cookery book I ever purchased and so I have something of a sentimental attachment to it, I suppose. Still, to be fair, I have to say that, although I have found a lot of inspiration just browsing through the pages, I have never found it to be much of a practical cookery manual…
Content and Organization
There are 88 recipes for various types of dim-sum snacks all of which are illustrated. Some dishes are accompanied by more than one photograph and include some pictures of the various steps in the cookery process. The text is in both Chinese and English, as is the case with most Wei-Chuan publications, and there is a brief introduction covering the special ingredients used in the book.
The Chinese title of the book does not contain the characters for Dim Sum but instead reads ’飲茶食譜’. The first two characters are literally translated as ‘drink tea’ but in Cantonese culinary tradition, going to ‘drink tea’ is just a way of describing the lovely ritual of whiling away a morning with the little snacks we all know as ‘dim sum’. In full, then, the Chinese name can thus loosely be translated as ‘Dim Sum Food Manual’ but, unfortunately, as a ‘manual’ it falls a little short on a couple of counts:
In the first place, although there is a good variety of delicacies on offer, only a few are of the sort that most people will have encountered in Dim Sum restaurants. There are no steamed rib or squid dishes, both of which are favorites of mine, no ‘Choy Sum’ or chicken feet, and, more surprisingly, no recipe for ‘Har Gow’ which is probably one of the most popular dumpling dishes on any regular dim sum menu. A lot of the of the other dishes are very interesting and tasty looking but they won’t be familiar to most people even if they are real dim sum aficionados.
The second failing of this book as a useful manual is that the instructions are frequently inadequate. There are step-by-step photographs for quite a number of dishes bit these are mostly not that helpful, especially for some of the more complex preparations. In the long run, decreasing the number of recipes slightly and devoting page space to better photographs and more detailed textual descriptions of some of the intricate techniques required would really have improved this book.
Despite the shortcomings, this is still not a bad little book. For those with other dim sum books in their collections, and some experience in this type of cookery, this publication is nice to browse through for ideas. However, for those looking for a good introduction to dim sum and the basic techniques required, you really need to start with something a lot simpler.