Bean-Curd Roll with Beef at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa
The name for this Dim Sum offering at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa appeared on the menu as ‘Ginger Beef Dumpling’ in English. The Chinese characters amplify this to read ‘Ginger Scallion Beef Dumpling’, indicating that scallion is included as well (although, in this case, it was as a steaming ‘companion’ ingredient, rather than as an addition to the filling. What is a bit curious, though, is that the item is identified as a dumpling (餃), and not as a ‘roll’ (卷), which would be more common when dealing with a bean-curd skin (tofu-skin) wrapper as is the case with this particular offering.
The beef filling here was alright, but not especially remarkable, and seemed to consist if just a little finely chopped beef with not much more than a little white pepper as a seasoning. The rolls were topped with shreds of both ginger and scallion before being steamed (which contributed to the overall flavor very nicely). The sauce, which was obviously augmented with the juices of the beef during steaming, seemed to be Soy Sauce, possibly enhanced with a little sugar, or possibly just a touch of Oyster Sauce.
The Bean-Curd Skin (腐皮) is what ultimately makes this dish interesting. These soy-based ‘wrappers’ are actually the skin that forms on Tofu in the early stages of its manufacture, and, while it does have a faint taste of its own, it is really more valued for the texture. Tofu skins, when steamed and used as wrappers or rolls, don’t have the same al dente resistance as wheat dough and they have an almost ‘papery’ mouthfeel when you first bite in to them. That may not sound especially appetizing, but, in fact, it is quite a nice texture and it certainly makes a pleasant change in a series of dumpling courses. In any event, aside from the rather mediocre filling in this ‘dumpling’, I thought the Palais Imperial rendition was pretty decent.