Steamed squid is a regular offering in dim sum restaurants and is a dish I rarely pass up. Sometimes, you find squid steamed with a curry sauce but, in my experience, the curry sauce usually served is a bit insipid and I generally don’t care for it.
The offering you see pictured above is one I was recently served at the Yangtze Dining Lounge in Ottawa. Most of the dishes I had that day were not actually that great but this particular one was first class. Commonly, squid pieces are often dusted in a flour of some sort before steaming but these were steamed ‘clean’ and the effect was very well done.
The pieces of ‘tube’ were very plump and thick and I would have guessed that they came from a fairly large specimen but the tentacles that were also steamed alongside were obviously from very tiny squid. I am not sure if the body flesh came from a different animal than the tentacles, or whether the flesh ‘plumped’ up during the steaming process. In any event, the cooking was expertly executed and the result especially tender. As usual, ginger, and a little scallion were added, and both of these were added deftly so as to just give a hint of their presence in the background. I have had this dish many times, both at home and in restaurants, and this was one of the best.
These little dumpling preparations are ‘Fun Gor’ (or fěnguǒ in Mandarin) as is indicated by the last two characters in the Chinese name. This type of dumpling is characterized by the semi-translucent wrapper that is made using a combination of starches like cornstarch, or tapioca starch, and non-glutinous Wheat flour. The English name on the menu just calls them ‘mushroom dumplings’, but the first character does not translate as ‘mushroom’ but rather, in this context, as ‘vegetarian’.
One of the classic Fun Gor is the Teochew Fun Gor, which contains ground pork and peanuts. These, however, appear to have been called ‘vegetarian’ as the filling rather mimics the Teochow variety by replacing the ground pork with mushrooms, chopped to leave a texture like ground meat, plus water chestnut in place of peanuts. There was also some celery in the mix along with, I am fairly sure, just a little bit of cilantro.
The size of the dumplings could have been a little smaller as these were a little unwieldy with chopsticks, but the taste and texture were excellent. I am still not very proficient at making the dough for this type of dumpling (as opposed to the basic wheat flour type), but I should very much like to give these a try at home…
I had this pickled Cucumber in Ottawa recently. I have had Chinese pickled cucumber many times before, but generally Sichuan style versions which generally use chili, or chili oil. I recognized the last two characters in the Chinese same as meaning ‘pickled, or steeped, vegetable’ but the first two characters had me stymied for a bit … it was only once I realized that the first character was a phonetic that I guessed that the combination is rendered as ‘Taiwan’ (which proved to be right)… so, it seems that this little dish is a Taiwanese pickle.
Anyway, the cucumber were nicely macerated (using a little salt, I imagine). The result is not salty, though, but a good bit of sugar was added quite obviously, as the pickle is really quite sweet. The red strips are red bell pepper but there was a slight spicy heat coming through so I think just a touch of ground chili must have been included as well. The other addition was ginger cut into very large, thin slivers. This added a lovely flavor and another layer of sweetness. I really enjoyed these and I will make them myself this coming week … I am thinking that just a drop or two of rice wine might go nicely in it too…
At the restaurant in Ottawa where I ate the above dish, it appeared on the dim sum menu as 煎釀茄子 (jiān niàng qiézi). The final two characters mean eggplant while the second character (which contains the wine radical) generally means to ferment or brew, but, in this specific context, it indicates a stuffed vegetable. The character that is a little odd here is the first which means to pan-fry. However, this particular version was, I am fairly sure, actually deep-fried.
The eggplant in question is one of the slender Asian varieties that has been cut into sections on the bias and then slit open to make a pocket for a stuffing of minced shrimp. After frying, the pieces were served in a sweetish, soy based sauce that went really well. The eggplant was nicely tender and I generally enjoyed this but the restaurant was too skimpy with the filling. Eggplant dominated shrimp to an unfortunate degree. When I reproduce this dish (probably using zucchini instead of eggplant), I will be considerably more generous…
Chicken’s feet are a popular snack in many parts of Asia and are a regular item on the menu at dim sum restaurants where they are often not identified as ‘chicken feet’ but rather appear, in writing’ as 鳳爪 (fèng zhǎo), which translates to the slightly more poetic ‘Phoenix Talons’. I first tried them in Toronto about 30 years ago (as part of my first dim sum experience, as it happened) and, as with many westerners, the idea of actually eating the feet seemed a little strange but, after a while, they don’t relay seem that much different from eating wings (although the texture is quite different).
Feet are invariably served in steamer baskets in dim sum restaurants (and this is how they keep them hot), but they are first deep fried which not only gives them some color but also causes them to puff up slightly. Afterwards they are stewed in a simmering sauce that often contains bean paste, sugar, and, quite often whole black beans (though other ingredients and flavourings can be used as well).
The ones in the main picture above, which I recently had in Vancouver) appeared on the menu as 豆豉鳳爪 (dòu chǐfèng zhǎo), meaning that they are prepared with Chinese Salted Black Bean. Actually, very few beans were apparent (you can just make out a couple), and the usual black bean flavor wasn’t very apparent. The ones in the inset (which I believe I had in Ottawa), were also made using black bean, although the paste rather than whole beans) and they were also really garlicky, as well as being very plump and tender.
There is almost no meat in chickens feet (in contrast to the wing), and it is the skin that gives them the very gelatinous quality that is much loved by the Chinese and favored by me as well. Another factor that distinguishes the feet from the wing is the sheer number of tiny bones. The general approach is to suck larger pieces into your mouth and then work the plump, unctuous skin away from the little bones and then spit these out. In a Chinese restaurant, you will often see people doing this right onto the tablecloth … it’s all part of the experience J
Rice noodle rolls (as they are commonly known in English) are pretty much a standard on dim sum menus and are, indeed, one of my favorite selections. Typically, they consist of a sheet of steamed rice flour batter that is then rolled around various ingredients and served in sauce of some sort.
In Chinese, you will find these appearing as 腸粉, which translates as ‘intestine noodle’ from the resemblance to the same. It is pronounced in Mandarin as ‘chángfěn’. On menus, you may see it appearing as ‘Cheung Fan’, or ‘Cheong Fun’… Continue reading “Dim Sum: Chang Fen 腸粉”
Steamed pork Ribs, especially with Black Beans, is something I cook regularly at home but it is also a regular on dim sum menus everywhere. I most commonly prepare this as an entrée sized dish but a small plate of two or three makes a lovely snack at any time…
Generally, small sections of pork rib are dusted in flour after being lightly seasoned and then steamed with Chinese Salted Black Beans along with soy sauce, or rice wine, so that a nice light sauce is produced. Chilli can be included, as well as sugar, and the flour thickens things very nicely.
What was different about the ones I ate in in Vancouver’s New Town Restaurant recently (and pictured above) was the addition of a slice of Chinese Preserved Sausage. This added a unique umami depth and obviated the need for any additional sugar or other sweetener. I have not come across this before but I will be incorporating it in my own preparations in the future for sure…
This dish, which I had at the curiously named ‘Beaver Sailor Diner’ in Halifax a while ago, was both interesting and cause for a little confusion on my part. The English wording on the menu described it as ‘Beef Tendons stewed in special sauce’ while the Chinese characters (红烧牛筋/羊筋羊肉), specified that the tendons are ‘red-cooked’, or stewed in a seasoned soy based sauce. The last fours characters, however, add a little more detail, and therein lay the source of confusion for me.
I mis-read the (羊) character (which appears twice) as being the word for sheep, and so, when I asked the waiter ‘Oh does this come with lamb as well?’ he was suitably confused. I pointed to the last two characters, saying ‘Yang Rou?’ and then he started to laugh before pointing out that the character in question is (bàn), meaning ‘half’. He did have the grace, however, to say that the two characters do indeed look very much alike and I was then able to make sense of the last four characters, which actually read ‘half-tendon, half-meat).
I have had beef tendon number of times in dim sum restaurants and, in each case, it has consisted simply of translucent, yellowish squares of stewed or steamed cow tendon/ I actually quite like them but a whole plate of just tendon can sometimes be a ‘much of a muchness’, and so, accordingly, this dish, with bits of tendon still attached to chunks of meat was quite welcome. There were actually a number of chunks of pure tendon as well, one of which may be visible in the above picture.
Anyway, if you haven’t had it, beef tendon is prized chiefly for its texture which is quite a bit like the skin on pork belly that has been stewed, or otherwise cooked so that it softens rather than becomes crispy. It is both unctuous and chewy at the same time, with a firmly gelatinous mouth-feel. The sauce here was not bad… it had a slightly harsh aftertaste and used Star Anise (which I always omit as I don’t care for it), but it was otherwise very pleasant and I have to say that this probably the nicest beef tendon dish I have had as yet…
I have recently been tweaking a recipe for a dumpling filling based on shrimp and pork. It is still a work in progress but I came across some Baby Bell Peppers at the Supermarket the other day and it inspired me to try combining the two in a Dim-Sum style appetizer… Continue reading “Shrimp and Pork Stuffed Bell Peppers”
I had these dumplings at Urban China in the City of Edmonton some while ago. The English name given on the menu describes the content well enough but the Chinese Character name more particularly identifies them as a specialty of the Cantonese town of Chaozhou commonly known as ‘Fun Gor’. You should be aware, though, that the town and the dumplings both have a host of different spellings and can appear together on a menu (to list just a few possibilities) as:
- Teochew Fun Gor;
- Chiu Chow Dumpling; or,
- Chaozhou Fen Guo
This type of dumpling has a starch based wrapper that is translucent when steamed. It is typically made with wheat or tapioca starch (or a combination thereof) and flour is sometimes added, with rice flour being the most common. Pork and peanuts are invariable components of the filling but shrimp, both dried and fresh, are often included, as are white radish, black mushrooms, and cilantro.
The version you see pictured above has the standard starch-based wrapper and is of a fairly common shape (although you can often find them formed as a flat, half-moon, with the pleat on the side). These ones were quite large and a little unwieldy when trying to manipulate them with chopsticks, but they held together well and didn’t fall apart. The pork presence in the filling was a bit bland, while the coarsely chopped peanuts added some texture but little taste. Most of the flavor actually came from dried black mushroom, with a little cilantro in the back ground. The dumplings were not bad, overall, but definitely not the best ‘fun gor’ I have ever had…
By the way (and for those interested), the first two characters in the Chinese menu name indicate Chaozhou (or Chiu Chow, etc.) while the middle character (pronounced zhēng, in Mandarin) means ‘steamed’. The last two characters identify the dumpling type and yield the ‘Fun Gor’ pronunciation but they are actually non-standard deviations from the typical menu listing . Usually, the characters 粉果 are used for this sort of dumpling (and the pronunciation is the same) but, here, the restaurant has employed 粉粿, instead. This makes a bit of linguistic sense in that the final character translates as ‘cooked rice for making cake’, but. In usual renditions, the standard character (果) means fruit. Anyone have any information on this point?