Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Dim Sum: Ginger Beef Dumplings

PI Ginger Beef Dumpling

I had these particular dumplings at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa a while ago. They weren’t spectacular exactly, but they do get a mention for being a bit unexpected.

The full name from the Chinese characters on the menu (see the inset in the above picture), read Ginger Scallion Beef Dumplings, which amplifies the English name by also specifying the scallion that is included, not as part of the filling, but as a steaming ‘companion’ along with the thick shreds of ginger. What is a bit odd is that the final character in the name is (jiǎo) which typically refers to a dumpling with a flour wrapper. Here, a bean curd skin, also known as ‘tofu skin’ is used to enclose the filling. This product, which is purchased in dried sheets and then reconstituted, is often used to make steamed rolls in dim sum houses, but only occasionally to make dumplings in this shape.

Anyway, the filling here was decent if unremarkable (lightly seasoned and well textured), but the choice of wrapper really made for a different experience. Tofu skins, when steamed, don’t have the same al dente resistance as wheat doughs and it has almost a ‘papery’ mouthfeel when you first bit in to it. That may not sound especially appetizing, but, in fact, it is quite a nice texture and makes a pleasant change in a series of dumpling courses. I enjoyed these…

Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Dim Sum with Lung at Yangtze

Tripe and Lung 1

I love Dim Sum meals but, in all honesty, I am not crazy about the traditional cart service that is still popular in the more old-school Dim Sum houses. I will probably do a blog rant about this sometime but, for now suffice it to say, that I find the procedure rushes the diner and often causes one to make selections of less interesting things just because you have no idea when, or if, what you really want is going to come rolling by…

Anyway, at my last Dim Sum brunch, a young cart lady sang out ‘Beef Tendon’ as she was passing. Now, the place was very busy and the time lag between cart-visits was pretty lengthy, so I signalled that I would take a dish even though I was really waiting for some other favorites that hadn’t yet appeared. Dutifully, my server handed across a bowl appearing just as you see it on the picture on the left…

Well, although there was definitely Beef Tendon in the bowl (down at the ‘bottom’ in the foreground), it was also clear that the dish contained honeycomb tripe as well. This is something I don’t dislike, exactly, but I have had it plenty of times before and I just don’t care for it enough to order it again. Still, I had already asked for a portion and, at this point, it seemed a bit rude to reject it. So, with something of an inward sigh, I accepted the bowl.

The beef tendon was fine, if unremarkable, and the tripe was predictably unexciting, with both being served in a broth that had been seasoned (thankfully lightly) with five spice powder. What caught me off guard, however, was that after removing the top-most pieces I uncovered a bit of an unexpected ‘bonus’ as you can see in the rightmost picture. It took me a minute or so, but then I was able to identify the dark pieces as lung…

I have only once tried lung before in a dish called Husband and Wife Lung Slices, which frequently does not actually contain lung at all. The version I tried apparently did, as far as I could tell (you will have to go back and follow the blog post link to see what I mean), but, in any event, the pieces there were very small and covered in chili oil, which didn’t allow me to get much of a sense of what I was eating. This, then, was going to be a first…

To make a long story short, I can cheerfully tell you that, having finally experienced this delicacy, I am not inclined to seek it out again. The texture was soft, with very little in the way of al dente resistance, and the best I can come up with as a comparison is the texture of the edging of fat on a steak. The taste, however, did not suit me at all; It was something like very dark poached poultry meat but with a very strong taste of blood. Honestly, I am surprised that this would be a popular dish in China as many cuisines there take great pains to rid meats of any sort of ‘bloody’ taste. I like a good rare and bloody steak, but this was a bit beyond my enjoyment level. I shan’t bother again, I don’t think…

 

 

 

Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Yangtze – A second visit.

Yangtze 1

The Har Gow pictured above were served to me as part of a dim sum lunch at the Yangtze Dining Lounge in Ottawa’s Chinatown. I first visited this place almost 8 years ago and I later prepared a short review based on my notes. It was a very brief and rudimentary review, especially as I did not take any pictures.

My notes of that first visit recall, at best, a mediocre experience in that there were a couple of decent dim sum offerings, along with some not so good, and service that varied from server to server from moderately friendly to brusque and unwelcoming. On my recent second visit back in August of this year, I found that little had changed. The dim sum on offer was passable, but distinctly unimpressive, and the service, while generally friendly and efficient on the part of the ‘cart-ladies’ was sharp to the point of rudeness on the part of the hostess (as was the case 8 years ago, although I cannot say if it was the same person or not).

Anyway… the Har gow pretty much reflected the overall experience. I have had many worse, but here the wrapper had a bit of a doughy-raw taste and the shrimp inside had very little flavor at all. The only thing I like about these, really, was the size. I dislike overly large Har Gow as they are unwieldy to eat and often tear under their own weight, especially where you have to take more than one or two bites. These ones were just right for a single mouthful each. Continue reading “Yangtze – A second visit.”

Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Dim Sum: Steamed Squid 蒸魷魚

Yangtze Steamed Squid

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.

Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Dim Sum- Mushroom Dumpling (素粉果)

Mushroom Dumpling 1

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…

Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Dim Sum: 台灣泡菜

Taiwan Pickle 1

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…

Posted in Dim Sum Specialties

Crab meat dumplings at Palais Imperial

Crab Meat Dumpling 1

I have featured the above item as a ‘Notable Nosh’ because it was a little unusual and not at all a typical dim sum selection. The Chinese name on the menu did indeed indicate ‘Crab Meat Dumpling’, but the character for dumpling was referred to “Jiao’, which tend to be made with wheat flour and have certain standard forms. The ones pictured above, however, have the typical ‘Shu Mai’ shape but they are not that sort of dumpling either since the wrapper is the same translucent, rice-flour type you see in Har Gow.

Anyway, the dumplings did indeed contain crab meat (the real sort, not imitation) and there were some nice chunks along with the more finely minced flesh. There was some sort of chopped green vegetable in there too (not sure what) and a little touch of Coriander leaf, which I don’t generally care for but which was in small enough amount here that I didn’t mind it. The only problem with these dumplings was that they were a little too large for a single mouthful but were exceedingly difficult to manipulate with chopsticks. The filling would pop out of the wrapper and the wrapper tore very easily making it a bit of a messy operation all around. They were tasty but not well executed construction-wise. Interesting though…