Squid Steamed at the May Garden Restaurant in Bedford
The Steamed Squid dish you see pictured above was one of 8 items I sampled at a recent Dim Sum lunch at the May Garden Restaurant in Bedford, Nova Scotia recently. It not only turned out to be the star of the meal, it was probably the best version of this classic Dim Sum dish I have ever made, or been served in a restaurant.
The Squid Steamed at May Garden appeared on the menu as 虾酱鲜鱿, which directly translates as ‘Shrimp-Sauce Fresh Squid’, but was rendered, in English, as ‘Shrimp Sauce with Squid’. This didn’t actually suggest anything very specific (it could easily have been deep-fried Squid with chopped shrimp, for instance), but it turned out to be sections of squid steamed in a sauce that had a very strong, but delicious shrimp taste.
The dish could easily have been vert attractive but not for the appearance of the squid itself, as the sauce was a rather unappetizing murky, grayish-tan color with bits floating in it, and the scallion and carrot added as garnish were steamed to the point of being wilted and faded.
The saving grace, however, was the beautifully carved criss-cross pattern in the squid flesh. When cut like this, squares of squid flesh roll up during cooking to form a beautiful diamond pattern. Because of the-is appearance, the technique is sometimes known as the ‘Pine-Cone Cut’, and, while it is often attempted in restaurants with poor results, here at May Garden they did a beautiful job and saved the overall appearance of the dish from being unappealing.
What really made this dish fantastic, though, was the ‘Shrimp Sauce’ which bathed the squid pieces. It was somewhat thickened, possible from a flour/starch dusting on the squid before steaming, and it was incredibly umami rich with shrimp flavor. I couldn’t see any dried shrimp fragments in the liquid, but that taste was strong enough to make me think that a broth made from dried shrimp and perhaps shrimp shells had been used as the sauce base. Whatever it was, the effect was amazing and I am forced to confess I have never made an equivalent dish as good as the Squid Steamed at May Garden.