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.”
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.
This little appetizer is my take on a dish I had a while ago at a Dim Sum restaurant in Ottawa. It was described on the menu as ‘Taiwan Pickled Vegetable’ and was chiefly cucumber with just a little red bell pepper and slivered ginger. I am not sure about the ‘dressing’… these were obviously salt-macerated ‘quick pickles’ and they were quite sweet, only a little sour, and had just a faint touch of chili heat… Continue reading “Taiwanese Pickle”
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…
The filling for these Jalapeño peppers is very straightforward and simple… not much more than ground pork with scallion and garlic, really. It is the sauce, though, that I think makes this dish. It is based on Oyster Sauce mixed with some rice wine and a little chilli oil, and the sweetness of the primary ingredient is just right without needing any added sugar… Continue reading “Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers”
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
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…
Somewhere, in my Chinese cookery book collection, I have a recipe for Shrimp that are prepared by poaching in green tea (complete with reconstituted tea leave shreds). As yet, I haven’t tried it but, not long ago, I saw a picture of squid that had been fried after dusting with greenish fragments that weren’t identified. It was clearly an Asian preparation (I forget where I saw the picture), and I suspected the green ‘bits’ weren’t any common herb as might be used in the west. I wondered if, perhaps, it might be powdered tea. Anyway, the idea sounded interesting and so I put together the little appetizer you see pictured above. The idea is still rather a ‘work in progress’, but the first attempt was interesting enough that you might like to try something along the same lines yourselves… Continue reading “Experiment: Tea-Fried Squid”