Taro Dumplings at the Chinatown Restaurant in Halifax
I actually ordered the Taro Dumplings at the Chinatown Restaurant in Halifax by accident. I meant to order their version of Ham Sui Gok (which later proved to be excellent), and simply ended up misreading the menu. As it happened, this proved to be an entirely happy accident as I might not have ordered them otherwise and they proved to be absolutely delicious, and every bit as good as the aforementioned Ham Sui Gok.
This particular Dim Sum specialty was listed as ‘Deep Fried Taro with Pork’ on the Chinatown menu, while the Chinese character equivalent was 蜂巢香芋角 (fēngcháo xiāngyù jiǎo). The basic Chinese name for the dish is 芋角, which simply translates as ‘Taro Dumpling’, but, at Chinatown menu used the compound word ‘香芋’ which actually translates as ‘Sweet Potato’. Since Taro and Sweet-Potato are not the same, this may be a bit of a naming error on the part of the restaurant.
In any event, the first two characters in the menu name mean ‘Bee-hive’, which is, with some poetic license, suggested by the characteristic, not to mention really lovely, appearance of this type of dumpling.
Taro dumplings are actually a pretty common item in Dim Sum restaurants but, for some reason, I have never managed to get around until trying them until this particular occasion. They are typically stuffed with ground pork and the ‘wrapper’ or shell is made with Taro root that is first mashed and boiled. Deep-frying the mash gives the really pretty, spiky-lace sort of surface you see in the picture above.
At Chinatown, the dumpling shell was exquisitely crispy-crunchy on the outside, crispy on the layer just beneath, and soft, but still slightly chewy within.
The filling was pretty generous and included ground pork, a little scallion, plus some finely minced carrot and Chinese Black Mushroom. The binding ‘gravy’ did have a faint sweetness to it but the effect, overall was savory, and it was my sister, who dined with me, who said that the combined taste and texture was very like Shepherd’s Pie. That may sound odd, but, actually, the description was very apt, and the ultimate effect was very similar to that western ‘comfort food’ with the additional twist of the crunchy texture as a bonus.
To conclude, I am very glad I made the ‘mistake’ of ordering this extremely interesting and delicious Dim Sum specialty, and I look forward to comparing and contrasting this version with others elsewhere.