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The dim sum diary

As the Chinese New Year starts this Sunday, we talk about the humble dumplings that form a quintessential part of the celebrations, and are now an Indian favourite too.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2013 01:46 IST
Debasmita Ghosh, text: Arpita Kala
Debasmita Ghosh, text: Arpita Kala
Hindustan Times

Chinese food is possibly the first international taste that Indians developed more than 200 years back. Groups of Hakkas, inhabitants of Han, around the Yellow River area, migrated to different parts of the world, including the Indian subcontinent, bringing in new skills of tapestry, dentistry and most importantly, food. So much so that Chinese food became the evergreen favourite international choice, much before Italian, American or other Asian cuisines entered the subcontinent. ‘Dining out’ became synonymous with ‘chowmein-n-chilli chicken’. Dim sums entered India in the form of momos that were more of a Tibetan street food, usually stuffed with cabbage or chicken. Dim sums that the Chinese brought were more elaborate, more classy with a thinner skin and a range of filling options, right from pork, beef, duck, caviar, seafood, lotus and more. dimsum.jpgFrom snack to main course

Dim sums originally came to India through small shops set up along the trading routes dealing with silk and spices, says Chef Hu, the Cantonese cuisine expert at Threesixtyone, The Oberoi, Gurgaon. "It used to be a quick, convenient, ‘fast food’ that the traders used to eat on their journey. For the local farmers in China, it’d be a nice snack to gather around, and catch up on gossip and news at the end of the day, in the fields. So it’s not considered a ‘meal’ in China, at best a functional snack," says chef Hu. Chef Sam Wong of ChaoBella, Crowne Plaza Today, came to India over a decade back and introduced the now popular dim sum lunch concept in India at Taipan, The Oberoi, New Delhi. "I discovered that Indians were quite experimental when it comes to food. We started the dim sum trolley. It was a new thing, everyone loved it and it was convenient for us too as it was one item that all the guests could eat at the same time, and we could also make in a bunch," says Wong. "While you get Singaporean or Hong Kong style dim sum at most restaurants in India, the original style is the Cantonese," quips Hu.

A New Year must-have
Though more of a snack in China, dim sums are a must-have for the Chinese New Year. “We pair it up with tea — jasmine, oolong, quing or any other green variants. You could even pair it up with some nice white wine,” says chef Wong. “Meats and vegetables, cooked and spiced and stuffed in flour balls are really popular during the New Year. Sometimes we steam it, sometimes pan fry, deep fry or even bake. They vary from general flour to fluffy buns, rice wrappings, wheat wrappers and potato starch wrappings. Mango custard tart, prune and mango puffs are also popular as sweet dim sum,” says chef Hu. “It’s this variety that excites Indian foodies as there is always an option if one’s palate craves for something different. Dim sum literally translated means ‘To touch the heart’,” says chef Chef Peter of Pan Asian,Welcome Hotel Sheraton.

All about the chinese new year
The Chinese New Year, often referred to as the Lunar New Year falls on the February 10, and this is the year of the snake that comes every 12 years. “People born in 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, or 2001 are therefore often regarded as the snake people, who benefit from the good fortune during a Snake year,” says Feng Shui expert Ritu Kapoor.

Some famous snake people include Audrey Hepburn (‘41), Bob Dylan (‘41), Pierce Brosnan (‘53), Shah Rukh Khan (‘65), Shakira (‘77), and Taylor Swift (‘89).“This year is expected to usher in business prosperity. As the Snake is known for his inward cunning and cleverness, this year will be about deep thinking and quick reactions. It carries the meanings of cattiness and mystery, as well as the ability to distinguish right and wrong. Snake people will confront many tests in career this year and will learn from the difficulties,” adds Kapoor.

Back in China, New Year celebrations include people wearing red clothes, giving children ‘lucky money’ in red envelopes, and decorating their homes with poems written on red paper. Red symbolises fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. Having lunch at home with family is the most important event of the celebration. Dim sums is one of the must-have dishes on this occasion, and is eaten through the day like a snack amid the celebrations.

Scallop Sui mai

20gms scallops
25gms prawns
1/2tsp salt
3gms MSG
2tbsp sugar
3gms chicken broth powder
3gms potato starch
2tsp sesame oil
10gms cooking oil
1gms white pepper
1 sheet green wonton
4gms caviar

Take raw prawns and cut into three pieces. Put prawns in to a bowl and add salt, MSG, sugar, chicken broth powder, potato starch, sesame oil, and cooking oil. Mix the ingredients well and keep aside for some time to marinate. Boiled for about 10 minutes before preparing the dim sums. With the wonton sheets make small bags and steam for two-three minutes. Top with caviar and serve hot.
Recipe by chef Hsiung Sin Tung, Dimsum Brothers

Chicken Siu Mai

1 wonton sheet
250gms chicken mince
100gms bamboo shoot
100gms mushroom
25gms coriander (chopped)
1 tsp sesame oil
5gms white pepper
10gms salt
10gms sugar
40gms corn flour

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Rest the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes. Hold wonton sheet in one hand and using the wooden spatula add the chicken mixture (15gms). Fold all the sides of wonton sheet; it should look like a cylinder with top being open. Fill all the sheets in a similar way and store in the fridge. For steaming, put the filled Siu Mai in a wooden basket and steam for four to five minutes. Skip the chicken mince to make a vegetarian variant.
By chef Hu, The Oberoi, Gurgaon

Prawn Fried Dumpling

480gms prawn filling
20gms coriander leaf
48gms spring roll sheet
20gms spring onion
320ml tangy sauce dip

Blanch spring onions in hot water for a second, remove and chill in cold water. Tear out into strips for further use. Take one piece of spring roll wrapper and lay on the table. Place 30gms prawn filling mixed with 1gm coriander and lay on the centre of the sheet. Fold all four edges together to form a flower like pattern. Tie with the spring onion strips. Heat oil in a wok, and deep fry in low medium oil for 4 minutes. Now, fry in hot oil for another 3 minutes till crisp and well cooked. In a long starter platter, place some fried glass noodles on side, and place the crispy prawn on the top like a lane. Serve with tangy sauce dip.
Recipe by chef Sam Wong, ChaoBella

Celebrate Chinese New Year at
The China Kitchen
Peking duck, wok tossed pork, clay pot prawns and New Year brunch with unlimited Laurent – Perrier champagne
Price: R3,850 (plus taxes) per person.
Address: Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place

Prawn, broccoli-almond dim sums, mushroom in oyster sauce, pork spare ribs and cocktails — Osri, Aprihini
Meal for two: R1,350 (plus taxes).
Address: Asiad Village Restaurant Complex, August Kranti Marg

An all you can eat — unlimited Chinese meal at a set
Price: R899 (plus taxes) per person
Address: Radisson Blu Hotel, Greater Noida, C-8, Site 4, 2nd Cross Avenue Road, Kasna, Greater Noida

Chi Kitchen and Bar
Chicken ginger glass, wasabi prawn dumpling and spinach-mushroom dumplings, ‘Titanic’ dim sum platter and pork puff.
Meal for two: R1,200
Address: Select Citywalk Mall, G-70, Ground Floor, Saket

Asia kitchen
Fish with roasted pepper, thick noodles, mushroom wontons, mizutaki soup and more with complimentary house wine or beer.
Price: R995 (plus taxes) per person
Address: 30 Hauz Khas Village

Fat Ninja
Highlights: Crispy spinach, conjee lamb, chicken satay, asparagus chicken skewers, king kai chicken, pokchoy with black mushroom
Meal for two: R1,000 (plus taxes)
Address: 26, Hauz Khas Village

Unlimited dim sums + soup + tea, celery-pepper mushroom and chicken dumplings, steamed black bean pork ribs.
Price: Unlimited offer R850 (plus taxes) per head
Address: Hotel Samrat, Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri

My Humble House
Dinner buffet including Peking rolls, stir fried chicken, braised duck, mango mousse roll wrapped in coconut and more.
Meal for two: R3,000 (plus taxes)
Address: ITC Maurya, Sardar Patel Marg

Hao Shi Nian Nian
Crisp fish, steam chicken shao mei, crisp mixed vegetable, a buy one get one free offer on beer or any cocktail. and exciting games.
Meal for two: R1,200 (plus taxes)
Address: M-25, GK-II Market

Royal China
: Unlimited lunch of seafood dumplings, prawn dumplings, turnip paste, noodles and sparkling wine
Price: R2,150 (plus taxes) per person
Address: 16, Eros Corporate Tower, Nehru Place

Dim Sum in Delhi
Though Delhi continues to swear by its butter chicken, dim sums seem to be its newfound love. The proof is the bunch of eateries that are specialising in hundreds of varieties of these dainty delights. “The best thing about dim sums is that when it comes to innovation, the sky is the limit,” says Pawan Kochhar, director of August Moon, the Oriental eatery that’s created some unique dim sum covers such as spinach, lettuce and even omelette! On the other hand, while Yo! China cafe serves 25 varieties of dim sums, Dimsum Brothers have about 60 different options including almond prawns with wasabi mayo, scallop sui mai with caviar and their famous Playboy dim sum shaped like the Playboy bunny. “Creativity is the most important thing with dim sums. I have also customised these dishes according to latest trends, like I use Kalamata Brown Olive Italian for frying that gives a cool Italian twist to this classic Chinese bite,” says chef Chua Kek Eng, Yo! China cafe. But when it comes to popularity, among everything else, seafood dim sums are wooing foodies like never before, feels Chef Sam Wong of ChaoBella that serves about 100 varieties of these tiny bites. Again, for health buffs, it seems to be the perfect choice because most options are steamed. “It is the healthiest food that can be eaten anytime during the day,” says chef Kailash Mukhia at Hao Shi Nian Nian.