Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dim Sum - Pai Gwat and Cha Siu Bao

Ok maybe we need a bib for this one. The damned good dish above is called Pai Gwat in Cantonese, and it simply means pork ribs. It's a very simple dish. It's just pork spare ribs that have been chopped into really tiny bite size pieces, and then have been steamed with predominantly black beans and/or black bean sauce, and occasionally oil, salt, pepper, starch, onions, or other small ingredients are added to heighten the taste. It's a nice slightly salty dish, a tad oily. Usually the pork ribs are swimming in the flavor of all the combined tastes and ingredients, and often the pork is a bit fatty too, adding to that oh so indulgent taste. They're so bite sized, you'll jsut keep on eating them til you realize you're going to have to order another batch.

So what do we have here? It's white and puffy. Is it salty or sweet? Is there anything inside? Is it just bread? ACTUALLY, these are known as Char Siu Baos. Basically these are roast pork buns. Char Siu meaning roast pork, bao meaning bun. Have you ever been to a Chinese restaurant where they have various cooked meats hanging in the windows? There's usually a red one, which is usually pork shoulder thats been roasted with a special Cantonese marinade of seasonings that turn it red. It's got a nice sweet honey roasted taste to the meat, except it's distinctly chinese. That's what's stuffed in these suckers. That roast pork is stuffed inside these buns often with onions, and often have a sweet and savory taste to it because of the unique combination of flavors. This tends to be especially a favorite among kids. The outside bun is basically a very airy bread that has a tinge of sweeetness to it. All of this has been steamed and is now ready to be ripped into and eaten. =)

Friday, March 9, 2007

Dim Sum - Cheong Fun and Bean Curd Skin Rolls

More goodies from Chinese Dim Sum. This is Shrimp Cheong Fun, another often ordered dish. What is it? You ever get those really broad noodles often called Chow Fun on most Chinese restaurant menus? Well its the same noodles, except it's left intact as one big sheet. The noodles are made from rice, and the whole thing is steamed, making it very soft to the touch, very pure in taste. The noodle sheet is then wrapped around whole pieces of shrimp, and then steamed to delicious perfection. It comes usually in 3 pieces per order, and then doused in soy sauce after it's delivered to your table.

With no additives except the soy sauce, it's an incredibly clean taste and incredibly refreshing. A favorite a many people, dont be surprised if you order more than one plate of this after trying it. I usually get two or three. =)

Another favorite of mine. Sin Chet Kuen, which are basically Bean Curd Skin Rolls. The rolls are composed of a filling consisting of usually pork and vegetables like bamboo and mushrooms. One alternative filling that's sometimes used is chicken instead of pork. The outer skin is a thin but strong wrapping made from bean curd. The whole thing is then steamed and served drenched in a very light delicious gravy.

Like many other dishes that are served at dim sum, the sheer fact that this dish is steamed makes it feel incredibly fresh and cleansing to the palette because it lacks the a lot of oil and heavy additives. It's refreshing, more light and airy than an overwhelming savory, and sure to delight you.

Give them a try, and then eat some more!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Dim Sum - Siu Mai and Har Gow

Ok...It's been a bit too long since we last posted, but we're back, and with plenty of food. Going back to our Dim Sum series, we're gonna talk about what are probably the two most popular dishes that most people order.

That yummy little treat up there is called Shu Mai (or shao mai in Mandarin). Probably the most often ordered dish at any dim sum, these are basically small pork dumplings wrapped in thin flour wrappers similar to wonton wrappers. The top is left open, and is usually topped off with crab roe, which is that little orange dot you see on top. Often thrown into the mix with the pork are mushrooms, and sometimes shrimp.

Shu Mai is basically a great savory treat that comes out piping hot, letting that aroma add to the sensory experience of eating. The wrapper is barely noticed and mixes right into the taste of the pork filling, which is deliciously savory and has a great bouncy texture to it. The mushrooms make for a great combination too. I often find myself ordering 2 orders of shu mai just because I love them so much.

The only other thing I love as much as shu mai is this. Har Gow, which are these translucent shrimp dumplings. It's basically made up of large chopped pieces of shrimp, and often times, have a little bamboo in it. It's wrapped in a starchy skin that becomes transparent when steamed. The skin is just a teeny tiny bit chewy, giving it a great texture, and when you bite into it, you'll find that the shrimp filling is very fresh and solitary in its taste. There's really nothing else like seasonings or additives that are used to enhance its taste, and you realize that immediately. It's nothing but fresh steamed shrimp, and it's got almost a pure taste to it. It tastes amazing and very relaxing because of that.

With har gow and shu mai, alot of people find that the spicy chinese mustard that comes on the tables make a nice addition. Remember to only put on a little bit of it, as the mustard has a rather strong kick to it. The mustard often works to complement shrimp based dishes quite well.

You'll often find shu mai and har gow in the same carts, and their names will usually be called out one right after the other by the cart servers. These two dishes always go together, and no dim sum experience is complete without them.