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« Sauce Ravigote | Main | Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 14 »

March 14, 2006

Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 13

Posted by Ernest Miller

Two words: Dim sum.

If you've never eaten dim sum, you're missing out not only on wonderful flavors, but a very good social experience. Dim sum is definitely a dish to be enjoyed with a friend or friends during a leisurely late morning.

It is an experience that I always took advantage of when I visited Hong Kong while in the Navy. I usually went out with some fellow officers fairly early in the morning to a large dim sum restaurant near Kowloon Park. One could watch the morning T'ai Chi in the park and then head (as some of the practitioners did) to the restaurant where one could try a seemingly infinite variety of dishes.

Of course, dim sum can be found in many different places. It may not be Hong Kong, but there are some pretty good dim sum places in Southern California that my family enjoys.

In any case, I digress.

Today, for production, we had to make four different types of classic dim sum: Cha Siu Baau; Shu Mai; Har Gau; and, of course, Potstickers.

Making dim sum, however, is quite labor intensive, so rather than each student producing all four, the dim sum was produced by groups of four. Or, in my case, a group of three. Unfortunately, my partner for the week, Liz, had to drop out of school due to illness.

As for the labor intensive part, making the fillings for the various dim sum and their dipping sauces is actually quite reasonable, just your normal chiffonade, mince, chop, and mix. There were a great many ingredients though. In this case, it really makes sense to pull the ingredients per recipe, otherwise you'll end up with dozens of small cups on your station and quickly forget which one has the fish sauce and which one the oyster sauce. One might also want to go ahead and put the ingredients that are going to be mixed anyway in a single mise cup.

The labor intensive part of dim sum is making the wrappers (which must be rolled quite thin and then cut out) and then filling and folding the tasty treats. Each of the different types must be folded and pleated in a specific manner. With my rather large fingers, it wasn't terribly easy to get the five pleats into a Har Gau. After making a few dozen it gets easier, but this is not a task for those in a hurry. Presumably, if you make sim sum often enough, you'll get quite fast, but I don't imagine I'll be making them frequently.

Once the dim sum are made, though, it doesn't take very long to cook them. All but the potstickers are cooked via steam. The Shu Mai take 15-20 minutes, and everything else clocks in at under 10. The major problem here is making sure that the steaming pans stay filled with water. Because everything had to be steamed in several batches, one needed to refill the water from time to time. Not everyone did. Consequently, some of the light, fluffy and perfectly white Cha Siu Baau were crispy, burned and brown. Hint: put a dime in the water pan. When you can hear the coin rattling, it is time to replenish the water.

The various dim sum are excellent for plating in creative patterns, so there was a wide variety of very picturesque platters in the class. However, the dim sum were so delicious that the platters didn't last long before going into tupperware for the trip home.

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