By Mini Ribeiro
Dim sum in Cantonese means "from the heart." These are steamed or pan fried dumplings filled with fish, seafood, meat or vegetables or blends of several ingredients. Traditionally, dim sums are enjoyed on weekend mornings.
The custom of dim sum dining, or yum cha in Chinese, involves endless pots of tea and a mind-boggling variety of savoury dumplings. But, no longer so. Dim sums are now eaten anytime, in fact more so as part of meals.
I may be biased, because dim sum is one of my favourite meals. I can enjoy these anytime. A meal comprising only dim sums, works for me. And a soup maybe? My friend in Kolkata initiated me into these years ago. Because of the Tibetan influence, these are known as momos in Kolkata. But, are no different from dim sums. The chicken steamed ones are delicious, but the "juicy pork dumplings" available here, possess a remarkable lightness too. Tibetans actually eat momos along with yak butter tea. Lots of places in Delhi too have momo carts, especially Lajpat Nagar, besides Chinese restaurants serving these. After a bout of shopping, one can take a break and relish some quick momos. Vegetarian versions usually contain cheese, or mixed veggies.
Even wantons are actually a variation of momos and dim sums. But these are generally fried or sometimes steamed. The only form I enjoy them is, as a Chicken wanton soup.
Chef Joo Kiang NG of Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, who has recently joined the hotel, makes the most delectable dim sums. His lobster and shrimp dumpling is to die for. The sweetness of the lobster, contrasts with the distinctive taste of the fresh shrimps, and the added flavour of mashed water chestnut paste, makes this unique. Emperor’s Court basically serves Hong Kong style Dim Sums. Another interesting one is theChicken dumpling (pan fried). The dumplings are first steamed and then pan fried and served with red wine vinegar and shredded ginger. The flavours are divine. Chef Sudhir Pai of Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport too serves unusual ones. I sampled some exotic ones there some time ago. Truly mouth-watering. In any case I can never tire of dim sums.
Malls in Mumbai too have kiosks serving momos or dim sums and one can see these are popular by the beeline people make for these. Steamed ones are generally preferred than the fried ones as these are healthier. During the rains, dim sums are even more sough after.
But the best place in India to relish dim sums, without a doubt, is Yauatcha in Mumbai. Don't insist on your usual dim sum favourites. Let the chefs send you their special ones. They are wizards. The almond prawn fried dumpling is a delight for the taste buds. Equally interesting are the pan fried turnip cake with vegetables and the steamed chicken char sui bun. With their exhaustive range of teas to sip, one can eat endless baskets of dim sums.
Goais not lagging behind at all when it comes to dim sums. People in Goa too enjoy these light dumplings. The ones with pork fillings are an instant hit. Most Chinese restaurants serve these. But the best ones are at Zuri White Sands. Sui Mai dim sums — pork or prawn mince garnished with flying fish roe at Sake, Zuri are outstanding. Have a special soft corner for those. The vegetarian array at Park Hyatt Goa can leave you spellbound
It is easy to prepare dim sums at home too. One can innovate with various fillings. I once learnt these from a chef in Mumbai. Adding a bit of chopped spring onions to the chicken mince and a dash of vinegar, gives it a different flavour. The sauces that accompany dim sums must be fiery too. The chilli garlic one really enhances the taste.
Having spoken about momos or dim sums at length, I am really yearning for some now. Got to order some, right away or maybe make some? And the weather’s perfect too.
(Mini Ribeiro is a food writer and columnist)