This time, we go on a journey in search of perfect Dimsums ( also mistakenly called as wontons, Suimie, kotheys, dumplings).These steamed delicacies served in a bamboo basket are on menu of good chinese restaurants and are an epicurean delight.These are not meant for filling the stomach but for appreciating the skills of the chef.In lucknow you may call it a “Khayaal- an urdu word closely meaning thinking or a way of life or a thought process” !! In Hongkong, a dimsum chef is the highest paid and it takes years of internship to turn out the delicacies.For years, he perfects the art of rolling the flour and making wrappers.I myself visited many restaurants in Hongkong and have feasted on such delicacies.
The different varieties of steamed dumplings sounds similar but all of these are in different shapes, have different texture and tastes and are made differently and should be accompanied by different sauces.The Dimsums have to be eaten in tiny bits as there is lot of steam capsuled in a dumplings.My mouth got seared by the latent heat when once I ate the dimsum in a hurry.Further, a tiny drop of soya sauce needs to be dropped on top of a dumpling.Generally, the texture should be smooth so that the drop slides down and leaves a trace of sauce all over.A good dimsum always has an even distribution of fillings so that every morsel has a piece of wrapping and fillings.The fillings range from chicken, prawns, vegetables and other exotic varieties. Generally the fillings are minced but an expert dimsum chef could place individual prawns ( dead off course) in individual wrappings and make the wrappings so thin & translucent that one can see the entire prawn from outside. In Hongkong, you also get Soup Dimsums. This takes the dexterity of the chef to a new high. At times, the soup is frozen, Dimsums made and then steamed. This way the minute one bites into the luscious translucent dumpling, the searing hot soup falls out. Beware, its an art to eat such Dimsums.
The wrappings generally are paper thin, have lot of meat and should be properly cooked.If less cooked, you would have a floury taste and overcooked would be soggy & wet. At many eating joints, either these are filled beyond capacity and as a result they break apart or the filling is so less that you land up eating mostly steamed flour.Most of eateries, store cooked dumplings in fridge which they steam once again when it is ordered-sacrilege I would say and they taste yuck.The dimsums need time & care and should be freshly steamed.Fried variety of dimsum is like a samosa-immensly forgettable. Further they need be served in a bamboo box and they should be steamed with water having touch of sesame oil and tea leaves.When the aroma of sesame oil wafts thru the porus bamboo mat of the box, it carries with it the misty smell of sesame and bamboo.
- I have travelled far and wide in search of the perfect Dimsums. Some places are atrocious, some mediocre and some really great. One such place is “Royal China”. This place has a branch in Mumbai ( behind Sterling Cinema) and New Delhi ( 16th floor at Eros Corporate Centre, Nehru place). Between the two, my pick would be the Delhi branch. Its got a great panoramic view from the 16th floor for starters and its a huge place. They serve great unlimited Dimsums brunch- a treat to die for. Prawn Hargao, Spicy Chicken Dimsum are wonderfull. Must try is ” Prawn Chunfung”. Its a delicate elongated wrapper with prawn fillings.
- Yum Yum tree in Friends Colony is a great eatery. They also have a unlimited plan and one is always filled till throat after gulping Dimsums. You cant stop at one basket, one has to have atleast 4-5 baskets of 3 Dimsums each before you even start thinking about something else.
- Mainland China in Mumbai, Chennai , Hyderabad ,Kolkata or Delhi is another nice place to have your Dimsums..Try the prawns suimi ( these are dumplings open from top) or else order for a mixed platter at Mainland China.Worth a visit.Mainland China is value for money.
- Taipan in Oberoi , New Delhi has a serving trolley with an inbuilt steamer in which the bamboo boxes are kept.They offer Dimsums corporate lunches.Extremely good ( this is the only good thing at otherwise yuck Taipan).Best of all, you get six varieties of dimsums and you can have any amount you want ( although the hostess generally never informs this upfront).It is very expensive, but each dimsum is a piece of art, rightly steamed, rightly stuffed and never soggy. They also serve sticky rice in a banana leaf-perfectly done and sheer heavenly.
- Oriental Blossoms at Marine Plaza, Mumbai comes close to great Dimsums.It atleast tries hard to compete with the above.Reasonable rates and good sauces.They also serve them in bamboo boxes.
- Tea House of August Moon at Taj , Delhi is an excellent place to have kotheys ( another form of steamed dimsums which are open from top).The accompanied black bean sauce is marvelous and the dimsums are paper thin.It takes 20-30 minutes to prepare dimsums- hence it can never be a fast food.The hostess at Taj would always inform you of the time and you just bow and let the gastric juices do a tango inside your stomach.Actually dimsums have a great respect for your stomach linings and they make sure not to upset them!.
- Lings Pavilion, Colaba and its cousin-Imperial Garden, Vasant Kunj and Yo China, serve dimsums which have a place in dust bin only.Thick sticking flour, laced with sauces- it is a nightmare. Highly avoidable.You should visit Lings Pavilion for crab claws & Buddha delight.
Delhi nowadays is also bitten by “Momo” craze. These are an import from Tibet.These are also steamed flour dumplings but are not a work of art. More of it later.