Dabbling in dim sum

Trying new things keeps life interesting in the kitchen.  Among the fails and dishes that I'd probably only make once, there's always the possibility of discovering a new family favorite.  I also just love learning how my favorite foods are made.  It's like uncovering the magician's secret and, oftentimes, the "trick" is not nearly as hard as I imagined (though sometimes, it is).

Most of the time, my cooking experiments are spurred on by things I like to eat, something delicious we had at a restaurant, or some kind of food memory.  Inspiration is everywhere and there is no lack of it!  One of my inspirations have been the great Chinese-food blog, The Woks of LifeI've been able to re-create some of our favorite Cantonese dishes thanks to their very authentic recipes.  Lately, it tempted me into dabbling in a little dim sum-making at home!

First up, Chinese Sausage Buns...
Chinese sausage buns before steaming
Growing up, we routinely went out for dim sum on the weekends.  I have to be honest...I often dreaded it because it meant crowds and long waits as hoards of people descend on their favorite/local dim sum spot, which just happens to be yours as well.  It's still like that in many places and I don't go out for dim sum all that often but, of course, much of the food is the stuff of my childhood food memories.  One such was the Chinese sausage bun.  You might not be familiar with it if you didn't grow up eating it.  It's now practically extinct; I can't remember the last time I ate one or saw them being offered in a dim sum restaurant or Chinese bakery.  

Apparently, other people share my nostalgia because The Woks of Life has a recipe and I thought I'd give it a try.  Before this endeavor, I didn't own a bamboo steamer.  I quickly equipped myself and began my little dim sum project.
Chinese sausage buns steamed and ready to eat!
Working with yeast dough is always a bit daunting but at least in this case, I could focus on the dough since the Chinese sausages themselves are bought, ready to use after steaming.  Once I got the hang of working the dough and rolling it out, these Chinese sausage buns weren't that hard to make!  I thought it tasted like childhood - the distinctly sweet yet savory Chinese sausage encased in the soft bun was spot on!

Then I attempted Steamed Roast Pork Buns...

I moved on and thought I'd challenge myself with my son's favorite dim sum item, the roast pork bun.  This project did not go quite as well.
I had a hard time with the dough but tried to make it work, with the end result above
Making the filling was relatively easy, as I bought the main ingredient - the roast pork.  I had trouble with the dough.  It was dry and tough, making it difficult to roll and shape.  I wish I could say I knew exactly what I did wrong or could do next time to mitigate the issues but I really can't.  I think steamed roast pork buns will have to be enjoyed at dim sum restaurants (luckily, still readily available).
The saving grace is while my homemade buns might not have looked or been like the prototype, they were still infinitely edible.  No buns were wasted, and if the buns themselves were a little dense and not fluffy as they were supposed to be, my family (particularly, my husband) insisted they were great.  The flavor of the filling and the sweetness was there - I was missing that lofty bun texture.  All in, it was a great learning experience and I will be sure to appreciate the roast pork buns a lot more when I next have one at a restaurant.

Beyond dim sum that comes in a bamboo steamer basket, I also recently learned how to make Chinese sticky rice.  It's also an item you can often find among the dim sum carts - usually packed into a glass bowl and turned over onto a plate when you pick it out.
While I came to learn that Chinese sticky rice is traditionally stir-fried, I actually make mine in the Instant Pot!  I spotted a recipe using my new favorite "toy" and since my husband really likes ordering Chinese sticky rice when we have dim sum, the idea of being able to make it at home was very alluring.  

I blended a couple of recipes and there was a little trial-and-error during a couple of attempts (with the amount of liquid that seems to work best) but the Instant Pot version I can now make is definitely good enough for us.  
Here again is where you can put Chinese sausages to use.  The sticky rice is chock full of flavor from the sausages as well as shiitaki mushrooms and dried shrimp, not to mention soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and other flavorings.  It's quite satisfying for very little "work".

These items certainly barely scratches the surface of all the variety of dim sum that await you at a Chinese restaurant on a weekend morning but with these, and maybe a batch of egg tarts or congee on the side, I can daydream about a super small-scale dim sum session right in my own home!  

Recipes:

Chinese Sausage Buns
Recipe atWoks of Life
Notes/My experience: I ended up using more dough than the recipe cited to make each sausage bun.  The Chinese sausages I used measure about 6 inches in length and I found I needed a rope of dough about 16 inches long to properly wrap around each sausages.  Also, given the richness of the Chinese sausages themselves, we prefer more bun.  Using more dough for each, I'd say the recipe makes 7 (as opposed to 10) Chinese sausage buns. 

Steamed Roast Pork Buns
Recipe atWoks of Life
Notes/My experience: As I explained above, I had no problems with the roast pork filling but struggled with the dough.  My dough was tough and dry, hard to pull together, and I was hesitant to add too much extra water.  In the end, I muddled through the best I could and the taste of the overall steamed pork buns was very good but the bun itself was not as fluffy as it should have been.  

Chinese Sticky Rice
Recipe sources: I looked at various recipes I could find online and mainly adapted from Jeanette's Healthy Living and also the version at Woks of Life (which does not use the Instant Pot).  It's something I'm likely to continue to tweak next time I make it but here's my version thus far below:

1 teaspoon canola oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced with white and green parts separated (reserve green part of 1 scallion to stir in after cooking)
2-3 Chinese sausages (I use 3 but you can go lighter if you choose), sliced slightly on a bias
6 dried shiitaki mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons or so of dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
1 1/2 cup sticky rice (also referred to as "glutinous rice" or "sweet rice"; see this), rinsed and drained
Scant 1 1/2 cups liquid (approximately 1 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup soaking liquid from mushrooms and dried shrimp - see below)
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
Salt and white pepper, to taste

In a large measuring cup, combine chicken stock and the soaking liquid from the mushrooms and dried shrimp (carefully pour out the mushroom soaking liquid, being sure to leave behind the gritty bottom) to make a scant 1 1/2 cups.  Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, a pinch of salt and sprinkle of white pepper.  Stir everything together to combine.  Set aside.

Heat up oil using the "saute" mode in the Instant Pot.  Stir in scallion whites.  Add Chinese sausage and cook for a couple of minutes, letting some of the oils from the sausages release.  Stir in the mushrooms and dried shrimp, and let cook for a minute, then stir in two-thirds of the scallion greens.  Add rice and stir well.  Turn Instant Pot off.  Add the liquid into the pan and stir well to combine, scratching up any bits from the bottom and making sure the rice is fully submerged in the liquid.

Cook using the "RICE" function in the Instant Pot (this means 12 minutes under low pressure).  When done, turn Instant Pot off (to avoid scorching the bottom of the rice) and let natural release for 5 minutes before doing a quick release.  Cover the pot with a dish towel (to absorb the extra moisture) and let sit for 10 minutes.  To serve, add reserved scallion greens and stir gently together.  




5 comments:

  1. Those roasted pork buns are my absolute favourite! Thumbs up for you making them at home, Monica.

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  2. Love your idea for the Chinese Sticky rice. You know it is quite difficult finding Chinese sausage here but heading back for a bit to HK, so will be sure to grab some for the route home. Hope you are doing well in this New Year. Take Care

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    Replies
    1. I've lost track of where you live now! Good luck in the search...eat lots of good stuff while in HK! : )

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  3. I just had dinner and this post is already making me hungry. Those molten buns look so good! I love Rochester dim sum - they're my favorite when I go yum cha.

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