I was blissfully polishing off a box of steaming & soft chilly chicken bao dimsums today evening at this restaurant specialising in chinese cuisine in Delhi, when suddenly the dimsums became ‘food for thought’, triggering a series of random thoughts & queries about dimsums….and i was forced to share them here, so as to hear your comments… I say forced, since you know how much i hate writing!
Once upon a time only a handful of people and places in Delhi even knew what is a Momo, as dimsums are called in most parts of India. It was primarily loved and considered regular daily food in the North-eastern states of our country and I remembered my first taste of a dimsum way back in 1988/89 when we were at Darjeeling, the lovely hill town in the Himalayan range near Mt. Kanchenjunga, in eastern part of India. Then it had seemed such a tasty & unique experience for all in our family, a soft covering which biten into released a hot, steamed up, juicy mixture of finely minced chicken & veggies…just yummy (i again feel like going and having another box of the momos…drrrool) But now Delhi has a ubiquituous Momo-seller in every street, market or mall. The basic chicken dimsum is served with a extremely spiced & chillied version of a tomato-based sauce, and for the majority of this snack’s lovers the ‘hotter’ the sauce is, the better it is in ‘quality & taste’! And assembly-line-kind of momos are made across the city to be supplied to the street vendors, who can be differentiated only on basis of that ‘hot-chilly-tomato-tangy-red’ sauce. Alas, the flip side of popularity of foods!
Anyways, so coming back to my questions, tell me
1) chicken if cooked becomes shredded in layers, how do the dimsum chef manage a uniform mince?
2) And what, oh what is the secret for making those super fine translucent dimsum coverings?
eagerly awaiting your experiences on dimsum preparations….
26 July ’12
Oh gaaawwd Daibi!!! This is why we are siblings….you were thinking about Momos yesterday (which ofcorz I didn’t know) and today I met Niloy for lunch…and guess what did we eat??? Momos!!!!!! (our stomach bond is still strong even with the distance! :P). There is this awesome Asian restaurant here called Dumpling Plus and they sell one of the best Pan-fried Pork Dumplings I have ever eaten. We also had these deliciously soft Pork and Prawn Wontons in a hot chilly sauce. What makes these even more divine is that chutney….it is definitely tangy and hot like the ones we get in India, but I think they add galangal, powdered fennel seeds, sesame oil and something which just takes the dumplings to another level (next time I go there am really going to ask the recipe)!! This is what I love about Chinese/Japanese Asian food as you can taste the distinct flavours in the food (and as usual I have gotten carried away by the look and the taste of the food I ate 3-4 hrs back!!).
Anyways, going back to the topic of Momos, now while I was waiting outside the restaurant for my ‘date’ for almost 20 mins , I began reading another neighboring restaurant’s menu which had some info on the word wonton. In Chinese this word means swallowing a cloud as wontons floating in a soup resemble tiny lil clouds. Now wontons, momos, shumai and all these dough balls (with or without stuffing) are called dumplings. Numerous cuisines have different names for these – Fufu (African), Ravioli (Italian), Knoedel and Maultaschen (German), Manti (Turkish), Empanadas (Latin American) and many others!! Now Dim Sum in Chinese food means small bite-sized portions that go along with tea…so all these little tit-bits like dumplings, spring-rolls, prawn crackers, stuffed buns (sweet or savory), crispy-fried meat or spinach, etc. fall under this category. Hence we should call the Indian or the Nepali varieties of dumplings as Momos.
To answer your queries, the stuffing inside the dumpling is always raw and it gets cooked while you steam your dumplings. The mince meat today is done with machines and shredders. But traditionally it was done with a large butcher’s knife chopping the meat thoroughly till it became fine and smooth (like our Keema from the butcher’s shop). Once the dumplings are steamed well for 15-20 mins, they can be served just like that or could be fried in a pan or in deep oil.
Making these delicate momos is actually time-consuming, that is why whenever I made it, I always engaged Ma to roll out the dough. A chef who has worked in some esteemed hotels in India taught me how to roll that perfect thin sheet….first trick is that you need to put eggs in the dough to make it elastic. People who don’t eat eggs should put more oil in it to make it soft. The second trick is to dust your palms, the rolling area and the rolling pin with lots of flour – and you hold it with left hand and roll with the right. The left hand must continuously turn it around in circles while the rolling pin moves. Because of this process, ready-made Asian dumpling sheets are available in markets nowadays! So much so that even in restaurants I have seen packets of these sheets stacked in the fridge 🙂 And that is the secret of the Momo 🙂
What do you think now? Do you want to make it?? 🙂 Let me know!
P.S. Yesterday I made a vegetarian and chicken version of my cassoulet. For vegetarian I added more veggies and for the chicken one, I pan-fried chicken breast fillets coated with salt+pepper+mixed dried herbs (Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme and Parsley). Rest of the ingredients and procedure remained same. Both turned out really well!!