Who needs takeout?
The experience of eating dim sum in a traditional Chinese tea house should be a bucket list item for any culinary explorer. Dim sum is the Cantonese style of bite-sized small plates comprised of dishes such as dumplings, steamed buns, rice noodle rolls, and tarts, just to name a few. When you sit down at a dim sum restaurant, you are immediately greeted with a pot of freshly brewed tea and a menu that can seem overwhelming upon first glance. The best approach to enjoying dim sum is to share plates with your fellow diners and try a lot of different dishes (in the same way that you would at a tapas restaurant).
If you can’t make it to a dim sum spot, there are a few ways to enjoy the cuisine at home. Preparing dim sum dishes from scratch is a laborious and intricate task (not to mention, it’s pretty intimidating, too), but luckily, you can find some of the building blocks of a well-rounded dim sum meal in the frozen and international food aisles of your local grocery store (although some may require a trip to a local Asian market, if possible). Here are some of the food items (both fresh and frozen) that will help you bring your next dim sum meal straight into the comfort of your own kitchen.
Shrimp Shumai Dumplings
Shu Mai is a steamed, open-faced dumpling made from thin wrappers that are stuffed with a variety of fillings (shrimp, beef, pork, or vegetable ) and seasoned with soy sauce. You can buy these dumplings already frozen, so all that you need to do is simply warm them in a steamer. If you do not have a steamer, try this hack from Mark Bittman: Bring water to boil in a wide, shallow pot, and place two smaller heat-resistance objects (such as pinch plates) in the pot and rest a plate filled with the dumplings on top of the objects so that it’s suspended in the air. Sound complicated? You can also use a steamer basket in a pot of boiling water.
Rice Noodle Rolls
For this dim sum specialty, thin sheets of rice noodles are cut into wide strips and filled with shrimp, pork, beef, or vegetables. The rolls are steamed and typically served with soy sauce or oyster sauce for dipping. Rice noodles in the width needed for these rolls are not easily found dried in the grocery store. You can likely find them fresh at your local Asian market to assemble and steam at home. You can also try to make the noodles from scratch by using a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour, and wheat starch.
Bao buns are steamed buns made with a yeasted dough. The buns are stuffed with meats and vegetables, and they come in an array of shapes. Bao bun can be purchased frozen so that all the preparation you need to do is steam them. Once warmed, you can fill the buns with a pulled pork filling, flavored with a savory and tangy gochujang-ponzu sauce mixture. Top it with a cool, crunchy slaw made of shredded carrots, cabbage, and cucumbers, and you’re ready to party.
If you happen to have a Chinese bakery nearby, you can purchase these mini egg custard tarts fresh. If not, you can make the tarts at home with a few shortcuts. Instead of making the dough from scratch, you can utilize store-bought puff pastry. To make the custard filling, you’ll need a combination of whole eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, and water. In order to achieve a really silky texture, be sure to strain your egg mixture to remove any egg particles that don’t incorporate smoothly. These subtly sweet tarts are a great way to finish to your at-home, dim sum experience.