Surely the joy of a steamer basket arrangement of succulent and perfectly steamed dim sums is a nashta apotheosis quite unlike any other? Literally meaning ‘touch your heart’, and according another account ‘eat a little something’, dim sums draw from the Cantonese custom of tea and small eats that originated in the numerous teahouses that dotted the Silk Road.
Hearty hors d'oeuvres typically shared and polished off with chopsticks, you could say that dims sums are the qi of the Chinese ‘yum cha’ or tea-drinking culture. Sharing is at the heart of gatherings around dim sums that are passed around the table to a cheerful chatter and sips of tea. At traditional dim sums events, you choose from a variety of temptations that servers push around on carts, serving the lighter steamed dishes first, followed by specials, deep-fried dishes next and concluding with dessert. A typical dim sum spread includes a breathless variety of treats: steamed pork spareribs, char siu bao (steamed buns with roast pork), hargao (shrimp dumplings napped in translucent skin), spring rolls, rice noodle rolls, custard tart and mango pudding, to touch just the tip of a chopstick!
Unarguably, the palate-stealers in the variety of delights on offer are the plump, juicy steamed dumplings filled with vegetables or meats, graced by the delicate touch of bamboo shoots and ginger, and shaped into delicate ecru half-moons or full moons! The emphasis on freshness and natural flavour is paramount in the construction of the perfect dumpling from Canton where cooks take pride in their bounty from the good earth in the Pearl River Delta. Regional variations of these signature Cantonese ‘small eats’ include jiaozi in Beijing, pearl balls in Shanghai and spicy huntuns (wontons) in the Szechuan province.
You can taste your mouthful of joy (paradise some would argue!) at Sheraton, New Delhi, which hosts a capital feast with its Dimsum festival at Pan Asian! The festival featuring handcrafted dim sums bursting with seasonal, local, sustainable and organic goodness, continues until the end of this month.