Some Dim Sum

October 6, 2009

So a brand spankin’ new Asian food market opened up about 5 min away from me. This is very exciting news. I am a huge fan of Asian foods whether it be Japanese (I make a mean sushi), Indian (the tandoori chicken from my first post), or Thai (coconut lemon grass soup). So I went to the market without any particular idea of what I wanted to make, figuring I would just browse and hope that something pops up, which inevitably, it did. Now a lot of this post isn’t so much cooking as preparation, since much of the stuff I bought was pre-prepared. But alas, it’s still worth a post.

What I bought:

Rice noodle wraps
Regular thin rice noodles
Turnip Cake
“Glutinous” rice dumplings with peanut filling
Custard buns
Beef and Veg. pot-stickers
Scallion Pancakes
(This is actually the combined result of several trips and the resulting meals, I figured I’d knock these all out in one.)

The main thing I decided to prepare was Vietnamese Summer Rolls (Also known as salad rolls). The rest of the fare is pretty easy to prepare with just a few saute pans and a steamer.

The Turnip Cake, which is sold as a solid brick of turnip paste riddled with pieces of scallion, ham, shrimp, and such is good just sliced into slabs about 1/2 in. thick and sauteed till golden brown and topped with a little Hoisin sauce. The Scallion pancakes are similar in preparation: Just grease a nonstick pan with some oil and throw in the pancake, brown on both sides, and enjoy.

The “Glutinous” rice dumplings (gotta love engrish) are just dumplings with a rice dough. Typically I throw these in to rigorously boiling water and let them boil away till they float to the top and are nice and squishy. While these are boiling away, throw a steamer rack on top of the pot and stem the custard buns (or any other steamed bun you may have). Both these items can be prepared simultaneously, which is always fun.

The Pot-stickers are prepared as explained by the package: Heat up oil in a hot pan (I used my cast iron) and throw in the dumplings with the flattest side down. Brown the dumplings for a minute or two (no moving around necessary), then dump in 1/4 cup-ish or water and cover the pan quickly to avoid the onslaught of hot oil that will jump out as a result of this. Let cook for 5 or so min or until a lot of the water evaporates. scrape the dumplings of the pan with a spatula (get it? POT Stickers!) and enjoy.

And finally, the pièce de résistance , the summer rolls:

Summer RollsIngredients:

Shrimp(de-tailed and de-veined)
Package of Vietnamese rice wraps
50 g package or rice noodles (the reeeeeally thin white ones)
1 Carrot
1 Cucumber
Chives
Lettuce (a nice green or red lettuce not too strong in flavor)
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh cilantro

Defrost the shrimp (if frozen) and throw a couple into a pot of boiling water and let cook for a few min. Shrimp is done when it turns orange and is no longer translucent inside. Remove from water and set aside to cool.

Thinly, and I mean REALLY thinly slice the cucumber and the carrot. I found it easier to just use a peeler and just peel off long strips of carrot. Grab a few sprigs of cilantro and mint and cut a few pieces of chives about 5 in long. Also rip off and clean a few pieces of the lettuce. The point is to have everything ready and accessible when you start rolling the…rolls.

For the noodles just follow the instructions on the package. If they are not in English, they probably say something to the effect of “Soak in hot water till soft, drain and serve.” It is in fact that easy. I boiled a little bit of water and added it to the very hot sink water. Let the noodles soak to the right texture, drain and rinse with some cold water. Let the noodles sit in the colander while you work. The less wet they are, the easier it will be to handle them.

Finally, take the shrimp, place on a flat surface, and, with one hand pressing on top of the shrimp either with your palm or the tops of your fingers (the point is to have your hand flat), use a sharp knife and cut the shrimp in half down the center of the shrimp.

Once everything is prepared and accessible, it’s time to start rolling. Making these rolls is more of an art project than real cooking. Because the wrappers are clear, the hole idea is to make the insides look pretty.

Fill a large, flat bowl or saute pan with hot water. You want to be able to submerge the entire dry wrap. Soak the wrap in the water for a few seconds until it starts to become a bit softer (you will have to experiment to see what length or time works for you). Lay out the wrap and start filling. We have to work quickly before the wrap becomes too soft to handle.  Place a few pieces of shrimp in the middle of the roll (2 or three depending on the size of the wrapper) orange side down (we want to be able to see the color, remember?). Below that put a piece of lettuce. On top of the lettuce place a pile of rice noodles, some carrot and cucumber, and a leaf or two of the mint and cilantro. Between the shrimp and the pile of stuff place a piece of chive and above the shrimp place another piece. Then fold in the sides of the wrap to start covering the filling. Fold up the bottom of the wrap over the pile of stuff, roll the pile over the shrimp, and continue rolling to seal the roll. Because of the natural stickiness of the wrap, it should stay closed very easily.

For a sauce i just mixed some duck sauce with some garlic chili sauce (also from the Asian food store). Enjoy, and be creative.

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