A Hamburger Today
Serious Entertaining: A Dim Sum-Inspired Chinese Food Party
Why settle on one dish when you can sample dozens? Oh right, NO REASON, that's why. Enter dim sum, the ancient Chinese art of making a whole lot of damn fine food, served small plate-style at exceedingly affordable prices. It is, at least through my humble, New-York-Jew-tinted glasses, the shining jewel in the Cantonese crown.*
*It's these same glasses that are responsible for the not-technically-dim-sum, pu-pu-plattery additions to this menu.
Some might argue that actually going to dim sum is an essential part of the experience, and they wouldn't be entirely wrong. But it's a pretty epic feat to tackle a real dim sum menu in your home kitchen, and one we prefer to leave to the pros. Instead, we've got a DIY menu designed to pack a whole bunch of our favorite Chinese recipes into some delicious, dim sum-sized packages. They may not scratch your dim sum itch, but they will satisfy a hungry crowd and maybe even teach you some new cooking techniques.
What's that? Feeling a little lazy? Host it potluck-style, instead! You can also save time and energy by purchasing dumpling and egg roll wrappers from the store, instead of making them from scratch. Read on for the recipes!
Pork and Cabbage Dumplings
You can buy dumpling wrappers at most grocery or specialty stores, but this recipe walks you through making the dough and filling, in case you want to go the extra mile. Either way, you'll get to do the pleating yourself—an immensely fulfilling accomplishment when all's said and done. Sound overwhelming? Invite your guests over early for a dumpling party. Once everything's prepped, you can par-boil and pan-fry them in large batches for quick, satisfying results. Plus, you know, pork.
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)
Oh, soup dumplings, you miraculous little balls of liquidy joy. Lovers of xiao long bao might be surprised to learn just how easy they are to make. That said, they're definitely time consuming, in part because they require homemade stock—none of that store-bought stuff! When you make stock naturally, the collagen from the connective tissue in animal bones breaks down into gelatin, which is why "real" stocks reach a jello-like state when they cool. Without that solidification, it's pretty much impossible to get any soup into those dumplings. Once your stock is good to go, it's just a matter of filling, pleating, and steaming away into soup dumpling oblivion.
Steamed Buns with Simmered Daikon and Shiitake, Pickled Bean Sprouts, and Spicy Mayonnaise
You'd never think to call out this recipe as vegan, unless you're, well, vegan. Meaty shiitakes and crisp daikon simmer together in an aromatic brew of sake, mirin, soy, sugar, and konbu. The sweet-tart sauce is the perfect foil for the brightly pickled sprouts and chili-garlic vegannaise. You can even make the filling several days ahead of time if you want to keep things extra simple. As for the buns, the frozen variety (most Asian grocers should carry them) require little more than a quick zap in the microwave, and brunch, lunch, and/or dinner is served!
This recipe technically calls for pork and cabbage, but you can really pile up your wrappers with whatever you like—meats, seafood, vegetables, and noodles are all pretty standard. Experiment with marinades and sauces; you can even have your guests join you in a friendly competition. Once you've settled on the filling, it's a cinch to roll these guys up and give 'em a quick five-minute fry.
Congee (Rice Porridge) with Minced Pork and Crispy Shallots
Congee is traditionally made with broken rice (rice that's unfit for steaming because all the sticky starches will leach out), but you can make it with whole rice if you cook it long enough and mash it while it cooks. It's also a great use for leftover cooked rice—just reheat it in stock until it reaches the desired consistency. Once your rice base is complete, anything goes! Here, we use minced pork and shallots, but you can toss in whatever you're in the mood for, from aromatics to eggs to minced meat or seafood.
Char Siu (Chinese Spareribs)
These ribs definitely don't qualify as dim sum, but holy cow (or should I say pork?), they are freaking awesome. The rack marinates overnight in a simple mixture of Chinese five-spice, hoisin sauce, rice wine, soy sauce, and honey. Come the next day, all these babies need is about 90 minutes in the oven to reach tender, savory perfection.
Once you get the hang of hot water doughs, scallion pancakes are a breeze (you can try using a stand mixer to speed things up, à la this gnocchi recipe). The trick is to brush each flattened disc of dough with sesame oil before sprinkling them with scallions. Then they're rolled into a rope, coiled up in a spiral, rolled out again, and fried. Why so many steps? That initial brush of oil is now folded into about 25 layers of dough—exponentially more if you repeat the process a few times—to yield crisp pancakes filled with tender, flaky layers.
Dessert: Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Oftentimes, Chinese restaurants send you off with a plate of sliced pineapple. But you've already done so much, so why not go the extra mile with something a little more elaborate. No, this recipe isn't remotely Chinese, but this rum-doused skillet cake does make for a pretty stunning presentation.
Get the recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake »
Tea is a must at dim sum. Brew up a batch of your favorite blend or, if you're feeling frisky, give one of these tea-based cocktails a shot.
About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.