Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No. 7 The Classic Chicken Chow Mein – By The Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 5, 2009

200901_omag_cover_2206This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .

egg_noodles

 

A noodle is food made from unleavened dough that is cooked in a boiling liquid. Depending upon the type, noodles may be dried or refrigerated before cooking. The word noodle derives from the German nudel (noodle) and may be related to the Latin word nodus (knot). In English, noodle is a generic term for unleavened dough made from many different types of ingredients. Noodles exist in an abundance of shapes.

 

The first written account of noodles is from the East Han Dynasty between AD 25 and 220. In October 2005, the oldest noodles yet discovered were found at the Lajia site (Qijia culture) along the Yellow River in Qinghai, China. The 4,000-year-old noodles appear to have been made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.

 

What Types of Noodles are there?

 

Noodles can be made from various ingredients, primarily wheat, rice, mung bean or mung bean.

 

Millet

Oldest known prehistoric noodles, from 2000 BC.

Indian ragi noodles, made from finger millet flour.

 

Wheat

Ramen, yakisoba

Egg Noodles or Lamian (hand pulled Chinese noodles)

Mee pok (flat, green Chinese noodles, popular in Southeast Asia)

Pasta (approximately 350 variants of Italian noodles)

Udon (thick Japanese wheat noodles)

 

Rice

Flat or thick rice noodles, also known as ho fun

Rice vermicelli: thin rice noodles

 

Mung bean

Cellophane noodles, also known as glass noodles.

 

Potato or canna starch

Cellophane noodles can also be made from potato starch or canna starch or various starches of the same genre.

Gnocchi, small Italian dumplings.

 

Noodles, when cooked properly do not get mushy or sticky. Noodles are the only pasta products made with egg solids which give them a more intense colour than other pasta.

 

Measuring Noodles

 

Most dried noodles doubles in volume when cooked. For accuracy, measure noodles by weight rather than by cup. The general rule is one pound of dry noodles will serve six as an appetizer or four as a main course.  Remember – shapes may vary in size according to the manufacturer, so use these measurements as generalizations.

 

The easiest way to measure noodles is to use your digital scale.

 

4 ounces of uncooked noodles = a 1-inch diameter bunch of dry noodles = 2 cups cooked noodles.

 

How To Cook Noodles Properly

Important Rule:  Noodles should be prepared just before serving it.  

 

  1. Use a Large Pot (A too-small pot and too little water cause the noodles to clump and stick together, thus cooking unevenly).
  2.  Use only COLD Water – fill that big pot 3/4 full of COLD water and cover the pot of cold water with a lid to help bring the water to a boil faster.
  3. Add Salt to the boiling water about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of noodles.
  4. Add the dried noodles to BOILING HOT water.
  5. Cook the noodles uncovered and gently stir the noodles during the first 1 to 2 minutes of cooking.
  6. Cook for 8 – 12 minutes until the noodles are soft and chewy when bitten into.
  7. Turn off heat and add 1 cup of cold water – this will lower the temperature and stop the noodles from over cooking.
  8. Drain the noodles immediately in a large colander standing in the sink and then pick up the colander with its contents and shake well to remove excess water. (Do not rinse – the starch from the noodles could make the noodles stick together).

 

Tip about when to add the noodles : Noodles added to cold or warm water end up getting mushy and stuck together as the noodles quickly begins to break down in tepid water as the starch dissolves. Only add the noodles once the water is boiling – as this boiling temperature “sets” the outside of the noodles, which prevents the noodles from sticking together.

  .

Should I add oil? No. Oil will coat the noodles and prevent the sauce from adhering.

 

CHICKEN CHOW MEIN

chicken-chow-mein 

This recipe for chicken chow mein mixes the noodles with the chicken and vegetables for a healthier chicken chow mein.

INGREDIENTS:

           1 lb (500 g) boneless chicken breast, cut in thin strips

           1 tablespoon (15 mL) soy sauce

           1/4 (1 mL) salt

           1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch

           1 lb (500 g) Chinese-style steamed noodles or cooked thin egg noodles

           1 1/2 cups (375 mL) Chicken Stock

           ¼ cup (62.5mL) Half an onion thinly sliced onions

           1/2 cup (125mL) Chinese cabbage

           1/8 cup (31mL) One small carrot thinly sliced

           3 large dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked and thinly sliced or from a can

           2 spring onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

           2 teaspoons (10 mL) sesame oil

           3 cups (750 mL) bean sprouts, tightly packed

 

PREPARATION:

Combine chicken and marinade ingredients (soy sauce, salt and cornstarch), mix well and set aside.

Blanch noodles in large amount of boiling water with salt for 3 minute or as per package instructions.

Drain well and cool slightly. Plate up.  Meanwhile, heat wok over high heat, add stock and bring to boil. Add ginger, onions, carrots, Chinese cabbage and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Stock should thicken slightly. Add flowering chives or green onions and sesame oil; stir to mix for 1 minute. Add noodles, bean sprouts and mix together.

 Remove from heat. Serves 4.

 

Each serving includes:

Calories 358, 43 g Carbohydrates, 33 g Protein, 6 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 100 mg Cholesterol, 5 g Fibre, 466 mg Sodium, 555 mg Potassium. An excellent source of vitamin D, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folacin, and iron. A good source of fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B-12 and zinc.

 

 

 

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No. 6 Beansprouts and Chinese Chives – By The Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 4, 2009
200901_omag_cover_2205This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .
Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

 

 

bsprout

Bean sprouts and Chinese Chives

 This dish calls for Chinese chives, which have a lighter, more “oniony” flavour. Beansprouts are delicious, healthy and ideal for yang (warm bodied people) as these are yin foods. (Dear Reader – Please refer to my earlier post on Yin and Yang balancing of foods.)

Serves 2 – 3

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 sprig of flowering garlic chives or scallions.

3 cups (about 5 1/2 ounces) mung bean sprouts

3 tablespoons oil for stir-frying

1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sugar

 

PREPARATION:

  1. Wash and drain the mung bean sprouts.
  2. Wash and drain the chives, and cut into strips about the same length as the bean sprouts.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a preheated wok.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the minced ginger and stir briefly until aromatic (about 15 seconds). Add the mung bean sprouts and stir-fry until they change colour (about 1 minute), then add the chives, soy sauce and sugar.
  5. Stir-fry for about another 1 – 2 minutes, until the chives have just turned limp, taking care not to overcook the bean sprouts.

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No. 5 Fluffy White Rice – By The Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 4, 2009

200901_omag_cover_2205This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

farming-the-field-of-guangzhou

“Cutting stalks at noon time

Perspiration drips to the earth

Know you that your bowl of rice

Each grain from hardship comes?”

(Cheng Chan-Pao, Chinese philosopher)

 

Rice is the staple diet of the Chinese around the world – a symbol of life itself. The Chinese greet each other by asking “Have you had your rice today?” rather than “How are you?”. If you haven’t eaten all your rice, it is considered an insult to the host.

 

According to local folktales, five celestial deities rode into the Guangzhou area of China on five rams, each with an ear of rice in its mouth.  The immortals gave the rice ears to the farmers and promised them that there would never be famine in Guangzhou. This is the region where my family originated from and like other farming families, we grew rice as well as soy beans.

 

Rice is used to make porridge or ‘congee’ and also a type of noodle. It is an ideal alternative for those with a wheat allergy who cannot eat bread or wheat pasta.

 

A harvested rice kernel contains a bran layer, and is enclosed by a hull. White rice has had both the bran and hull removed during the milling process. By contrast, brown rice has had only the hull removed. The result is a much more nutritious dish, containing protein and several minerals. However, parboiled white rice has been processed before milling and thus retains most of its nutrients.

 

Rice Types

 

typesofrice

The Chinese normally use long grain rice, which produces a fluffier rice. If you are following a recipe that calls for long grain rice, and need to use medium or short grain rice instead, remember that rice grains have different absorption rates and adjust the amount of water accordingly. (In this case you would reduce the amount of water by 1/4 to 1/2 cup per cup of rice).  

 

In China, glutinous or “sticky” rice is used mainly for snacks and sweets. However, in other parts of Asia it is used in place of regular rice.  For example, a reader recently shared with me his experience living in Laos and northern Thailand, where glutinous rice is a staple food.  The rice is soaked for at least two hours, and then steamed. People take the steamed rice and knead it in a ball.  It is then dipped in one of the courses and you use a finger to collect some of the course. (Glutinous rice is available at most Asian grocery markets).

 

Two less well-known types of rice are black rice and red rice. Grown throughout Asia, red rice is a member of the glutinous rice family. It is not considered to be very edible, but there is a great deal of interest in the potential health benefits of red rice extract.  You’ll often find it in health food stores, as it is believed to help lower cholesterol levels and improve blood circulation.

 

Grown in China and Thailand, black rice is also a type of sticky rice. A layer of bran covers the rice grains, giving them a brown or blackish colour.  Black rice is used mainly in Chinese, Thai and Pilipino desserts. Like red rice, black rice is considered to have numerous health benefits, particularly the purplish-black variety. 

 

MAKING PERFECT BOILED RICE

 

rice-bowl

Here are classic rice recipes that you’ll want to learn how to make.

Like hard boiling eggs, cooking rice is one of those tasks that appear to be easy, but can go wrong very quickly if you don’t follow the right steps. Here are simple instructions that will help you make rice that turns out light and fluffy every time.

Serves 3-4

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups of long grain rice

41/2 cups of cold water

 

PREPARATION

  1. Rinse the rice – rinsing rice helps get rid of any starch and impurities. Rinse until the water is clear and not cloudy.
  2. Combine the long grain rice and water – For every cup of long grain rice, add 1 1/2 cups water.
  3. Boil the rice – Bring the rice to a boil, uncovered, at medium heat.
  4. Turn down heat put rice at an angle – When the rice is boiling, turn the heat down to medium low. Place the lid on the pot, tilting it to allow steam to escape.
  5. After the rice has been cooking for a few minutes, check for holes or “craters.”
  6. When you can see the holes or craters, put the lid on tight. Turn the heat down to low.
  7. Simmer the covered rice for another 15 minutes. Fluff it up with a fork and serve hot.

 

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No. 4 Ginger Tea – By The Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 4, 2009

200901_omag_cover_2204This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

ginger-tea

Ginger Tea

 

Treat yourself to a cup of piping hot ginger tea, a healthy drink that’s great for digestion.

 

INGREDIENTS:

           2 thin slices raw ginger

           water

 

PREPARATION:

Boil enough water to fill your cup, remove from heat, and add the slices of ginger. Allow to steep to desired strength (3-5 minutes), strain and enjoy!

 

NUTRITIONAL VALUE 

Ginger – Besides being appreciated for its distinct flavor and ability to diffuse other strong odors, ginger has long been used as a digestive aid. Thought to get rid of air in the body, it is used to treat both stomach acidity and motion sickness. In China, women customarily drink a mixture of ginger cooked in wine and sesame oil shortly after giving birth.

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No. 3 Egg Drop Soup – By The Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 4, 2009

200901_omag_cover_2203This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

egg-drop-soup

EGG DROP SOUP

 

The basic recipe for Egg Drop Soup (also called Egg Flower Soup) is very simple; I’ve included a few variations below. Serves 3 to 4.

Traditionally, the broth for Egg Drop Soup is rather bland, allowing the egg flavor to stand out.

 

INGREDIENTS:

           4 cups chicken broth or stock

           2 eggs, lightly beaten

           1 -2 spring onions finely sliced

           Salt to taste

           A few drops of sesame oil (optional)

PREPARATION:

In a wok or saucepan, bring the 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add the salt, and the sesame oil if using. Cook for about another minute.

Very slowly pour in the beaten eggs in a steady stream.

To make shreds, stir the egg rapidly in a clockwise direction for one minute. To make thin streams or ribbons, gently stir the eggs in a clockwise direction until they form.

  Garnish with spring onion and serve.

 

Nutritional Breakdown – 4 servings

Each serving contains: Calories 81, 2 g Carbohydrates, 8 g Protein, 4 g Total Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 106 mg Cholesterol, trace Fibre, 866 mg Sodium

 

Egg Drop Soup Variations

These would be added after the seasonings. After adding, let the soup cook for a few more minutes and then add the beaten egg.

**1/2 cup frozen peas (defrosted).

**1/2 cup sweetcorn and finely diced chicken breast meat (cooked) – this makes Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup.

**If you are preparing the soup for someone who is ill, try adding a slice of fresh, grated ginger. Among its many benefits, ginger is believed to be helpful in treating colds and flue.

 

Egg Drop Soup is frequently thickened with cornstarch in restaurants. To add a cornstarch thickener, mix 2 – 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Just before adding the beaten egg, stir in the cornstarch/water mixture, remove the soup from the heat, and then add the beaten egg.

 

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No.2 Garlic Butter Steamed Fish – By The Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 4, 2009

200901_omag_cover_2202This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

steamed-fish-garlic

STEAMED FISH WITH GARLIC BUTTER

 

Serves 3 – 4

 

INGREDIENTS:

           4 fish fillets, about 4 – 6 ounces each

           2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

           1/4 teaspoon salt

           2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

           2 tablespoons butter

 

PREPARATION:

Prepare the wok for steaming. Rinse the fish fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Cover and steam the fish over high heat until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork (10 – 15 minutes). 

Separately, in a small pan, melt the butter, adding the chopped garlic and salt –mix until garlic goes golden brown. Take off the heat.

Place the fish fillets on a deep, heat-proof plate that will fit inside the steamer basket. Pour the garlic butter mixture over the fish.

Serve hot with steamed leafy greens.

 

Nutritional Breakdown for Steamed Fish (based on 4 servings of 6 ounces fish each) Each serving contains: Calories 157, 3 g Carbohydrates, 31 g Protein, 2 g Total Fat, 73 mg Cholesterol, trace dietary Fibre, 232 mg Sodium, 774 mg Potassium.

 

Garlic is claimed to help prevent heart disease including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer. Garlic is also useful to treat a common cold, and help regulate blood levels

 

Butter in moderation is allowed.

Oprah’s Ten Weight Loss Recipes – No.1 – Mabel’s Claypot – By Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 4, 2009

200901_omag_cover_2201

 

This series of blogs is addressed to Oprah and all those out there battling the bulge and excess weight. I am often asked by my clients to prepare for them a special detox meal over a period of a week to a month. The following recipes are just a sample of our offerings and are unique to Sweet Mandarin (www.sweetmandarin.com). If you would like a one-to-one consultation, contact me, Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com .

Best wishes and Sweet Dishes to You and Your Family

Lisa

 

mae-claypot

Instead of meat try ordering the tofu – it is made of soybeans, high in protein and not too high in fat and calories – it soaks up the flavor of the foods that it is cooked with. Avoid dishes using fried tofu.

 

MABEL’S CLAYPOT TOFU

 

This is a family favourite of my mother, Mabel. It evokes home cooking at its best and will draw you to the warmth of the family table after tasting this delicious and nutritious dish. The story behind this dish stems from when my mother was only a child of seven and immigrated to the UK. She felt so home sick and hated the rainy cold weather, the fact that she couldn’t speak of word of English and had no friends. Her mother made her this dish, and it immediately transported her back to the warm climate of Hong Kong to a place where she felt safe and secure. This claypot was her comfort dish – her comfort food – and helped her transition to a new world.

 

INGREDIENTS:

•           1 packet of firm Tofu

•           1 1/2 teaspoons (7 mL) dark soy sauce

•           1 ½  teaspoons (7 mL) Chinese rice vinegar

•           1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt

•           ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) sugar

•           3/4 cup (187.5 mL) chicken or vegetable stock

•           1 teaspoon (5 mL) cornstarch mixed

•           2 tablespoons (25 mL) water

•           1 tablespoon (15 mL) vegetable oil

•           1 tablespoon (15 mL) sesame oil

•           2 spring onions sliced in one inch pieces

•           2 baby bok choy, cut into rough squares

•           Quarter Chinese sausage (lap cheung) finely sliced – or replace with salami (optional – don’t add if vegetarian)

•           1/2 onion, sliced.

•           1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated ginger

•           1 teaspoon (5 mL) garlic

•           1 large shallot, chopped

•           5 Chinese mushrooms from can or if dried, soak until soft

•           2 sprigs cilantro

•           2 cups (500 mL) jasmine rice

 

PREPARATION:

 

1. Pre-heat oven to 360–375˚F

(180–190˚C or Gas Mark 4–5).

2. Soak mushrooms in hot water for one hour (alternatively use ready-to-cook tinned

Chinese mushrooms).

3. Cut tofu into bite-sized pieces.

4. Mix the marinade ingredients (salt, sugar, Chinese rice wine and corn starch) in a large

bowl, add the tofu pieces and stir gently.

5. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

6. Place wok on high heat. Add the oil, stir in the ginger and garlic, and cook until golden.

7. Drain the tofu (reserve the marinade). Stir-fry the tofu until it’s cooked through.

8. Add spring onions, mushrooms, lap cheung and bok choy. Stir-fry for three minutes until the vegetables soften slightly.

9. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt.

10. Add chicken /vegetable broth and marinade and bring to a boil.

11. Add cornstarch mixture and mix well until consistency thickens.

12. Switch off heat. Pour the tofu, vegetables and stock into a clay pot.

13. Cover and place the pot in the oven.

14. Bake for 5-10 mins until mixture is bubbling.

15. Serve with fragrant jasmine rice.

 

NUTRITIONAL VALUE 

Each serving includes:  Calories 269, 26 g Carbohydrates, 21 g Protein, 10 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 50 mg Cholesterol, 4 g Fibre, 330 mg Sodium, 420 mg Potassium. An excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and niacin. A good source of fibre, vitamin E, vitamin B-6 and folacin.

 

Chinese Black Mushrooms – No need to visit the Chinese pharmacist for these – you’ll find bins of Chinese black mushrooms packed to overflowing in any Chinese grocery store. Used in soups stir-fries and braised dishes, they are thought to be helpful in lowering blood pressure.

 

Ginger – Besides being appreciated for its distinct flavor and ability to diffuse other strong odors, ginger has long been used as a digestive aid. Thought to get rid of air in the body, it is used to treat both stomach acidity and motion sickness. In China, women customarily drink a mixture of ginger cooked in wine and sesame oil shortly after giving birth.


To learn more about the Sweet Mandarin Cookery School – www.sweetmandarin.com To book your place on the course or to order specific detox menus – email Lisa Tse on sweetmandarin@gmail.com

Recipes to Help Oprah and You Lose Weight – From the Sweet Mandarin Cookery School

January 3, 2009

200901_omag_cover_220

Four years ago, when Oprah managed to get down to a trim and fit 160 pounds, she thought she’d hit on a foolproof formula for permanent weight loss. Then life—in the form of a thyroid problem and a killer schedule—intervened. Last year she was back up to the 200-pound mark and knew something had to change.

Its not just Oprah whose battling with the additional pounds, I’ve met so many people who have asked me to help them lose weight. End the starve – binge cycle. Eat healthy, feel healthy and be healthier.

Especially after the Christmas season, all those eat-all-you-can buffet parties, the alcohol, the snacking in front of the tv make one feel bloated and struggling to fit into your new clothes.

You are overweight for the most simple of reasons — because you’re eating the wrong foods, the wrong types of calories per meal, and you’re also eating meals in the wrong patterns each day.

My next blogs will set out my recipes to help Oprah and you lose that excess weight – and balance your ying and yang.  Most overweight people are yang (warm) types. So the kinds of food that should constitute the bulk of ones diet should be ying type of foods (see my earlier blog on what are ying and yang foods).

Wishing you best wishes and Sweet dishes

Lisa

Six Degrees of Separation – Dim Sum, Silk Road, Guangzhou China, Britain, Cuppa Tea and me….

January 3, 2009

As a British Born Chinese, I have lived a very British way of life being educated in Manchester and Australia. However, throughout my life, I grew up with the backdrop of serving and cooking in the family restaurant and continue my involvement in the catering empire as a co-owner of Sweet Mandarin Restaurant (www.sweetmandarin.com).

emperor-people-food-quote 

(Illustration by Lisa Tse “To The Ruler, the People are Heaven, to the People Food is Heaven”)

Chinese food has had an overwhelming presence in my life and been the catalyst for my hunger for understanding China and the significance of food in its culture. This series explores the cities where I stayed, the lives that crossed my path and the amazing food with a story to tell. China is a captivating and vivacious collection of diverse cities, provinces and regions. In the south, Guangdong, the Cantonese speaking region is renowned for its steaming, boiling and stir frying and dim sum feasts which we have become accustomed to and love in the western world. Beijing in the coldest area of China boasts the Emperor’s banquet, the world famous Peking Duck and hot pot. In the east, Shanghai offers its famous Shanghai Dumplings, whilst the Sichuan provinces easily provide the hottest and spiciest cuisine.

I finally arrived at Guangzhou which is famous for its “dim sum”. Literally translated, “dim sum” means “to touch your heart”. Guangzhou is north of the Pearl River Delta, adjacent to Hong Kong and holds a special place in my heart as the place where my family originates from. The nickname for this province is “Flower City” because flowers keep blossoming all year round.

five_rams 

(Five Ram Statute in Guangzhou)

It also holds the myth that there were five celestials riding five rams with rice in their mouth. The celestials gave the rice to the residents of Guangzhou and blessed the province with good harvests and an abundance of food. Today, the celestials have flown away but the five rams have been turned into stone sculptures in the Yuexiu Park area. The blessings have seemingly been fulfilled and the city is brimming with masses of people, bicycles and restaurants.

To date, there are over 10,000 restaurants in the city, with seats for over 500,000. The people of Guangzhou are natural born gourmets. Food in Guangzhou is famous worldwide. Indeed in 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of the nationalist party responsible for unifying China, set up his headquarters in Guangzhou and enjoyed dining at the many restaurants serving dim sum.

dim-sum 

(Dim Sum Mania on Sunday Mornings)

Dim sum is often referred to as “yum cha” (饮茶) which means “drinking tea”. This interchangeable expression originated from the teahouses which set up along the Silk Road. The Silk Road linked China to Syria and was travelled by merchants and farmers trading their silk, gold, ivory, spices, exotic animals and plants. Travellers and rural farmers, exhausted after working hard, would also go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. However, people later discovered that tea can aid in digestion. Therefore, teahouse owners began adding more variety of snacks, so the tradition of dim sum evolved.

 restaurant-filled-with-people

(Dim Sum Restaurant – Old Hong Kong)

Dim sum mania spread to Hong Kong as the Guangzhou population immigrated to Hong Kong in the 1920s. Chinese restaurants grew exponentially in Hong Kong and soon dim sum was available from 6am through to late afternoon. Restaurants in Hong Kong and Guangzhou became filled mainly with the elderly population who often gathered to eat after the morning session of tai chi exercises, often enjoying the morning newspapers.

In the west, dim sum came about as a natural result of Chinese immigrants moving to the western world. When Europe started trading with the Orient, the seaport of Guangzhou became the gateway to the West. The Chinese readily absorbed these cosmopolitan influences, and being great travellers themselves, emigrated to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. They were the first to make Chinese cooking known to the Western world and as a result dim sum has become the firm favourite of the Western world.

dimsumrestaurant 

(A Packed Dim Sum Session)

Go to a Chinese restaurant on a Sunday afternoon and you will be greeted by a sea of Chinese families spanning three generations. Dim sum is the Chinese equivalent of French hors d’oeuvres or Spanish tapas. It’s a colourful and loud dining experience starting with the rush for vacant seats and the hustle and bustle of the gesticulating waiters selling their dim sum specials from their trolleys. Bamboo containers filled with steamed dim sum are stacked high and quickly snapped up. Waiting on staff ask what kind of tea we want to drink offering a vast array of jasmine tea, oolong tea, pu-er tea and green tea which helps to wash down the dim sum. The noise of the chatter of the diners is deafening. It’s a busy, frantic affair and there is an air of organized panic in the restaurants, which adds to the excitement and entertainment. Dim sum is an overwhelming introduction to the Chinese nation’s love of food, gregariousness and cheerful chatter.

I love dim sum. There are over 200 dishes to choose from. One Cantonese saying goes that anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies is edible. Another says that the only four-legged things that Cantonese people won’t eat are tables and chairs.

The range of cooking skills required to make dim sum is vast. There is usually a dim sum master overseeing his section of the kitchen and there is a real art involved in making the dishes. Some dishes are steamed, others are fried. Some are baked. The variety of tastes is also mind boggling – sweet, sour, savoury and chilli.

har-gow-siu-mi 

(Left: Har Gow, Right: Siu Mi)

There are firm favourites such as “har gow” (prawn dumplings wrapped in translucent rice paper), “siu mi” (pork dumplings) and “char siu bow” (pork buns in a white fluffy dough). If you are feeling more adventurous, an eye opening experience with a stronger flavour is “fung jow” (chickens feet in yellow bean sauce and chillis). One caveat – this particular dish is not for the faint hearted. The sweet dishes for dessert range from the egg custard tarts which are extremely delicious to sago pudding or mango pudding which are refreshing and a great ending to the dim sum experience.

youngsters-making-dim-sum1 

(Me (Left) learning how to make dim sum with my sister (centre) and mother, Mabel (Right))

A meal in a restaurant opens the taste buds, but cooking dim sum for my friends and family widens all the senses. I learnt the authentic recipes from Guangzhou and used them at Sweet Mandarin. Together with my sisters, Helen and Janet we made every dim sum from fresh. Stuffing and shaping wontons was the real family enterprise. We made the stuffing from a light prawn mince and wrapped the teaspoon of filling with a fine egg based pastry. We all left our individual stamp on the won tons in the way we crimped the edges. I added a flamboyant tail on these wontons, which can then be dipped in the sweet and sour dip. My everyday rituals of properly selecting produce, cooking and presenting a meal, which I have inherited from my family, have given me an insight to see the meaning of my own cooking as a metaphor for life.

I would love to share with you our recipe on making this exquisite dim sum.
won-tons
Ingredients
For the Prawn Filling
250g pack shrimps
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp potato starch
1 egg white
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Hot vegetable oil to lightly fry the wontons
Ingredients for the Wonton Wrappers
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tsp potato starch
1/4 cup of water
2 cups of plain flour
Dressing for the wontons
Serve with Sweet Mandarin’s The General Tse’s Sweet and Sour Sauce
Method to make the wonton pastry
1. Kneed the ingredients together into a ball. The consistency is dough like.
2. Leave in the fridge for half an hour.
3. Roll out into a very thin sheet (as thick as a piece of paper) with a rolling pin ensuring there is plenty of flour to avoid sticking.
4. Cut into squares 3inches squared.
Method to make delicious and easy wontons
1. Put all the prawn mixture into a food processor and mix thoroughly.
2. Shape into balls the size of walnuts.
3. Place the filling balls into the centre of the wonton wrappers. To make the tail, gather the four edges and twist together.
4. Heat oil
5. Place wontons in hot oil for 5-6 minutes or until cooked through.
6. Drain from oil.
7. Serve the wontons with the Sweet Mandarin’s General Tse’s Sweet and Sour Sauce.

Sweet Mandarin offers a brunch special on Saturdays and Sundays – Eat all you can Dim Sum for 10 pounds per head. Match with Jasmine Tea and it makes for a wonderful relaxing weekend with friends and family.  For more information, go to www.sweetmandarin.com To book a table email sweetmandarin@gmail.com

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January 3, 2009