Dim sum is a Hong Kong essential: why bamboo steamers are a vital part of one of the city’s most popular food traditions

Lam Ying Hong, pliers in hand, the afternoon solar hitting his face, is within the space placing the ending touches on a small bamboo steamer.

“It takes about an hour to make a small one,” says the youthful-looking 73-year-old, sitting on a chair at Tok Chung Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer in Sai Wan, the place steamers of all sizes are piled round him.

Lam is a fifth-generation craftsman who dropped out of highschool to observe in his father’s footsteps Bamboo In his blood.

After his household moved the corporate from Guangzhou to Hong Kong within the late Fifties, enterprise boomed. By the Nineteen Eighties, the panorama had modified, as rising labor and manufacturing prices mixed to ship factories dashing to cheaper mainland China.

Lam is the fifth-generation descendant of the founding father of Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Firm. Photograph: Kylie Knott

At this time, most bamboo steamers are mass-produced by equipment throughout the borders of the Chinese language mainland. Lam’s firm is likely one of the few firms in Hong Kong that also makes them by hand.

Heritage home At Rosewood Hong Kong, in Tsim Sha Tsui, it will get its bamboo steamers from Tok Chung Sum Kee. Preserving conventional craftsmanship is in step with the philosophy of the Cantonese restaurant.

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“We deeply admire the craftsmanship that goes into creating these steamers,” says Government Chef Lee Chi-wai. “By supporting native artisans, we additionally contribute to Preserving conventional crafts and selling sustainability in our sourcing practices.”

Chinatowns all over the world additionally import from Lam. “I ship to San Francisco and different cities. This bundle goes to Hawaii,” he says, flipping the field over to disclose a stamp bearing “Honolulu,” the U.S. state capital.

In an age of speedy technological development, when many conventional expertise have sadly disappeared, it is comforting to know that bamboo steamers, synonymous with Hong Kong’s much-loved yum cha dish – a brunch of tea and dim sum – have stood the take a look at of time.

Employees at Din Tai Fung restaurant in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, could be seen getting ready dumplings in bamboo steamers. Photograph: Kylie Knott

Via a frosted window close to the kitchen, employees could be seen busy hand-rolling dumplings whereas waiters transfer plates to and from tables.

Bamboo steamers are an integral a part of the town’s culinary identification, says buyer Kitty Wu, who treats her mom. Yum Cha Weekly. “Dim sum would not be the identical with out it,” she says, lifting the lid of 1 to disclose six steaming dishes. xiaolongbao.

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Chef Archan Chan Package Ying, of Ho Lee Fook restaurant within the metropolis centre, agrees. “Bamboo steamers are an integral a part of the Hong Kong meals scene – you’ll be able to’t eat dim sum with out bamboo baskets,” she says.

“I hope this craft doesn’t fade away like many craft traditions, and I hope folks will proceed to move it down by way of the generations.”

Whereas glass, steel and silicone steamers have entered the scene, bamboo varieties — with an open base, domed lid and stackability that enable a number of dishes to be cooked without delay — are having fun with sturdy attraction. There are a variety of causes for this.

“The design of the basic bamboo steamer permits components to prepare dinner evenly, which is crucial to the standard of the dish,” says the chef. Tam Tongfrom Yat Tung Heen in Eaton HK, including that they’re essential in any Chinese language kitchen.
Chef Vicky LauHer appreciation for bamboo steamers grew after she tried making a steamed sponge bun with a steel model. It did not finish properly.

“I had points with water vapour, temperature and humidity trapped contained in the container,” remembers Lau, who owns eating places Tate Eating Room and Mora in Sheung Wan.

Government Chef Ho Lee Fook Archan Chan (left) and dim sum chef Winson Yip at Ho Lee Fook restaurant within the metropolis centre. Photograph: Xiaomi Chen

She says bamboo steamers have the benefit of absorbing extra water vapor. “When steam condenses contained in the lid, the bamboo fibers take in moisture, stopping it from dripping again onto the meals,” she says.

“That is helpful when steaming delicate gadgets like buns or dumplings, as a result of it helps preserve their texture and stop them from changing into soggy,” says Lau, including that she will be able to’t use anything when steaming them. Sourdough Or sticky rice.

Bamboo’s skill to retain warmth is one other bonus.

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“In the event you depart the lid on the bamboo steamer after cooking, it retains the meals heat longer, which is helpful when serving a number of dishes or once you wish to maintain the meal scorching till it is prepared,” says Lau.

Bamboo can also be thought-about a pure materials freed from dangerous chemical substances. “Even underneath excessive temperatures, it’s protected to make use of,” she says, including that the one disadvantage is the humidity in Hong Kong.

“A bamboo steamer can rot simply so it needs to be stored in a dry place.”

Legacy Home chef Li Chi-wai lifts the lid of a bamboo steamer at The Legacy Home in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photograph: Edmund So

Chef Chan Yao Leung, government chef at Duddell’s downtown, has been utilizing bamboo steamers for greater than 4 a long time — and he has no need to cease.

“Though occasions change, there are some conventional practices that can not be simply changed,” he says. “Though fashionable alternate options to steamers are rising, I favor these produced from conventional bamboo.”

The final consensus amongst native cooks is that steam balancing is the bamboo steamer’s superpower. No one desires soggy desserts.

“If the steamer can’t launch steam, water droplets kind, which isn’t very best for conventional Chinese language meals gadgets like desserts,” says Chan.

Chef Lee of The Legacy Home says sturdiness can also be a plus. “A bamboo steamer can final for a couple of yr if correctly cared for,” he says, including that it’s important for getting ready dishes like dim sum, rooster, fish — and even chinchon rice noodles.

In distinction, Lee provides, stainless-steel steamers are likely to dissipate warmth shortly, inflicting water to drip onto the meals. “It could possibly additionally rust when uncovered to moisture or extended warmth,” he says.

Overlook glass steamers, he tells me, they’re too fragile. “It could possibly break at excessive temperatures, making it much less sensible for skilled use.”

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Chef Chen Tianlong, of The Retailers in Central, says bamboo provides a delicate earthy taste to meals, giving it a bonus over stainless-steel or glass steamers.

Bamboo, a pure and renewable materials, additionally meets sustainability requirements, Chen says. They appear good when served with dishes like smoked duck with jasmine tea, and honey-glazed Jinhua pork with osmanthus served with a crispy bean curd sheet. xiaolongbao.

“They add a conventional contact to the way in which meals is introduced,” says Chen.

Chef Chen Tianlong, of The Retailers in Central’s Landmark, says the bamboo steamers add an exquisite earthy taste to the meals. Photograph: Retailers
Chan I’ve Lee Fook He says the historic position that bamboo baskets performed in Chinese language delicacies — they’ve been round for five,000 years, originating in southern China throughout the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) — can’t be neglected.

Their sensual attraction cannot both, he provides.

“Bamboo steamers have a materiality and familiarity that I really like, and I at all times contact them once I eat yum cha with my household,” Chan says. “I believe that impacts the general expertise.”

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