Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

My 'Road Home' Dim Sum Dinner...How Everything Turned Out

Last night's Valentine dim sum dinner was delicious and delightful, although the preparation did not go off as planned. I had originally intended to do all the preparation ahead of time and cook everything tableside. However, things began to go awry when I was unable to find an electric deep fryer. The only one available was a very large, commercial model that was very impractical and very expensive. So tableside cooking was no longer an option. However, I did manage to do all the preparation and assembly well ahead of time, and by the time Rene arrived, I was poised to begin cooking one dish after another until I'd finished, photographed and tasted all 14 items on my dim sum menu. As a result, however, we ended up eating our dim sum in the kitchen with a couple of cold TsingTao beers. Afterwards, I put together a plate of leftovers for us to nibble on during the movie, which is an absolute Valentine unto itself.

All but two of the dim sum dishes exceeded all my expectations. The Pork Spare Ribs were tender and juicy, with a savory sauce made from the leftover marinade. The Crispy Duck was fantastic with its Orange Dipping Sauce. And the Shrimp Toast is now my new favorite snack food. Somehow I just had a good intuition about the recipe, and I was right. Those little treasures will definitely make an encore appearance at some future dinner. The Mini Fried Wontons were crackly and delicious, the Spring Rolls fried up crispy and golden and the Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce was the perfect complement, the Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts were an interesting little canape, and my Pork Filled Buns were a baker's delight. The dough rose like a giant pillow, and the meat filled buns baked up puffy and golden brown. And when I brushed them with melted butter, they looked just like the gorgeous pictures in my dim sum cookbook.

The only disappointments were the two items wrapped in rice paper. The steamed shrimp dumplings, and the seafood wraps just weren't up to par. The steamed dumplings were soggy and fell apart when dipped in soy sauce, and the seafood wraps didn't crisp up as expected. I think I've finally learned my lesson with those rice paper wrappers. The only thing they're really good for is cold spring rolls. They just don't hold up during the cooking process.

After dinner, instead of traditional dim sum desserts like egg custard tarts and mango pudding, we had chocolate truffles and champagne. It just isn't Valentine's Day without them, so I felt no remorse in departing from my traditional dim sum menu to indulge in them with my sweetheart.

Note to Self: As romantic as it sounds, dim sum is not the best choice for an intimate homemade dinner for two. It's way too labor intensive, and the cooking process requires such unnblinking attentiveness to timing and detail that it's impossible to sit down and enjoy it at leisurely pace. A romantic dim sum meal should definitely take place in a dim sum restaurant, where a professional dim sum chef prepares everything and a waiter delivers it to your table. Lesson learned, but it was certainly a wonderful adventure in Asian cuisine.