Just the other day, I was standing around the table in the staff kitchen with my colleagues. The conversation turned towards nostalgic topics, with people reminiscing about the shows they used to watch as children and teenagers – The Smurfs, Aggro’s Cartoon Connection, Puberty Blues, and more. Then they turned to me, and all I could do was shrug and say “I didn’t actually watch Australian television until I was twelve – before that, my dad used to rent tapes of Japanese cartoons dubbed into Chinese for me to watch instead”.
I grew up on a media diet of Crayon Shin-chan, Doraemon and Dr Slump. The benefits of this language immersion are clear – I’m essentially trilingual and can speak both conversational Cantonese and Mandarin fluently. Unlike my younger brother who grew up watching Australian TV and can’t speak the language, I can communicate with our extended family, watch Chinese movies without subtitles, and most importantly – order from Chinese yum cha restaurants!
I have an immense love for the ritual of Sunday lunch yum cha, yet I’ve always found myself yearning for the yum cha staples of siu mai and char siu bao at random times of the day. 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon. 11pm on Friday night. 7am on Thursday morning. A 24 hour yum cha restaurant would be my dream…until then though, Dim Sum & Co have released a range of frozen yum cha-style goodies to satiate one’s yum cha cravings!
I received a sample of their whole range to test and try and home. The first thing I notice was the great logo design and clever packaging design. It’s definitely a step above the usual frozen dumplings you might find at your local Asian supermarket, with much more memorable packaging. The range seems good as well, with a bias towards spring rolls.
What intrigues me most though, are the options they offer for cooking their products. For the spring rolls alone, they offer three different ways of cooking them – in a sandwich press (quick and easy!), in an oven (easy!) or pan fried (tasty!). The siu mai even comes packaged in a two-layered microwaveable container that’s designed to steam and microwave at the same time. It’s very ingenious, and the creator of the Dim Sum & Co range has definitely considered the different cooking options available to your average time-poor worker!
We first try the chicken and water chestnut siu mai and the BBQ pork buns. Choosing to cook them conventionally, we carefully place each item in our bamboo steamer and steam for the recommended amount of time. The buns were perfectly cooked, with the soft light doughy bread that characterises a good BBQ pork bun. The siu mai went well with my own patented siu mai dipping sauce – Sriracha with soy sauce and sesame oil…mmm…
We choose to boil the pork and Asian greens dumplings, rather than steaming or pan-frying. It’s the south-eastern Chinese in me I think – dumplings are always boiled, not fried as the oil interferes with the natural textures and flavours of the dumpling. Unfortunately, the skin on these dumplings were a bit too thick and starchy for my liking, as I prefer thin-skinned, almost translucent dumpling skins.
Next we tried three different types of spring rolls, testing out all three suggested cooking methods.
First up, we tried the Peking duck spring rolls, cooked in a sandwich press. This was really difficult – I found it hard to cook each ‘side’ of the spring roll evenly, so we ended up with spring rolls that were brown and toasted on one side, but still white on the other. That was a bit disappointing, and definitely didn’t make for the ‘ideal’ golden brown spring roll. On the plus side, the hoisin sauces and other Peking Duck flavours worked really well in the spring rolls!
Secondly, we tried cooking the chicken spring rolls in the oven, with mixed results. We ended up having to cook them for about ten minutes longer than the recommended time in order to achieve the golden brown skins, though this did result in two issues – the ends of the spring rolls being more toasted than the rest of the roll, and some fillings ended up bursting out of their skin! Again, not ideal, though the chicken and vegetable mix worked well as a simple and standard spring roll filling that would be a real crowd-pleaser.
Lastly,we tried pan-frying the vegetable spring rolls, and you can see from the photo how much better this option was in creating that uniform golden-brown crispy spring roll skin. Obviously this is quite an unhealthy option though – while frying these up, I found that they just kept soaking up the oil in the pan. In the end, I think these six spring rolls ended up soaking up around five tablespoons of oil during the frying process – an artery-clogging kind of number!
I really enjoyed the flexibility of having some of my favourite dim sum dishes available in my freezer, ready to answer any random craving I might have in the middle of the night! In my opinion, the steamed options (the buns and siu mai) were probably the best in quality and flavour, so I would really like to see them work on new items to add to the steamed dim sum line – perhaps some har gou or cheong fun? I’ll definitely be picking up a few packs of the BBQ pork buns to keep in my freezer for those times when you just need a BBQ pork bun to satisfy that craving – and you can see a full list of stockists here.
Gourmanda received the range of Dim Sum & Co products free of charge for review purposes, however all words and opinions are my own.