Boston’s Chinatown is always an area of excitement for me. It’s a sensory overload when I navigate down the narrow streets. My ears become flooded with sounds of honking cars and multi-lingual conversations. Bright neon signs advertise dried medicinal herbs, fruity bubble tea, sweet baked cakes and more as layered savory smells wrap around my head. I fight to ignore these various distractions and focus on the main goal. The one real reason I visit Chinatown: Dim Sum.
This amazing brunch experience consists of various small plates of traditional Chinese food that are meant to be shared. This includes juicy dumplings, steamy lotus leaf pouches bursting with rice, fluffy baked buns, turnip cakes and endless loose leaf tea. It’s great to go with a group to sample as many plates as possible. This guarantees exposure to the variety of textures, flavors, and appearances of the food that the Chinese take pride in. It’s also a win for meat eaters and vegetarians, as tofu, meat, and seafood exist harmoniously on the menu.
I call it an experience because this is not your typical meal out to eat. I usually end up at my favorite spot (which I am keeping a secret!) during the busy brunch rush. When I’m seated, it’s at a large round table where you cozy up with complete strangers. The wait staff weaves swiftly through the tiny packed room delivering small bamboo steamer baskets, teapots, and mini ceramic plates. Many Dim Sum restaurants use the cart system, where carts full of plates wonder around and you can pick and choose what you like. My particular favorite place gives you a long white paper check list menu along with a laminated plastic sheet with pictures of each dish. You check off the items you want, and dishes come out as they are ready.
My Dim Sum staple is steamed buns, but they’re traditionally filled with pork. I became determined to try to make my own at home and fill these delicious steamed pillows with my own veggie mixture. The texture of the dough wasn’t perfect, but the taste factor was right on target.
While the dough is rising, you can make your filling. I chopped up a whole bunch of veggies and sauteed them all together in one giant wok. I flavored with soy sauce, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and smoked paprika.
Once the dough has risen, roll it out into a long rope. Cut off pieces of the rope about 1 inch thick, and roll out into circles.
Stuff the circles with your filling, and pinch the tops together to create a little dough filled pouch.
Then, I engineered a steamer out of a strainer and a pot of boiling water. Line the strainer with parchment paper or else the buns will stick. Steam the buns for 10-12 minutes until they have about doubled in size. I ate mine with more soy sauce and Sriracha, of course. Enjoy!