The history of dim sums is very interesting. It is linked with the older tradition of ‘yum cha’ which means to drink tea. Travelers on the ancient Silk Road needed a place to rest and thus teahouses came up along roadsides. But people starting serving snacks much later since an Imperial physician had decreed that combining food with tea would cause obesity! Till date, very traditional restaurants serve dim sum only till mid-afternoon!
I love dim sums and my soul has been clamouring for a dim sum meal for a long time. What better time to indulge than the Dim Sum Art Festival at China House?
China House at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai easily ranks at the top of my must-visit oriental restaurants in Bombay. Every visit to this restaurant leaves me with a sense of pure joy that goes way beyond just great food. The massive, imposing doors, mood lighting, dark wood interiors, elegant uniforms, consistently seamless service and of course forever superlative food makes this eatery a winner each time.
We are escorted and seated immediately and to our delight get to meet Chef Yajun Zhang, the Dim Sum Maestro himself. My notion of the Chinese being rather reserved takes a beating as Chef Zhang proves to be a bundle of energy. His enthusiasm is infectious and we find ourselves chattering about dim sums and China and Indian food! He describes each dim sum to us in detail, assuring he will only give us what we will enjoy. After 11 years in India, Chef Zhang is very aware of the Indian palate and can communicate well enough in English to get his messages across. He shakes his head when we ask if he has learned to cook Indian food. Too many spices and too many colours, he says; too confusing for his Sichuan soul. And I have to agree that our spices can be mind boggling for someone who is used to steamed food with subtle flavours 😀
The first lot of dim sums arrive and we dig in with gusto. Left to right in sequence:
Edamame Dumpling – I am usually an edamame neutral person. I have no problems with it but neither does it thrill me. This dumpling with a delicate edamame and truffle oil mix is so delicious that I order a second portion – me the eternal meat eater!
Steamed Mushroom Shaped Buns – These buns are so perfectly made that it is natural to mistake them for actual mushrooms. Filled with flavourful ‘mushroom masala’ as Chef Zhang calls it, they are light and aerated, with none of the heavy stickiness Chinese buns tend to exhibit.
Steamed Chicken Taro Dumpling – Taro dumplings usually have a thick shell. But in Chef Zhang’s hands, these dumplings are an art form with thin taro covering a delicious mix of minced chicken.
Steamed Sweet Corn Dumpling – Sweetness of the corn masks the simplicity of this classic dumpling.
Steamed Spinach and Pine Nuts Dumpling – Deep green and packed with gorgeous flavours of fresh spinach and rich pine nuts.
Steamed Lamb Dumpling – Beautifully seasoned minced lamb with peanut oil and soy sauce encased in delicate seaweed sheets. Unique in presentation and taste!
Deep Fried Pork Dumpling (featured image) – In the midst of an array of incredible dim sums, this stands out as the Dish of the Day. A never before combination of minced pork, minced dry shrimp and minced radish, covered in parchment thin layers of fried dough with a smattering of toasted sesame seeds; these innocuous looking dim sums leave us wondrous. The light, crunchy coating melts in the mouth to reveal the delicious minced filling. If there is a dim sum heaven, we have definitely reached it!
Steamed Mushroom and Sweet Corn Dumpling – Another classic dim sum with finely minced mixed mushrooms providing an interesting foil for the sweetcorn.
We wrap up this sumptuous meal with a selection of great desserts. I think the Green Tea Tiramisu would win hands down and am delighted to find the Mango Pudding a worthy contender. The Ginger Chocolate Ice cream is delicious too, with the sharp pungency of the root adding a welcome twist to rich chocolate.
The festival is over but the China House menu boasts of an enviable selection of dim sums all year round. Chef Zhang is justifiably proud of his art and will delight your palate with delicacies made by the very talented team. Delicious and healthy food at a fraction of the cost of an air ticket to China! What else does one need?
** MCT verdict – Indisputably the best dim sums in Bombay city**