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Dim Sum

Here are some recipes for my favorite "dim sum", which I had to learn to make due to the scarcity of Chinese dumpling palaces in rural Arkansas.

Vegetarian "Ham" Roll

Make one day ahead. One roll serves about 2 people. For each roll:

2 ounces (3 sheets) yuba, dried bean curd sheets
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar (do not omit sweetener)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 star anise
2 whole cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
OR use 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder in place of all four spices

Soak bean curd in water to cover about 1/2 hour until soft. Mix together remaining ingredients, then marinate the softened bean curd sheets in this mixture about 2 hours.
Select the largest and smoothest sheet and lay it on a flat surface. Spread the rest of the sheets on it, so when rolled it will form a cylinder of regular dimensions. Roll it up VERY tightly. Place it on a single piece of cheesecloth or old sheet and roll it up with the cloth overhanging at both ends. Tie the bundle at both ends where the bean curd ends, it looks like one of those birthday poppers where you pull the ends to get a paper hat.
Place in a steamer and steam about 1 hour, adding hot water to the steamer as needed to keep it full. Remove, cool completely, then remove the cloth from the roll and cut into 1/4" slices. Serve cold.

Lotus Leaf Chinese Sausage Wraps (Lo Mai Gai)
with vegetarian option

Steaming string-wrapped square packages of lotus leaves filled with sticky rice, wrapped around Chinese sausages, chicken and shrimp or other meats, seasonings and vegetables. You can change the meats to seitan or seasoned tofu for vegetarian wraps.
10 wraps

5 dried lotus leaves, cut in half
OR use 10-12 inch squares of banana leaves or aluminum foil
1 1/2 cups short-grain rice, washed and drained
4 Chinese dried mushrooms, soaked, see below in hot water for 15 minutes to reconstitute, drained, stems removed and chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
6 1/2 ounces ground (minced) chicken
4 ounces jumbo shrimp (green king prawns) peeled, deveined, and finely chopped, about 1 cup of meat
2 dried Chinese pork sausages, about 8 ounces, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

First, prepare the lotus leaves and dried mushrooms. The lotus leaves need to be soaked in hot water for about 15 - 20 minutes, and then patted dry. In another container, soak the Chinese dried mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes to reconstitute. Drain and save the liquid and stems for another dish. Chop the caps coarsely.
Meanwhile, prepare plain steamed rice. Line a bamboo steamer with a few pieces of cabbage or a parchment paper so that the food will not stick to the bottom. Fill the wok approximately to the half-way point with water, so the steamer is sitting above the water without touching. Add the rice and cover. Bring the water to a boil and steam the rice. After the rice has cooled, divide it into ten equal portions.
Heat the wok and add oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the ginger and stir-fry briefly, then add chicken and shrimp, stir-frying until they change color. Add, in the following order, Chinese sausages, mushrooms, soy sauce, rice wine, and oyster sauce and stir-fry briefly.
Mix together cornstarch and cold water. Make a "well" in the middle of the wok and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring to thicken. Mix with the other ingredients, and then remove from the wok and set aside.
Once the meat and vegetable mixture has cooled you can make the wraps. Begin by spooning a portion of the rice mixture into the center of a lotus leaf. Add approximately 3 teaspoons of the meat and vegetable mixture, placing it in the middle and forming a "rice ring" around it. Fold the lotus leaf over the rice to form a package and tie with the twine.
Reheat the wok with water for steaming and steam the wraps, a few at a time, for 15 minutes. (Add more boiling water to the wok as required). To serve, cut open the wraps.

Garlic-Stewed Sparerib Nuggets

Oh how I love these. This dish is at its best if made days ahead and reheated.
Serves 4 - 5 as a main course, 6 - 10 as part of a multicourse or dim sum meal.
Have your butcher cut the rack through the bones crosswise like cross cut beef short ribs, into 1 inch wide long strips. At home you can trim them of extra fat and divide each strip into individual nuggets. Trimmed and cut, the spareribs nuggets may be sealed airtight and refrigerated up to a full day before stewing.

2 1/2 pounds lean, meaty spareribs, trimmed of extraneous fat and meatless bone (weight after trimming), cut crosswise through the bone into 1 - 1 1/4 inch nuggets on a butcher's electric saw (see directions below if you need to cut them yourself)
2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
3 1/2 tablespoons Chinese fermented black beans
5 - 6 large, hard cloves garlic, stem end removed, lightly mashed and peeled
2 tablespoons regular (not dark or thick) soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup hot water
2 slices ginger
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
3 -4 tablespoons thin-cut green and white scallion rings
You have to get the ribs into small nuggets to do this, and the bones will break or knick a regular knife or thin-bladed cleaver. No good butcher to do it for you? To chop up the spareribs at home, first cut off the flap of lean meat attached to the upper back of the rack. Trim off any fat, cut the meat into 1 1/4 inch squares and set aside. Cut the rack into individual spareribs and trim off all visible fat. Then chop the ribs one at a time through the bone into 1 1/4 inch nuggets. Put the rib curved side down on a sturdy cutting surface. Chop with a heavy, thick-bladed cleaver designed to chop through bones. Grip the cleaver handle securely and chop forcefully and snappily straight down so the bones cut cleanly without shattering. Keep your free hand clear of the knife. In between chops, straighten the rib if it spins out of place. Once cut, combine the bone pieces with the squares of lean meat.

Rinse the black beans if you want to reduce the salt in this dish. Chop the black beans coarsely. Combine the black beans, garlic, soy, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
Heat a heavy, deep skillet or stockpot over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add the oil and swirl to glaze the bottom and lower sides of the pot. Test the oil with a single piece of scallion. When it foams, the oil is ready, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until aromatic. Then add the chili and scallion to the pan and stir gently until fragrant, 10 - 15 seconds, adjusting the heat so they foam without scorching.
Add the ribs to the pot, stir-frying until they are lightly browned. Toss the ribs briskly until they are no longer pink, about 4 minutes, adjusting the heat so they sizzle heartily without scorching.
When the nuggets are just browned, stir up the sauce mix and add it to the pot. Raise the heat to bring the liquids to a boil, stirring to coat the ribs. Reduce the heat to a gentle steady simmer, and cover. Check the simmer, then cover the pot and simmer the spareribs for 20 minutes. Stir well, simmer an additional 20 - 25 minutes until tender.
When tender, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. To defat the sauce, hold the ribs in place with the lid, then pour the sauce into a relatively deep, narrow heatproof bowl or a fat separator.
If you have a fat separator, then degrease the sauce immediately. In a regular bowl, wait for the fat to rise, skim as much off as possible with a broad, shallow spoon, then refrigerate or freeze the sauce until the fat congeals and you can scoop it off.
Once the sauce is degreased, you may serve the ribs and the sauce directly or refrigerate them up to 3 - 4 days, sealed airtight. To reheat the stew, heat it covered over a low heat 20 - 30 minutes in a heavy pot. To make a one-pot meal when reheating, add a layer of Chinese cabbage slices, thin sliced carrots, or small bok choy or broccoli florets, and they will cook as the stew heats. Leftovers may be refrigerated for several days and reheated a second time.
Set the table with soup spoons or Chinese porcelain spoons and an empty bowl for bones. Chinese eaters suck on the cut ends of the bones.