Deer and doubanjiang dim sum
Now, I've eaten a fair amount of dim sum in my time, but never before have I made them wholly from scratch, and I'm here to tell you, it's no picnic. The filling is as easy as making meatballs or burgers. It's the wonton skins that might push you over the edge of sanity into a sweaty, teary wreck. It's not the dough itself. That takes no time at all. It's not the filling or the sealing or the cooking of the dim sum that'll make you need to lie in a dark room for several hours afterwards. It's the ordeal of rolling the wonton skins. And rolling. And rolling. And wondering how much longer you'll have to carry on rolling them before this insanely elastic dough stops pinging back and remains the thickness of a sheet of filo. Three hours to be precise. Then, and only then, can you stop rolling, wipe your brow and sigh with a sense of relief and pride as you can finally pause to admire the enormous pile of homemade wonton skins you have made - or rather achieved - all carefully cut into even squares.
Let it be known, I am no wimp when it comes to rolling. In my life as a cake maker, there is A LOT of rolling to be done. I have even been known to suffer the odd rolling pin blister (alongside the odd oven burn or three) during the peak seasons. Let it also be known, that the sense of satisfaction I felt after I'd finished made it all worth the effort, as did the fact that they tasted pretty damn good too. Although I'd certainly be in no rush to make them again soon, I haven't been put off for good, but I'll be buying ready-made wonton skins for all but the most special of occasions from now on.
5-6 tbsp water
250 g/ 10 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl and create a well in the centre. Beat the egg with the water and slowly pour into the well and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more water until the dough is soft and pliable. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until elastic. Cut the dough in half and cover the two balls with a clean, damp cloth for a minimum of 10 minutes. Cut each ball into four equal pieces. Roll each piece until it's the thickness of a sheet of filo (it will be about 11" x 11" square). Cut each sheet into 4" x 4" squares and dust each square with flour before stacking them. Be fairly generous with the flour otherwise all your hard work will have been wasted and you'll end up with a sad little stuck together lump.
Deer and doubanjiang dim sum
Doubanjiang is a fermented broad bean and chilli paste from China's Sichuan province. Unlike other chilli bean pastes (usually made from soya beans), doubanjiang is almost always used as a flavouring ingredient and is very rarely used on its own as a dipping sauce. You can buy it from most Chinese supermarkets and is often labelled "spicy chilli bean paste" or "spicy broad bean paste". It has a delicious depth of flavour and packs a real punch, especially on first bite, but strangely the chilli hit becomes more manageable as you carry on eating. In other words, if the first mouthful blows your socks off, persevere. You won't regret it.
250 g/ 10 oz pork mince
250 g/ 10 oz minced venison (if you can't find any minced, look for venison burgers)
One bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp doubanjiang paste
salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix everything together with your hands, just like when making meatballs. Fry a tiny amount of the mixture to try so you can test for seasoning and heat and adjust as necessary.
Once you're happy with your filling, place a teaspoon of the mixture on to a wonton skin. Wet the edges of your wonton skin, fold over and bring the edges together, pinching with your fingers to form a tight seal. I fried my dim sum over a medium heat with oil for about twelve to fifteen minutes, turning halfway so both sides are brown and crisp. I served them with pickled daikon and some soy sauce for dunking. You can steam them and serve them in a hot chicken broth or with noodles if you like too.
I did consider making a durian fruit sorbet as a kind of palate cleanser between the starter and main course, as I was slightly concerned that a spicy starter followed by a rich, creamy main might be a digestive disaster. So off I went to Chinatown in search of this strange and smelly fruit. I'd never seen one before and was surprised at their size. They are much bigger than I had expected and with their imposing, spiky flesh and thick base "handle", look like some kind of mediaeval weaponry. This in itself didn't put me off, but having been convinced there was a gas leak in the local vicinity, before coming to realisation that the smell was being emitted from the durian fruits themselves, I came to the disappointing conclusion that they may cause more harm than good - living, as we do, in very close proximity to our neighbours in a small block of flats. I am still both intrigued and disgusted enough by the idea of trying them to not let the matter rest here and plan to seek out a restaurant that serves the stuff, so they can stink their kitchens out to their hearts' content and leave mine and my neighbours' kitchens unmarred.