The Chinese people, as an ethnic group, are so pragmatic, it almost steers everything towards material gain. Any opportunity to make money is seized quicker than you can say chink. I recall in my youth, a long time ago, Yee Sang was only served on the 7th day of Chinese New Year, till Chap Goh Mei. Mooncakes were also available 2 weeks before the mid Autumn festival. And rice dumplings, chung, or chang, whatever dialect you may choose to say it in, ...well, it's now like durians, available all year round, so much so, it didnt occur to me that there was an URGENCY to post this post, as the Dragon Boat Festival had come and gone without me knowing.
In a nutshell, legend has it that it's about this chappie called Qu Yuan, a good and erudite politician in the Emperor's court. The bad guys poisoned the emperor's mind, so Qu Yuan got exiled, and as he watched the decline of the empire, threw himself into the Miluo River in despair. Unfortunately I can't think of any modern day parallels within our policitians, so I shall not attempt to compare Qu Yuan with any of them. Oh, so in order to prevent the fish from mutilating his body (in the river) the peeps threw dumplings to feed the fish so that they'll (the fish) would eat the dumplings and not the man. And that is how we now have our glutinous rice dumplings.
But since I see them all year round, everywhere, I forgot that the actual date, 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar calendar, was actually 6th of June in the gregorian calendar this year.
Oliver Ellerton invited us to watch a demo on how these dumplings, and a couple of easier dim sum items, were made by Chef Tan of Li Yen. Aly and I sat waiting, in the fine company of Mr Ellerton, for 25 minutes before celebrity blogger The Nomad Gourmand showed up, and we were set to go.
I find myself highly unlikely to try making these darlings at home, purely because there is SO much work involved, and it takes an inordinate amount of fuel to cook these things...6 hours of boiling. Here at Li Yen, all the ingredients are laid out...hygenically prepared.
These are two ready made ones, for if we were to stay and eat those we make or the ones demo-ed by the chef, we would be there till nightfall.
High quality glutinous rice, pre marinated and seasoned with ....a lot of sauces. Soy, sesame, etc.
Split yellow bean. A crucial ingredient that gives the dumpling a wholesome beanie texture.
Roast Duck, & Roast Pork as well...unfortunately I do not have a picture of the roast pork.
Pigeon brains, otherwise known as chestnuts.
We need to make the dumpling healthy so a few slabs of lard will do the trick.
Chef Tan and Translator, for the benefit of Aly and Wackybecky who speaketh no Cantonese.
Lotus leaves. Not something you see everyday in your supermarket, but apparently quite common.
Hemp...legend has it that Eve, the first woman, used these to make fancy dresses, while Adam used the lotus leaf.
This reminds me of exams. Trying to cram everything into that little space.
In a few fell swoops, and folds that would make Kung Fu Panda proud, the dumplings are wrapped and tied...tah dah....
These babies retail at RM32 each at the Ritz Carlton, which isnt bad, considering the amount of ingredients that go in, and that astronomical gas bill to cook it.
It was then the audience's turn to try their hand. The Brit went first....I shall not document the proceedings....suffice to say, the Chef had made it look FAR EASIER than it actually is.
We got to try the ready cooked dumpling....delicious!!! Such a kaleidescope of flavours, and textures. The melt in the mouth lard, the chewy duck, the aromatic and crunchy dried shrimp, simply fabulous. If you ate the lotus leaf it would be a complete meal....carbo, protein and vegetable.
Next we were introduced to tea infused dim sup canapes.
This is sooooo something that I must replicate. So easy, and so delicious. Prawns, basically pulped into a paste, slathered onto a triangular piece of white bread, coated with sesame seeds and deep fried. Excellent!
I loved this too, this unique fruit spring roll. Smithereens of chinese tea leaves were put in as well.
And there you have it! Longji Sesame Sandwich with Shrimp Dumpling and Crispy Shui Xian Springroll with Fresh Fruit.
What a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Thanks so much Oliver for the invite. I can't wait to eat at Li Yen again soon.