The best way to learn about a culture is to taste it. In Hong Kong's case, culture is a steamy, gastrorgasmic feast of custard buns, dumplings, rice rolls and egg tarts. Working as a community manager for BonAppetour, I visited this dim sum wonderland to meet our first few hosts, and was fortunate to be invited to dine with several of them.
Edith, our first host of the trip, has graciously invited the BonAppetour team to lunch at her place in Aberdeen. Aberdeen Island, or known locally as Ap Lei Chau (literally duck tongue island), is a beautiful isle off the southeast coast of Hong Kong Island. It is a refreshing retreat from the hubbub of central Hong Kong, and also a great place to check out the fishing harbor and vast view of the sea.
Edith's place is also a brief 7-minute drive away from Ocean Park. Guests who are traveling with their families (or anyone looking for some thrilling fun time) can visit the famed oceanarium and theme park after lunch. Talk about a great location!
That morning, as we alighted from our taxi in Edith's neighborhood, I was welcomed by flowing gusts of wind filled with a fresh, salty scent of the sea. Despite being known as one of world's most densely populated islands, the neighborhood had a laid-back atmosphere that sets the place apart from the busy city central. I liked it immediately.
Edith's apartment was spacious for a Hong Kong house – it has a cosy dining corner decked with books on one end of the living room, and a wall lined with travel memorabilia on the other end. Edith excitedly welcomed us into her home and discussed the menu of the day with us. We would be having pork dumplings, century egg tofu, and lettuce wraps. I was accompanied by Inez, co-founder of BonAppetour, and Jean, a food-loving expat trying out the BonAppetour experience for the first time.
Part One: Dim Sum Class
Edith asked if we were keen to learn how to wrap the dumplings, to which we enthusiastically agreed. Wrapping dumplings always occurred to me as an advanced culinary art, and I was excited to learn it from Edith.
Edith showed us the ingredients to be used for the pork dumplings, and demonstrated how to season the dumpling fillings. While she was mixing up the ingredients, we chatted about alternative ingredients that can be used and where we could get the similar condiments back in our respective countries.
When the fillings were ready, Edith showed us how to pleat the dumpling into a crescent. Chinese dumplings come in many shapes and sizes, and there are many ways to wrap a dumpling. The crescent shape is often used for potstickers, har gow (shrimp dumplings, a famous dim sum classic), and boiled dumplings. Her movements were clear and easy to replicate. And within minutes I made my first ever crescent-shaped dumpling.
Looking at my row of carefully wrapped dumplings, I thought I was making good progress. That was until Edith told us that she would make over a hundred dumplings in one batch, while watching TV!
Part Two: Cooking Demo
While waiting for the water to boil, Edith prepared the dipping sauces for the dumplings and the tofu dish. She also quickly demonstrated how to make the classic century egg and tofu (a common cold dish in Chinese restaurants) on her small, portable kitchen island.
When the water started to boil, Edith popped half our dumplings into the pot and pan-fried the other half to make potstickers, she also took a while to stir fry a bowl of minced meat for the lettuce wraps.
While Edith waltzed around her narrow kitchen, she continues to chat about how she planned the preparation sequence so she only had to wash the wok once. She also showed off her deep freezers that she used to store her extra produce and dumplings stash.
Part Three: Bon Appetit!
After the one-hour wrapping and cooking session, we settled down around the table and dined to our hearts‘ content. There is a special satisfaction in eating the food made by yourself.
Edith taught us how to wrap the minced pork in a lettuce and gobble it in one go. The lettuce wraps are commonly eaten with roasted duck, but considering that it is difficult for foreign guests to find roasted duck back at home, Edith used pork instead so her guests can replicate the same recipe back in their home countries.
Edith popped the century egg and tofu into the fridge and only took them out right before serving. Her special sauce went very well with the refreshing, organic tofu she got for us. Edith topped the dish with a generous amount of chopped spring onions and parsley, putting the sprinkled-on garnishes in Chinese restaurants to shame.
Edith was a very attentive and bubbly host. The lunch session with her was packed with energy and well-paced. I left Edith's place feeling proud that I have mastered the art of wrapping dumplings. I can't wait to show off the skills when I am back at home!
If you love to try out some Canton food at a convenient location, be sure to check out Edith’s Market Tour and Home-cooked Meal Experience the next time you visit Hong Kong!
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