Chinese Yum Cha culture comes to Chennai

The Yum Cha (which in Cantonese means to ‘drink tea’) hours in Cantonese-speaking regions of Hong Kong, Macau and south eastern parts of China are a serious business.
Chinese Yum Cha culture comes to Chennai

Chennai

Carts loaded with bamboo baskets filled with steamed dim sum, pot-stickers (steam-fried dim sum), and other variants make their way across tables as hungry diners gulp the hot dim sum basket after basket, washing them down with cups of oolong or green tea. It could be a brunch, a late morning snack, or sometimes even a late evening grub.

Marking the arrival of spring season, Chap Chay restaurant has brought to the city a Yum Cha fare, which is on till March 22. With as many as 51 different types of dim sum dishes, some of which pleated like flowers to celebrate spring, the spread demonstrates the many fillings, shapes and textures the much-loved dumplings can come in. “We wanted to demonstrate how light and healthy dim sum dishes can be. Of the 51 varieties, we have around 25 vegetarian options. After a lot of experimentation, we have come up with fillings and variants of dim sum that aren’t commonly available in our city,” points out Tamoghna Chakraborty, the executive chef at The Raintree Hotel located on St Mary’s Road.

He’s talking about his team’s creations like the open-faced shumai dumpling filled with scallops and blue potato, a quail and cashew har gow (translucent dumplings), an edamame and cheese bao (fillings in a bread-like bun), the trendy soup dumplings — Xiao long baos — with wild mushroom and lemon leaf, pan-fried dumplings (known as gyoza or guotie) in flavours like purple cabbage and sprouts, and even sweet variants called tiandians like a sweet red bean dim sumto end your meal.

Staying true to the Yum Cha culture, each of the dim sum chosen by a diner comes paired with a special tea. A delicate quail and cashew har gow, which is pleated as traditionally done with about 10 folds on the dumplings, is served along with a gentle chrysanthemum tea. As the crisp Norweigian salmon Cheung fun (steamed rice rolls blanketing crunchy salmon) were served next, a stronger oolong tea was served. And when it was the turn of edamame and cheese bao, an herbal grass tea came along, cleansing the palate with herbs. “The tea is a homemade blend of turmeric, lemongrass, holy basil leaves and clitoria ternatea flowers to give it a natural blue colour,” explains chef Suraj Rana, chef de cuisine at the restaurant.

A matcha and litchi rice ball, and some dim sum filled with dark chocolate and dry nuts offered a sweet yet refreshingly light finish to our meal. In a city starving for dim sum options, besides the commonly accessible street-style momos and open baos, this Yum Cha spread is highly informational and palate-pleasing.  —BA

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