What’s a Dim Sim? How an Oversized Dumpling Became an Australian Food Icon

Maggie Hiufu Wong wrote . . . . . . . . .

Every Friday, Ross Harrington, a car dealership service manager in Melbourne, heads to a local lunch shop to pick up a couple of deep-fried dim sims, kicking off his weekend dim sim routine.

Harrington is the founder of Dim Sims 4 Lyfe, a Facebook community made up of about 5,000 dim sim enthusiasts who share their experiences and innovative recipes — dim sims on pizza, for example.

They aren’t alone in their obsession.

Dim sims, or “dimmies,” are a variant of the traditional Chinese dumpling. Served in a variety of ways, including steamed and fried, they first gained popularity in the 1940s and have since become an iconic dish in Melbourne and beyond.

So who invented them? Turns out it’s complicated.

Chinese Australian businessman William Chen Wing Young is often credited as being the father of dim sim.

Elizabeth Chong, Chen’s daughter and a well-known Chinese Australian cooking show presenter, tells CNN Travel otherwise.

“It’s often been erroneously recorded that he invented the dim sim and had a restaurant called Wing Lee. He did not invent the dim sim,” says the 90-year-old celebrity chef.

“But yes, if it weren’t for my father dim sim wouldn’t be what it is. It wouldn’t be an Australian fast-food icon.”

The origins of dim sim

Australia’s dim sim story began in 1942, when Chen realized that a number of elderly Chinese men who had come to Australia to work during the gold rush of the 1800s were left jobless.

“They were like the leftovers from the goldfields days. They didn’t make it back home to China and were too old for heavy works,” says Chong.

At the same time, Chen noticed how popular Cantonese dim sum had become in Australia. (“Dim sum” refers to the whole collection of dumplings and delicacies served with tea. Among the many dim sum dishes, siu mai — a flowerpot-shaped pork and prawn dumpling — was especially popular.)

Chen came up with an idea: If he could mass produce siu mai, these men could sell them on food trucks and earn a living.
But siu mai was too much of a mouthful for Australians to pronounce back in the 1940s. Chen called it “dim sim” instead — which has the same meaning as dim sum, but in a different Canton dialect.

“So he kind of combined philanthropy with the business,” adds Chong. “They started with four women making them by hand — my mother was one of them. Then the popularity grew and we started to employ more and more ladies.”

Chen called the business Wing Lee — Wing was his middle name and Lee was his wife’s maiden name.

But the hearty dumplings weren’t propelled into stardom until his son stepped in, albeit accidentally.

A day of slacking launches dim sim to the masses

“At that time, my eldest brother Tom checked into the business. My father asked Tom to deliver a box of dim sims to an elderly Chinese gentleman who lived in Cheltenham (a Melbourne suburb),” says Chong.

“While my brother was on his way to deliver them, he decided it was such a fine day, he’d stop and say hello to his good friend Joe, a Greek guy who owned a fish and chip shop near the Mordialloc area.”

The two friends ended up going fishing. Chong says when they got back, Tom told Joe, “I’ve got a box of these dim sims. If you like, I’ll cook them in your shop and you can have them for lunch.”

Joe decided to deep fry them, as “that’s the only way you could (cook them) in a fish and chip shop,” says Chong.

Joe said they were wonderful so Tom, instead of continuing with the delivery, left the box of dim sims there.

“Before the next day was over, Joe rung Tom at Wing Lee and said every one of his mates were asking where he got these dim sims,” says Chong.

As their popularity increased, the factory couldn’t keep up with demand.

So Chen engaged a German engineer to design the first ever dim sim machine to churn out these delights by the thousands.
“I was a little girl then,” recalls Chong. “I remember my father talking into late nights with the engineer about how he wanted the pastry done and how the machine should churn all the ingredients.”

The results were an immediate hit, she says, making Wing Lee Dim Sim the first Chinese factory to commercialize a fast food for the masses.
“Every fish and chip shop was clamoring for them. Supermarkets were now asking for them. So it wasn’t long before dim sims become an institution at every fish and chip shop in Victoria,” says Chong.
Dim sim vs. siu mai

Chef Mak Kwai Pui, owner of Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum restaurant, shares a few essential dining tips.

Though similar, dim sim isn’t the same as the siu mai you would normally find in a Chinese restaurant.

Dim sims are bigger. They have thicker skin to withstand freezing and delivery. The ingredients also differ.

“It was during World War II when meat was scarce. As my father was supplying the munition factory with dim sims for lunch, he was granted a few more food coupons. But it was only a limited amount so he had to change the recipe,” says Chong.

“I think the meats he used were pork and veal. He had to fill up with more vegetables, like celery and English cabbages. We didn’t have Chinese cabbages. And a bit of onion for flavors. It’s still delicious.”

Chong remembers fondly how Australians embraced her father’s dim sims.

“At one time, a lot of young Australians traveled to London. We used to get letters back at Wing Lee that said, ‘Please can you send us some dim sims?’ So I think the dim sims — which means ‘to touch the heart’ in Chinese, really did touch the hearts of the Australians.

“It’s an Aussie thing now. People would buy fish and chips and have a dozen fried dim sims, too,” says Chong.
‘It’s a part of Australian history’

Harrington, 52, says he had his first taste of dim sim when he was 10 years old. For him, it was an acquired taste.

“I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was steamed and loaded with soy sauce; I didn’t like it. I persevered and eventually grew to love them,” Harrington tells CNN Travel.

“As you get older, things that you grew up with either disappear or become unattainable. Dim sims haven’t changed and eating them as an adult brings back fond childhood memories. Everyone has a story of where they get their favorite dim sim from.”

With that in mind, he started the Dim Sims 4 Lyfe Facebook group.

“Through Dim Sims 4 Lyfe, I have experienced a lot of good dim sims through recommendations from other group members. More importantly, I have brought a lot of people together from all walks of life, to celebrate something so simple yet something that means a lot to so many.

“I feel that if I can maintain the popularity of the dim sim, then I can help to ensure that some of these original Chinese restaurants can remain in business and as new generations take over it will give them a reason to keep them going. They need to be preserved as part of our Australian history,” says Harrington.

Harrington’s favorite dim sim memory took place about 30 years ago, when his wife took him to the South Melbourne Market to try their famous dim sims.

“They were big and peppery. I stood in line behind about 30 people to get my order and it was worth the wait,” he recalls.

These days, after a dim sim lunch on Friday, or “Fryday” as Harrington calls it, he will also have dim sims at the football matches during the weekends. He says he sometimes makes his own dim sims with “premium ingredients to perfect the ultimate taste.”

“The dim sim is definitely an iconic Australian dish,” he says. “The dim sim reminds Australia that we have always been a country that welcomes others and isn’t afraid to adopt new cultures and cuisines.”
What happened to the original dim sim company?

Chen’s company, Wing Lee, failed to achieve the longevity of the Australian dumpling he created. After he retired in the late 1950s, the company was put on the stock market and taken over by two other brands, Marathon and Chien Wah.

Shops and factories — big and small — have since created their own versions of dim sims.

But over the years Chong and her family have continued to impact the Australian food scene in other ways.

She started a Chinese cooking school in the 1950s, first as a small class for neighbors. She has since taught more than 35,000 students.

Then she was a popular Chinese food show presenter in the 1990s and 2000s, one of the very first Asian faces to promote Chinese cuisines on television. in 2019, she received the Queen’s Birthday Order of Australia award for her services to the hospitality sector and promotion of Chinese cuisine.

“There is a Chinese restaurant in almost every corner of Australia. Although Chinese food is always loved, it is not always understood. I put a different face on it and showed people that Chinese food was much more than just something to fill the stomach,” says Chong.

“I’m proud of the fact that my father and I had been the kind of a bridge between the two cultures between the two countries.”

Source: CNN

Decorated Cat-face Bread

Vitamin D Might Help Prevent Early-Onset Colon Cancer

Foods rich in vitamin D may help protect younger adults against colon cancer, researchers report.

While colon cancer is decreasing overall, cases among younger adults have been on the rise. The trends dovetail with a decline in vitamin D intake from foods such as fish, mushrooms, eggs and milk.

There is growing evidence of a link between vitamin D and risk of colon cancer death, but little research on whether vitamin D intake is associated with the risk of young-onset (before age 50) colon cancer.

“Because vitamin D deficiency has been steadily increasing over the past few years, we wondered whether this could be contributing to the rising rates” of colon cancer in younger people, said study co-senior author Dr. Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The study found that vitamin D intake of 300 IU per day or more — roughly equivalent to three 8-ounce glasses of milk — was associated with roughly a 50% lower risk of developing young-onset colon cancer.

Higher vitamin D intake were also associated with a lower risk of potentially precancerous colon polyps detected before age 50.

The findings are based on data from more than 94,000 women who were part of a long-term study that began in 1989. They were 25 to 42 years of age when the study began.

The study — recently published online in the journal Gastroenterology — is the first to make the connection between vitamin D levels and risk of young-onset colon cancer, researchers said.

They didn’t find a significant link between vitamin D intake and colon cancer risk after age 50, and they said more study is needed to determine if vitamin D actually provides greater protection against young-onset colon cancer than against it later on.

“Our results further support that vitamin D may be important in younger adults for health and possibly colorectal cancer prevention,” Ng said.

She said it is critical to understand the risk factors associated with young-onset colon cancer so informed decisions about lifestyle and diet can be made and high-risk individuals can receive earlier screening.

The findings could lead to recommendations for higher vitamin D intake as an inexpensive addition to screening tests to prevent colon cancer in adults under 50, researchers said.

Source: HealthDay

Baked Egg with Creamy Leeks

Ingredients

1 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing
1/2 lb small leeks, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
5-6 tbsp whipping cream
freshly grated nutmeg
4 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Generously butter the individual soufflé dishes.
  2. Melt the butter in a small frying pan and cook the leeks over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned.
  3. Add 3 tbsp of the cream and cook gently for about 5 minutes until the leeks are very soft and the cream has thickened a little. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Arrange the ramekins in a small roasting tin and divide the leeks among them. Break an egg into each, spoon 1 to 2 tsp of the remaining cream over each egg and season lightly.
  5. Pour boiling water into the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins or soufflé dishes. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft, or a little longer if you prefer them more well done.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Taste of France


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