If you go to restaurants to order things you can’t cook at home, dim sum is the perfect cuisine for you. A single meal offers an incredible variety of flavors, textures and ingredients. The dishes are relatively cheap yet incredibly labor-intensive, requiring special equipment, years of practice and a team of chefs.
Even in China, where dim sum originates, most people don’t make their own dim sum, according to Karrie Hung, owner of popular Vegas Chinese restaurant Ping Pang Pong. The Gold Coast eatery serves 60 to 80 different dim sum items, with a team of 15 chefs arriving daily at 6 a.m. to prepare everything from scratch—steaming, frying, braising and baking. Hung’s chef jokes that Ping Pang Pong sells more bread than a bakery.
“Every single piece of dim sum needs to be handmade,” Hung says. And they have to be made quickly. The team at Ping Pang Pong folds more than 1,000 pot stickers a day. “I don’t know how our chefs keep track, because you need to know all kinds of skills.”
One of the most delicious and iconic dim sum dishes is chicken feet. Hung says that it takes a full restaurant kitchen to achieve the signature texture. When done right, Hung says, the result is soft and juicy, with the bones falling right off. “You need to have the chicken feet deep-fried to make the skin puff up, and then you braise and steam it,” she says. “It’s very hard to do at home.”
Another favorite, har gow, requires a professional chef to make the dumpling skin. Determined home cooks can purchase wrappers at any Asian market if they want to make shumai themselves, however. To make cha siu bao (barbecue pork buns), Hung recommends home cooks only attempt the buns and buy the barbecue pork filling elsewhere.
To make cheung fun (steamed rice noodles), experienced chefs steam a sheet of rice dough in a special steamer imported from Hong Kong. Hung says it takes “years of training” to fold the dough at the correct thickness to make the rice rolls, which contain different ingredients like shrimp.
“Most people would rather go to restaurants than go to all the trouble to make it at home, because the dim sum price is very reasonable [$2.88-$5.88 per item at Ping Pang Pong],” Hung says. “And you can get good quality, especially in Vegas. There are many dim sum restaurants around, so many choices.”