I love dim sum. I know I’ve mentioned that before in my posts about making Chinese dumplings and scallion pancakes. I love dim sum to the point where I bring my own Tupperware for my leftovers because I am serious about leaving no dumpling behind. I also tend to order as if I am eating with a very hungry army instead of with just one or two friends. I have also been known to hide the leftovers so my husband can’t find them. Please don’t judge me for that.
One of my all-time favorite must-eat items at dim sum are the bean curd or tofu skin rolls (also known as fu tse juan). The first time I tried them, I had no idea what they were made of, which is always a little nerve-wracking. There are so many things that can either be amazing or unfortunate at dim sum, and you really have to choose wisely. My experience eating congee with fermented eggs is not one I’d like to repeat.
But my friend Ariel, who is experienced at dim sum dining, gave me her word that I would like them. And I did…a lot. So much so that we immediately ordered another serving lest things come to blows over who got the third roll. (Why does food always have to come in threes when you’re part of a pair?)
First off, I should tell you a bit about these things in case you’re as confused as I admittedly was by the layman’s term “bean curd roll.” I originally thought these had bean curd in them and was so perplexed at why they tasted like mushrooms and pork instead of tofu. Luckily Ariel was there to explain that the wrapper is actually made of pressed tofu. It’s much easier to enjoy something when you know what it’s made of!
Now that I am also a dim sum regular, it’s hard to imagine that these glorious things could have caused me even one moment of anxiety.
Ok, sure maybe they don’t look as appealing as perfectly crimped dumplings or as pert as little steamed shu mei, but trust me. These things are made of magic. My first line of evidence in this fact is that they are stuffed primarily with mushrooms — an ingredient I usually despise. And yet, I can down an almost embarrassing number of them.
Anyways, the concept of these rolls intrigued me and I think I spent oh, about a year, gawking at recipes online, dreaming about making my own. In all my searching, this recipe is the best one I found (and I love the blog in general), so it was the one I used when I finally got around to making them.
Which was last weekend — hooray!
I invited my partner-in-crime DB to come over for a little dim sum extravaganza. First we went shopping for the tofu skins and after scouring H-Mart, we finally found them in the freezer aisle. Be warned — these suckers are huge. I mean, really, look at these things!
That mission accomplished, we moved on to the rest of the ingredients. One of the best things about this dish is that it’s pretty simplistic. Pork, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bean curd. The writer of the recipe didn’t clarify what type of pork to use, so I figured one pound of pork tenderloin would be a good choice. Next we grabbed an 8 oz can of bamboo shoots and some mushrooms. We decided to go light on the mushroom flavor so we just used shiitakes and none of the dried Chinese mushrooms. In hindsight, I think I’d maybe lessen the bamboo shoots a smidgen and add more mushrooms. I can’t even believe I wrote that — as a life-long dedicated mushroom hater, my parents would die if they heard me say that out loud!
Anyways, slice the mushrooms, bamboo and the pork into strips. Mix some cornstarch, soy and wine in a small bowl with the meat and give it a good toss. Then sauté everything up together until the mushrooms are tender and the pork is just cooked through.
We also added generous squirts of my favorite chili oil, salt and pepper. Next time I might go against tradition and add in some garlic, ginger and maybe some chopped green onions just because. The flavors were good, but it was just a touch bland, though the chili oil helped perk things up tremendously.
Then it’s bean curd time. Cut the skins into strips — they will be a little brittle, so be gentle. Since mine were circular, we trimmed them into rectangles, as instructed in the recipe (though I really don’t know if that’s necessary in the long run). At any rate, each circle made four rolls. You want them fairly long because it’s as much about the wrapper as it is about the filling. Soak them for a second or two in hot water until they are pliable.
Now it’s on to wrapping! (More pictures of this process in the gallery below)
Once they are all rolled up, sear them in a bit of hot oil over medium heat. I prefer to use a non-stick pan for this. You don’t need to do much more than get them nice and brown on both sides. Once they are done, you can start the steaming process.
Now here’s where things got tricky. Maybe it was the beer we had consumed, but I was having a hard time understanding the steaming instructions. Once we figured it out, it was simple enough, but initially it threw us for a bit of a loop. Basically we needed to steam them, but we needed to do it in a solid bowl, not something perforated because the rolls cook while soaking in a soy-based sauce. Since I didn’t have a metal bowl big enough or small enough to work, we used a springform pan with the bottom part raised up about two inches (so it didn’t sit right on the bottom of the pot). This looks janky, but it worked like a dream.
Once the water is boiling, pile some of the rolls into your bowl (or whatever device you choose to use) and pour a mixture of soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine and sugar on top of them. Then cover and steam. We split the recommended time of 5-10 minutes and let them go for 7. It seemed like a good choice. Scoop them out gently and drizzle the sauce left in the bowl over the top.
Then chow down on bean curd rolls like there’s no tomorrow!
I can tell you honestly, ours turned out amazing. I even brought one in for Ariel to enjoy the following day at work and she gave it the dim sum lover’s seal of approval. Which is excellent news because I have enough wrappers to do this again very soon!