If you've ever enjoyed dim sum while on travels afar, you may have longed to have it again, closer to home.
Tanya Baros has got you covered. She is a native of China and opened Yellow Mountain Tea House in Old Colorado City in April 2014. At the time, her plans were for a small shop that sold a wide variety of teas. But serving dim sum to customers was on her mind.
Now it has become a reality. She has more than doubled her space and added a small kitchen for heating dim sum treats.
"This isn't a full kitchen," she said. "I rent space from a commercial kitchen where I make my dim sum, using only organic food. I don't use meat that has had tenderizers on it. And I don't add fillers."
She keeps the handmade bundles of goodness frozen and cooks them in a skillet or pressure cooker.
Dim sum, which is Cantonese for "heart's delight," includes a variety of small, mouthwatering dishes like steamed or fried dumplings, shrimp balls, steamed buns, pot stickers and Chinese pastries. They are standard fare at Asian teahouses. The small dumplings consist of dough that is flattened and filled with small amounts of seasoned meat, fish and vegetables. The dough is closed around the filling with a series of tight pleats.
You can buy dumpling mix at Asian markets or use wonton wrappers to get the job done. Once everything is prepped, the dumplings are parboiled and pan-fried in large batches for quick, delicious treats.
Baros is making four varieties of dim sum: fried chicken dumplings, fried vegetable dumplings, pearl meatballs and steamed pork dumplings, known as soup dumplings.
"They (soup dumplings) are called xiao long bao," she said. "They require homemade stock."
When you make stock naturally, the collagen from the connective tissue in animal bones breaks down into gelatin, which is why real stocks reach a Jell-O-like consistency when they cool. Without that solidification, it's pretty much impossible to get any soup into those dumplings. Inside the dumpling are little pockets of gelatinized broth mixed with other filling ingredients. When the dumplings are steamed, the broth gelatin melts and becomes soup, which flows out when the dumpling skin is broken. These are miraculous little balls of liquidy joy.
Baros isn't making shrimp dim sum yet because "I haven't found the quality of shrimp here that I would want to use," she said.
Cynthia Chung, founder of the Golden Lotus Foundation in Colorado Springs and who grew up in Hawaii, is a huge fan of dim sum. Her go-to for a dim sum fix is Star Kitchen in Denver.
"The history of dim sum dates back to the workers in the rice fields who were not able to stop for lunch," she said. "So you will find the old photos of coolie men carrying baskets, holding small food portions on two ends of a pole, into the fields."
According to seriouseats.com, dim sum is linked to the Chinese tradition of "yum cha," or drinking tea. Farmers, exhausted from working in the fields, would go to local teahouses for afternoon tea, where proprietors began adding snacks, and the tradition of dim sum was born.
Today dim sum is served throughout China. In his cookbook "The Taste of China," Ken Hom tells of eating a variety of "small eats": jiaozi in Beijing, pearl balls in Shanghai and spicy huntus (wontons) in Szechuan province. He, like others, thinks the best dim sum in China is found in Canton, which has a wide assortment of sweet and savory dishes ranging from meatballs to sweet cakes.
Dim sum is served starting with breakfast through late afternoon.
The best way to enjoy dim sum?
"Bring several friends to eat with you," says Baros. "Then you can each order a different type of dim sum and share."
Baros sells her dim sum four pieces (all the same) per order.
Now that Baros has fulfilled her hopes of having dim sum at her teahouse, Chung and other dim sum enthusiasts won't have to drive so far or wait so long to scratch their dim sum itch. You can find a selection of dim sum at Asian Pacific Market, too.
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firstname.lastname@example.org, 636-0271, Twitter: @tffoodie or Facebook Teresa Farney.