|Steamed prawn dim sum (top) and vegetable siu mai (bottom)|
|Prawn & coriander spring rolls|
You can buy pre-prepared dim sum from your local Chinese supermarket. Whilst obviously not as good as restaurant dim sum, some shop-bought items can be quite good, e.g. roast pork buns (cha siu bao 叉燒包). That said the more delicate dumplings like har gau 蝦餃 don't quite hit the mark.
This is all well and good if you can get to a Chinese supermarket but if you can't then you have to rely on High St shops like Marks And Spencer. So in the interest of research, I popped into my local M&S to buy some dim sum from their 'Taste East' range. Thank God, I didn't bump into anyone I knew. I'd have a hard time explaining what I was doing with M&S dim sum!
Steamed Prawn Dim Sum
This is M&S's take on the prawn dumpling (har gau 蝦餃), one of the best known dim sum. First impressions weren't good as the pastry was far too thick and claggy and there were only 7 or 8 pleats. Things didn't get any better once you bit into it, as there was hardly any filling. I could barely pick out the prawn and there were all kinds of superfluous crap in there like water chestnuts, courgettes and carrots. One plus point was that the dumplings were well seasoned with a nice aroma from the sesame oil.
Vegetable Siu Mai
Siu mai 燒賣 is another dim sum stalwart and is traditionally made with pork and prawn but this version is vegetarian with rice and various vegetables in the mix. That said, other than the rice, the only ingredient I could actually pick out were the black-cap mushrooms. The seasoning wasn't that balanced with an overriding taste of pepper. They were also over-glutinous and prone to breaking up. It was a real struggle to transfer the microwaved dumpling into the steamer for the photo, so in the end I gave up!
Prawn & Coriander Spring Rolls
Having eaten the steamed (microwaved) efforts, I was beginning to get really depressed. My mood wasn't lightened when I retrieved these spring rolls 春卷 from the oven. Being oven-baked rather than deep-fried meant these rolls weren't particularly crispy. There also wasn't much prawn in them and they really ought to have been called water chestnut & coriander spring rolls. In fact the best thing about these was the coriander although in fairness they weren't badly seasoned.
Each of the above snacks cost £2.49/pack or £5 for any three from the 'Taste East' range. In the case of the prawn dim sum and vegetable siu mai, you get six per pack and it's recommended that they be microwaved for 'best results'. There are four prawn & coriander spring rolls in a pack and these should be oven-baked.
I wasn't expecting these to be brilliant but I did expect better from M&S. I'm not sure under what circumstances you would actually buy these efforts at dim sum. A waste of a fiver.