Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Mastering the art of dim sum with Angela Malik

By Rebecca Brett

Last week I had the pleasure of a hot and sweaty tube ride to Acton. I didn’t realise how far west it actually is, nor did I realise what a quaint little high street it has.

It seems as though things in Acton, home of the first ever Waitrose, are a-changing. Nestled between a quirky pub with hordes of punters outside and a trendy artesian bakery is the Angela Malik school and shop.

Peeping in through the window, what at first looks like a traditional English tea shop selling cakes and picnic sets turns out to be a mix up of the aforementioned with flavours of the eastern world. Then tucked away at the back is a kitchen, ready for beginners or people wanting to learn more about conventional Asian cookery.
And this is where I fitted in, being an absolute novice when it comes to the world of creating dim sum, I was there to meet Angela and cook up a storm in the kitchen. Either that, or make the kitchen look like a storm had hit it.

Angela Malik, an alumni of Leiths, and with valuable experience at Bibendum and Vong, is the lady behind the school. Asian food and teaching people about Asian food is what she is passionate about, so after making her mark as a chartered accountant, she realised that the daily grind of a 9-5 wasn’t for her and in 2005 shut the numbers shop up and started working towards the shop of her dreams. Looks like dreams come true.

After a wander around the little shop checking out the mix of cordials, chutneys, jams, breads, cheese and crackers with the Asian influence of poppadoms,
Indian pesto herbs, spices, noodles and fish sauce, it was time to start cooking.

The initial part of the lesson was a little tedious, talking about the different taste sensations on the tongue… salt, sweet etc. Hmmm, I think I did that at primary school. But it all makes sense when Angela tries to include all of these taste sensations with every mouthful when she cooks. Something that I took for granted before the class started.

Pinafore on and we’re ready to start cooking, all the ingredients are set out in front of us for the first lesson of steamed spiced pork and water chestnut siu mai dumplings. Sounds hard. Is not.

Using a bamboo steamer, something that I’ve had at home for years but never used for fear of setting it on fire, Angela went through firstly mixing together all the ingredients for the fillings then stuffing a small amount in to wonton wrappers then putting in to the steamer over hot water for ten minutes until cooked through. In the words of the meerkat from the adverts – ‘simples.’

Next up, stuffed Gyoza dumplings. The same principal goes with the mixing but we learnt different techniques for sealing the dumplings in gyoza skins then cooking them by frying and then steaming. This does involve throwing water on to hot fat, which should come with a burns warning, but the result is just as delicious as the previous ones.

I’m used to eating at the likes of Yauatcha, Dim T and Ping Pong and what I usually eat at this venues was right in front of me. And I made them! I couldn’t believe how simple it was to make dim sum. OK, so we had a chef extraordinaire there to help us but the thought of going home to recreate the little mouthfuls of deliciousness doesn’t seem so daunting now.

Bamboo basket, here I come.

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