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Over blobs of shapes and sizes

Though the maida in your kitchen can give yummy dim sums, Chef Nain Qing, now with New Delhi's Jaypee Vasant Continental, tells SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY that for the authentic Chinese variety, you have to have an array of rice flours only from China.



Chef Nain Qing of Jaypee Vasant Continental. Photo: R. V. Moorthy.

`OUR DIM sums here are so authentic that even the chef speaks only Chinese,' Master Chef of Jaypee Vasant Continental Nita Nagraj introduces their Chinese Chef Nain Qing with a grin. Standing nearby at the counter top of the Ano Tai's open kitchen with a gizmo from the homeland that can quickly translate a few English words into Chinese, Chef Nain looks confident. And sporty enough to take up the challenge of language with a rather endearing smile. For a test of his culinary talents, he has 17 years as a dim sum chef to fall back on.

Not even two months old in Delhi, this is the chef's first overseas assignment. But he has already surveyed the local markets sniffing for ingredients for his speciality - dim sums. And, found a rice flour of his preference. To make the dumplings soft and thin.

"The name is Glutinous Rice Flour from China. I got it at INA market here," being helped by Chef Nita, he could convey this. Using sign languages and gestures, at times helped by an English-speaking Chinese colleague, he gets going: "I have given the hotel's procurement department a list of Chinese flours for my dim sums. For the time being, this rice flour is good enough. Even the maida locally found gives you good dim sums but not the authentic Chinese variety." Offering an answer to your query, Chef Nita adds, "The list is in Chinese. We shall know what exactly they are once they reach here."

Wrapping it up with a smile, you get into his fillers. And find out that, combining both his vegetarian and non-vegetarian dim sums, there are as many as hundred varieties. His gems though are told to be Danda, Xiagiao (prawn dumplings ) and Zhamatuan (a sweet dimpling.) And, be it his lamb, prawn, chicken, seasonal vegetable dim sums, all have distinct shapes. Having a solid background so many years in making the dumplings starting with a degree from a dim sum school in Beijing, Chef Nian offers you this Cantonese origin speciality dish in shapes of a leaf, bird, conch etc besides of course, the much-seen round and oval ones.

"Dim sums have four important ingredients - colour, fragrance, taste and shape. So each one is a work of art," explains the chef. With the creation of his fingers right in front of you, he gives you no choice to utter otherwise.

Lotus leaf

Besides the flour wrappings, what can be something really different for Delhi gourmets from the chef's kitchen are the fermented rice bread and lotus leaf drapes. While the fermented dumplings have that typical flavour, what comes as a culinary gem is the chicken and sticky rice dim sum steamed in lotus leaf. And while gorging on it, you might catch a vegetarian nearby eyeing at you with a sense of missing something exotic.

"Though in a traditional Chinese home," the chef explains, "the Sunday morning breakfast is `Yum Cha' which is dim sums with jasmine tea, at Ano Tai, we are calling it `Zau Cha' (breakfast) and shall be extending it to lunch time for a light and hot fare."

And jasmine tea? "You can swim on it."

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