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Bite Sized Delights: All You Need to Know About Dim Sum or Sushi and Maki

3 Jun , 2016  

They say the best things come in small packages, and for anyone who’s a fan of dim sum or sushi, never were truer words spoken. But if you’ve ever confused the two or wanted to know what all the fuss is about, here’s a handy guide on the these two bite-sized wonders:

Dim sum
Dim sum is the broad term used to describe a Cantonese cuisine that includes bite-sized dumplings and other items served in baskets or on open dishes. What started off as tea snacks became so popular that people eat dim sum for whole meals, though tea (usually green or jasmine) is often served along with them.

Dim sum can be divided into five categories: dumplings, buns, rolled dishes, and vegetable-based and meat-based dishes. Usually, when we think of dim sum, dumplings are what come to mind first. These include the steamed, open-topped siu mai dumplings that are usually filled with minced meat or seafood (or a mix of both); prawn har gau or steamed shrimp dumplings in a translucent, starchy cover; and jiaozi (better known by their Japanese name, gyoza), which are half-moon-shaped dumplings stuffed with meat that are steamed and pan-fried. Buns or baos include steamed buns (usually filled with Chinese-style barbeque pork), flaky, stuffed puffs (again, usually filled with pork), and baked baos.

Siu mai at Shiro

Siu mai at Shiro

 

The most popular rolled dim sum is cheung fan, where the filling (usually steamed or fried prawns) is rolled in a translucent, gelatinous rice noodle and served with a light soya sauce. Fried turnip cakes and sticky rice (prepared and served in a lotus leaf) can be included in vegetarian or vegetable-based dishes, while steamed meatballs and spare ribs are examples of meat-based dishes.

Dim sum are usually served with a variety of sauces. It’s not uncommon to be served hot mustard with steamed pork buns and pork dumplings, whereas other popular toppings or sauces include soya sauce, Chinese hot sauce, and chilli flakes in oil.

Dimsum at Shiro

Dimsum at Shiro

Sushi
Sushi is usually the first thing people bring up when talking about Japanese cuisines. It’s the general term used to describe dishes that combine rice cooked in vinegar (shari) with ingredients that include raw or cooked fish, fried (tempura) prawns, octopus, vegetables, and seaweed. This second group of ingredients is collectively referred to as neta. The types of sushi vary depending on how it’s been prepared.

Sushi at Shiro

Sushi at Shiro

 

Maki rolls or maki-zushi are the most ubiquitous variety of sushi. Here, the neta is wrapped in shari or rice using a long strip of seaweed or nori. Sushi chefs usually use bamboo mats known as makisu to roll maki-zushi. A maki roll is long and cylindrical, and is served after it’s sliced into round, bite-sized pieces.The size and technique of making maki rolls can vary, which gives us different types of maki-zushi. These include the larger, thicker futomaki, thinner hosomaki, hand-rolled temaki, and the inside-out uramaki.

Classic Maki rolls

Classic Maki rolls

 

Like most forms of sushi, maki is served with three main condiments. There’s flavourful, smoky soya sauce, which the sushi is dipped in (not too much though, or you risk overpowering the subtle flavours of the roll), a tiny bit of wasabi to each bite for a spicy, pungent kick, and thin slivers of pink ginger (gari) to eat between bites as a palate cleanser.

Other popular types of sushi include nigiri-zushi, which is an oblong, hand-pressed ball of rice topped with neta (anything from fish to octopus to eel to egg) all tied into a neat bundle using a thin strip of nori; oshi-zushi, where the neta is topped with rice and the whole thing is moulded in a wooden press; and chirashi-zushi, also known as scattered sushi, where a bowl of shari is served with sashimi (thin slices of fresh, raw fish), and other toppings.

Nigiri (front) and Maki (back) [Image credit: Alpha on Flickr]

Nigiri (front) and Maki (back) [Image credit: Alpha on Flickr]

So which do you prefer? Dim sum or sushi? If you’re a fan of either—or both—you’re going to love what I’m going to tell you next. WowTables is running an exclusive event offering BOTH till June 5th at two fine dining restaurants in Mumbai. You get to choose between unlimited dim sum or sushi and maki at Shiro and Hakassan, as well as a ten-course meal fit for a king as part of the special Dim Sum Week offers. My suggestion would be to go book your experience stat! Don’t forget sure to bring a king-sized appetite for these bite-sized goodies!


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Freyan Patel is a Mumbai-based freelance writer who nourishes her fixation with good grammar by writing high school-level English textbooks by day and fretting over typos in tweets by night. She also indulges her unhealthy obsession with food by eating, dreaming of, and occasionally writing about it in her free time. She likes funny people, reality TV, words that are fun to say, pina coladas (but isn't too keen on getting caught in the rain), and anyone who gets her references to corny retro songs.

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