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Har Gow by Joey Lin Thinking of Chinese food, you will have so many choices in your head: hotpot, noodles, broth... My favorite kind of Chinese food is dimsum. It is a tradition of Cantonese people when getting together with family and friends, sharing a pot of hot tea, enjoying the delicious food and chatting with each other. Dimsum plates are always served in steamer baskets. Among all the dimsum, shrimp dumplings, also called Har Gow, greatly appeal to me not only because of its phenomenal taste and delicate manual skills applied to the plate but also my precious memories with Grandpa. There are usually three pieces of Har Gow in one serving. Oil paper lies on the bottom of the basket to avoid sticking. On the top of the paper, there are three crystal clear dumplings just like jade. The wrappers on the outside are so thin and translucent that you can see the fresh cooked prawns inside. They are sturdy enough to hold the meat stuffing and shrimps. When you use the chopsticks to pick one up, the crystal wrapper of the Har Gow sticks neither to the paper nor the chopstick or other dumplings. When you get close to the dumpling, the clear fragrance of rice flour appeals to you first. Later when you take a big breath, the smell of the fresh shrimp and meat slowly slides into your nose. How excited are you about to enjoy this delicious plate! The moment your teeth touches the jelly-like wrappers, they immediately melt into your mouth. The next flavor you taste is the freshness of the prawns. When the crispy shrimp quickly slide on your tongue, it feels like the shrimp is jumping and dancing happily. Later, when you start to chew on more stuffing, the savory meat will suddenly burst in the mouth. Every time I finish enjoying Har Gow, there is always a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. A few years ago in Canton, walking into a teahouse, the smell of the fragrance of tea and aroma of all kinds of refreshments such as steam noodle rolls and custard buns ran into my nose. Satisfied by the first impression, I looked around this medium-sized restaurant with many tables. Middle-aged waitresses were carrying food carts full of steamer baskets. I heard the yelling of waitresses from one side of the restaurant to the other. It was not loud; on the contrary, it fit the noisy atmosphere because everyone in the room was chatting with their family members and friends. I noticed there were smiles on all of their faces, which cheered me up on a sweltering summer day. Grandpa observed that my attention was fixed on the unfamiliar situation. He asked me to sit down and talk to him. At the same time, he ordered a plate of Har Gow from the cart. He then asked me about my feelings, either like or dislike, towards this teahouse. My eyes were fixed on the dimsum in the basket, not paying attention to Grandpa’s words. Therefore, I just replied with some random words. He then picked up one dumpling and put it in my bowl, saying that “Gathering together and sharing a pot of tea and several plates of dimsum are always what Cantonese do with their relatives and friends especially on important days. Dimsum has been a big branch of Chinese traditional food since the beginning of the last century. It is interesting to see how it has evolved over time. Take this Har Gow as an example. At first it was only cooked shrimps wrapped in a flour wrapper. Later people added chopped pork and radish to improve its texture, making it both soft and crispy. To be honest, dimsum is a plate that tests the skills of a dimsum chef. There should be seven to ten pleats on the wrapper and it should be perfectly thin and crystal clear. Besides, the prawns inside should not be overcooked. The amount of meat should not surpass the amount that can be eaten in one bite. The radish chosen should be crisp and ripe. Right now, the skill of making Har Gow by hand is almost extinct because people now prefer machines to their own hands. Plus, younger people would rather work in an office than a kitchen. Not only the flavors but also the manual skills connected with the traditional plates


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