Xia Jiao (Shrimp Dumplings 虾饺)
What is it?
Along with siu mai and char siu bao, xia jiao – called hargow in Cantonese – form the triumvirate of world famous Cantonese dim sum. When made properly, the steamed dumpling wrapper – made from potato starch and lard – is thin and translucent with a glossy snowy white colour. The sweet and bouncy shrimp filling, meanwhile, is a combination of shrimp, bamboo shoot and more lard.
Why is it famous?
It is believed that in ancient China, travellers along the Silk Road broke their journey by stopping at teahouses. It was thought that tea aided digestion, so many people would have some small bites along with their tea, which began the tradition of “yum cha” (drinking tea in Cantonese) and dim sum.
Dim Sum, hugely popular in the Guangdong Province, are small bite-size dishes that are served in steamer baskets or small plates to be enjoyed with tea. Hargow, meanwhile, is reckoned to have been a far more recent invention – popularised around the early 20th century in Wucun, a small village outside Guangzhou.
Wucun was considered both prosperous and beautiful. Surrounded by a river, there were many fishing boats selling fresh seafood. It was believed that one restaurant owner concocted a dumpling with shrimp, pork and bamboo shoots. The creation quickly won over patrons. Soon, other restaurants began copying the recipe. Even though the filling has stayed largely the same, over the years, pastry chefs have perfected the wrapper, adding wheat starch to give it the glossy veneer.
Where to eat it?
Fook Lam Moon, often known as the “cafeteria of the tycoons” may be known for lavish banquets but its dim sum is understatedly delicious. Address: Shop 3, G/F, Newman House, 35-45 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; Tel: 852-2866-0663
Maxim Palace at Hong Kong’s City Hall still keeps the tradition of servers pushing around carts of food. However, the restaurant does not take reservations and the wait time is especially long at weekends. Address: 2/F City Hall Low Block, Central, Hong Kong; Tel: 852-2521-1303.
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