What’s a dim sim? How an oversized dumpling became an Australian food icon


(CNN) — Each and every Friday, Ross Harrington, a motor vehicle dealership services manager in Melbourne, heads to a local lunch shop to decide on up a few of deep-fried dim sims, kicking off his weekend dim sim schedule.

Harrington is the founder of Dim Sims 4 Lyfe, a Fb group created up of about 5,000 dim sim lovers who share their encounters and revolutionary recipes — dim sims on pizza, for instance.

They usually are not by yourself in their obsession.

Dim sims, or “dimmies,” are a variant of the conventional Chinese dumpling. Served in a wide variety of approaches, together with steamed and fried, they 1st attained attractiveness in the 1940s and have since grow to be an legendary dish in Melbourne and further than.

So who invented them? Turns out it is challenging.

Chinese Australian businessman William Chen Wing Youthful is normally credited as remaining the father of dim sim.

Elizabeth Chong, Chen’s daughter and a properly-recognised Chinese Australian cooking show presenter, tells CNN Vacation if not.

“It is really usually been erroneously recorded that he invented the dim sim and had a cafe known as Wing Lee. He did not invent the dim sim,” states the 90-yr-outdated celeb chef.

“But of course, if it were not for my father dim sim would not be what it is. It would not be an Australian quickly-food stuff icon.”

The origins of dim sim

Australia’s dim sim tale commenced in 1942, when Chen realized that a quantity of elderly Chinese men who experienced occur to Australia to work during the gold rush of the 1800s were being left jobless.

“They were like the leftovers from the goldfields times. They failed to make it back again residence to China and were being way too previous for major performs,” claims Chong.

At the very same time, Chen seen how well known Cantonese dim sum experienced grow to be in Australia. (“Dim sum” refers to the whole selection of dumplings and delicacies served with tea. Between the several dim sum dishes, siu mai — a flowerpot-shaped pork and prawn dumpling — was specially well-known.)

Dim sims, which arrive in lots of designs and dimensions, are normally fried or steamed.

iStockphoto/Getty Photographs

Chen came up with an notion: If he could mass make siu mai, these guys could promote them on meals trucks and gain a residing.

But siu mai was way too a great deal of a mouthful for Australians to pronounce back in the 1940s. Chen known as it “dim sim” as a substitute — which has the identical this means as dim sum, but in a unique Canton dialect.

“So he form of blended philanthropy with the company,” provides Chong. “They started with 4 women of all ages creating them by hand — my mom was one of them. Then the popularity grew and we started to use additional and much more women.”

Chen identified as the small business Wing Lee — Wing was his center title and Lee was his wife’s maiden identify.

But the hearty dumplings were not propelled into stardom until eventually his son stepped in, albeit accidentally.

A day of slacking launches dim sim to the masses

“At that time, my eldest brother Tom checked into the business enterprise. My father asked Tom to produce a box of dim sims to an elderly Chinese gentleman who lived in Cheltenham (a Melbourne suburb),” says Chong.

“While my brother was on his way to supply them, he resolved it was these types of a fantastic day, he’d end and say hello there to his great friend Joe, a Greek person who owned a fish and chip store around the Mordialloc space.”

The two mates finished up going fishing. Chong states when they obtained again, Tom advised Joe, “I have got a box of these dim sims. If you like, I will prepare dinner them in your store and you can have them for lunch.”

Ross Harrington, founder of a Facebook community dedicated to dim sims, says he eats them every weekend.

Ross Harrington, founder of a Facebook local community focused to dim sims, says he eats them each individual weekend.

Courtesy Ross Harrington

Joe made a decision to deep fry them, as “which is the only way you could (prepare dinner them) in a fish and chip shop,” says Chong.

Joe stated they were being superb so Tom, as a substitute of continuing with the supply, left the box of dim sims there.

“Right before the subsequent working day was above, Joe rung Tom at Wing Lee and said every single a person of his mates had been asking wherever he obtained these dim sims,” suggests Chong.

As their attractiveness amplified, the factory could not retain up with need.

So Chen engaged a German engineer to design and style the very first at any time dim sim machine to churn out these delights by the 1000’s.

“I was a small girl then,” recollects Chong. “I try to remember my father chatting into late evenings with the engineer about how he preferred the pastry accomplished and how the equipment really should churn all the components.”

The benefits have been an instant strike, she claims, making Wing Lee Dim Sim the first Chinese factory to commercialize a rapidly foods for the masses.

“Just about every fish and chip store was clamoring for them. Supermarkets were being now asking for them. So it wasn’t lengthy right before dim sims grow to be an institution at every single fish and chip shop in Victoria,” states Chong.

Dim sim vs. siu mai

Chef Mak Kwai Pui, proprietor of Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum cafe, shares a few important dining suggestions.

While equivalent, dim sim isn’t the identical as the siu mai you would typically uncover in a Chinese cafe.

Dim sims are greater. They have thicker pores and skin to stand up to freezing and shipping and delivery. The elements also vary.

“It was through Entire world War II when meat was scarce. As my father was giving the munition factory with dim sims for lunch, he was granted a couple of far more foods discount codes. But it was only a confined volume so he experienced to alter the recipe,” states Chong.

“I think the meats he utilized had been pork and veal. He had to fill up with additional vegetables, like celery and English cabbages. We didn’t have Chinese cabbages. And a bit of onion for flavors. It really is nevertheless delicious.”

Chong remembers fondly how Australians embraced her father’s dim sims.

“At one particular time, a whole lot of young Australians traveled to London. We utilised to get letters again at Wing Lee that mentioned, ‘Please can you send out us some dim sims?’ So I think the dim sims — which usually means ‘to touch the heart’ in Chinese, definitely did contact the hearts of the Australians.

“It’s an Aussie issue now. Folks would acquire fish and chips and have a dozen fried dim sims, also,” states Chong.

‘It’s a section of Australian history’

Harrington, 52, states he experienced his first taste of dim sim when he was 10 decades aged. For him, it was an acquired style.

“I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was steamed and loaded with soy sauce I didn’t like it. I persevered and finally grew to really like them,” Harrington tells CNN Travel.

“As you get older, items that you grew up with possibly vanish or develop into unattainable. Dim sims haven’t transformed and having them as an adult brings back again fond childhood memories. All people has a story of where by they get their favourite dim sim from.”

With that in head, he commenced the Dim Sims 4 Lyfe Facebook group.

Dim sims on the barbie? Why not.

Dim sims on the barbie? Why not.

Courtesy Ross Harrington

“By way of Dim Sims 4 Lyfe, I have knowledgeable a great deal of superior dim sims via suggestions from other team members. Far more importantly, I have brought a lot of folks alongside one another from all walks of existence, to celebrate a thing so straightforward but one thing that implies a ton to so lots of.

“I truly feel that if I can sustain the level of popularity of the dim sim, then I can aid to make certain that some of these initial Chinese eating places can continue being in organization and as new generations consider over it will give them a explanation to retain them heading. They need to have to be preserved as component of our Australian heritage,” suggests Harrington.

Harrington’s preferred dim sim memory took place about 30 decades back, when his wife took him to the South Melbourne Market to try out their well known dim sims.

“They have been massive and peppery. I stood in line guiding about 30 folks to get my purchase and it was really worth the hold out,” he remembers.

These times, right after a dim sim lunch on Friday, or “Fryday” as Harrington calls it, he will also have dim sims at the football matches throughout the weekends. He says he at times would make his own dim sims with “quality elements to great the top flavor.”

“The dim sim is absolutely an legendary Australian dish,” he claims. “The dim sim reminds Australia that we have usually been a country that welcomes many others and just isn’t fearful to undertake new cultures and cuisines.”

What occurred to the original dim sim firm?

Elizabeth Chong was awarded the Queen's Birthday Honour medal in 2019 for her services to Australia's hospitality sector.

Elizabeth Chong was awarded the Queen’s Birthday Honour medal in 2019 for her companies to Australia’s hospitality sector.

Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Photos

Chen’s enterprise, Wing Lee, failed to achieve the longevity of the Australian dumpling he created. Immediately after he retired in the late 1950s, the business was put on the inventory current market and taken over by two other brand names, Marathon and Chien Wah.

Shops and factories — massive and little — have given that produced their very own versions of dim sims.

But above the yrs Chong and her loved ones have continued to effects the Australian meals scene in other methods.

She started a Chinese cooking college in the 1950s, initial as a tiny class for neighbors. She has due to the fact taught extra than 35,000 college students.

Then she was a well-known Chinese food stuff display presenter in the 1990s and 2000s, one particular of the really very first Asian faces to endorse Chinese cuisines on tv. in 2019, she received the Queen’s Birthday Buy of Australia award for her providers to the hospitality sector and promotion of Chinese cuisine.

“There is a Chinese restaurant in almost just about every corner of Australia. Though Chinese food items is normally liked, it is not generally understood. I set a distinctive face on it and showed folks that Chinese meals was substantially more than just anything to fill the stomach,” claims Chong.

“I am very pleased of the truth that my father and I had been the type of a bridge concerning the two cultures concerning the two international locations.”

Prime impression: A basket of dim sims, straight out of the deep fryer. Credit score: Ross Harrington



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