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

(CNN) — Each and every Friday, Ross Harrington, a vehicle dealership assistance supervisor in Melbourne, heads to a local lunch shop to choose up a pair of deep-fried dim sims, kicking off his weekend dim sim plan.

Harrington is the founder of Dim Sims 4 Lyfe, a Facebook community manufactured up of about 5,000 dim sim fans who share their activities and impressive recipes — dim sims on pizza, for illustration.

They aren’t on your own in their obsession.

Dim sims, or “dimmies,” are a variant of the traditional Chinese dumpling. Served in a assortment of ways, together with steamed and fried, they initial acquired acceptance in the 1940s and have considering the fact that turn into an legendary dish in Melbourne and outside of.

So who invented them? Turns out it is challenging.

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

Elizabeth Chong, Chen’s daughter and a well-acknowledged Chinese Australian cooking display presenter, tells CNN Journey normally.

“It can be normally been erroneously recorded that he invented the dim sim and experienced a cafe called Wing Lee. He did not invent the dim sim,” states the 90-calendar year-previous celebrity chef.

“But yes, if it were not for my father dim sim wouldn’t be what it is. It would not be an Australian rapidly-foodstuff icon.”

The origins of dim sim

Australia’s dim sim story commenced in 1942, when Chen recognized that a number of aged Chinese guys who experienced come to Australia to function through the gold rush of the 1800s were being remaining jobless.

“They have been like the leftovers from the goldfields days. They didn’t make it again property to China and were too previous for weighty functions,” suggests Chong.

At the similar time, Chen discovered how well known Cantonese dim sum had develop into in Australia. (“Dim sum” refers to the entire collection of dumplings and delicacies served with tea. Between the many dim sum dishes, siu mai — a flowerpot-formed pork and prawn dumpling — was especially popular.)

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

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Chen arrived up with an strategy: If he could mass generate siu mai, these gentlemen could offer them on food items trucks and receive a living.

But siu mai was far too a lot of a mouthful for Australians to pronounce again in the 1940s. Chen referred to as it “dim sim” in its place — which has the exact which means as dim sum, but in a distinct Canton dialect.

“So he type of put together philanthropy with the company,” provides Chong. “They begun with four women building them by hand — my mom was a single of them. Then the recognition grew and we started out to make use of much more and a lot more females.”

Chen termed the small business Wing Lee — Wing was his middle identify and Lee was his wife’s maiden name.

But the hearty dumplings weren’t 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 enterprise. My father requested Tom to supply a box of dim sims to an elderly Chinese gentleman who lived in Cheltenham (a Melbourne suburb),” suggests Chong.

“Though my brother was on his way to produce them, he made the decision it was such a good working day, he’d quit and say howdy to his very good mate Joe, a Greek person who owned a fish and chip shop near the Mordialloc spot.”

The two good friends ended up going fishing. Chong says when they bought again, Tom advised Joe, “I have got a box of these dim sims. If you like, I will cook dinner them in your shop 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 Fb local community dedicated to dim sims, suggests he eats them every weekend.

Courtesy Ross Harrington

Joe made a decision to deep fry them, as “that’s the only way you could (cook dinner them) in a fish and chip shop,” states Chong.

Joe mentioned they have been fantastic so Tom, as an alternative of continuing with the shipping and delivery, remaining the box of dim sims there.

“Ahead of the subsequent working day was in excess of, Joe rung Tom at Wing Lee and stated just about every just one of his mates have been inquiring exactly where he got these dim sims,” claims Chong.

As their recognition greater, the manufacturing facility could not retain up with demand from customers.

So Chen engaged a German engineer to design and style the 1st at any time dim sim equipment to churn out these delights by the hundreds.

“I was a very little woman then,” remembers Chong. “I bear in mind my father chatting into late evenings with the engineer about how he wanted the pastry completed and how the machine should really churn all the substances.”

The outcomes ended up an rapid hit, she suggests, generating Wing Lee Dim Sim the initial Chinese factory to commercialize a rapidly food stuff for the masses.

“Each fish and chip store was clamoring for them. Supermarkets were now asking for them. So it wasn’t extensive just before dim sims turn into an establishment at each fish and chip shop in Victoria,” claims Chong.

Dim sim vs. siu mai

Chef Mak Kwai Pui, owner of Hong Kong’s most popular dim sum restaurant, shares a handful of necessary dining guidelines.

However comparable, dim sim isn’t the exact as the siu mai you would usually obtain in a Chinese restaurant.

Dim sims are bigger. They have thicker skin to face up to freezing and supply. The components also vary.

“It was for the duration of World War II when meat was scarce. As my father was providing the munition manufacturing facility with dim sims for lunch, he was granted a couple more foodstuff discount codes. But it was only a confined sum so he experienced to modify the recipe,” says Chong.

“I think the meats he utilized have been pork and veal. He experienced to fill up with additional greens, like celery and English cabbages. We did not have Chinese cabbages. And a little bit of onion for flavors. It is really still tasty.”

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

“At 1 time, a whole lot of younger Australians traveled to London. We utilised to get letters again at Wing Lee that mentioned, ‘Please can you deliver us some dim sims?’ So I consider the dim sims — which implies ‘to contact the heart’ in Chinese, definitely did touch the hearts of the Australians.

“It is an Aussie factor now. Folks would purchase fish and chips and have a dozen fried dim sims, much too,” claims Chong.

‘It’s a section of Australian history’

Harrington, 52, says he experienced his to start with taste of dim sim when he was 10 a long time outdated. For him, it was an acquired taste.

“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 at some point grew to appreciate them,” Harrington tells CNN Travel.

“As you get more mature, matters that you grew up with both disappear or become unattainable. Dim sims haven’t improved and taking in them as an grownup brings back again fond childhood recollections. Absolutely everyone has a story of where they get their beloved dim sim from.”

With that in intellect, he started off 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 means of Dim Sims 4 Lyfe, I have skilled a lot of great dim sims by means of suggestions from other group associates. Additional importantly, I have introduced a great deal of individuals together from all walks of life, to rejoice some thing so straightforward but something that implies a good deal to so lots of.

“I come to feel that if I can manage the recognition of the dim sim, then I can assist to assure that some of these primary Chinese dining establishments can continue being in enterprise and as new generations acquire around it will give them a cause to retain them going. They have to have to be preserved as component of our Australian history,” says Harrington.

Harrington’s most loved dim sim memory took location about 30 many years ago, when his spouse took him to the South Melbourne Marketplace to try out their famed dim sims.

“They were massive and peppery. I stood in line driving about 30 persons to get my get and it was worth the wait,” he remembers.

These days, soon after a dim sim lunch on Friday, or “Fryday” as Harrington calls it, he will also have dim sims at the soccer matches for the duration of the weekends. He claims he sometimes will make his individual dim sims with “high quality ingredients to best the final taste.”

“The dim sim is undoubtedly an iconic Australian dish,” he suggests. “The dim sim reminds Australia that we have usually been a nation that welcomes others and just isn’t scared to undertake new cultures and cuisines.”

What occurred to the primary dim sim corporation?

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 expert services to Australia’s hospitality sector.

Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Photos

Chen’s corporation, Wing Lee, unsuccessful to realize the longevity of the Australian dumpling he created. Right after he retired in the late 1950s, the business was place on the inventory marketplace and taken more than by two other makes, Marathon and Chien Wah.

Retailers and factories — major and tiny — have due to the fact developed their possess versions of dim sims.

But above the yrs Chong and her relatives have ongoing to affect the Australian foodstuff scene in other ways.

She began a Chinese cooking faculty in the 1950s, first as a smaller course for neighbors. She has considering the fact that taught a lot more than 35,000 students.

Then she was a well known Chinese foods display presenter in the 1990s and 2000s, 1 of the extremely first Asian faces to encourage Chinese cuisines on television. in 2019, she received the Queen’s Birthday Order of Australia award for her solutions to the hospitality sector and promotion of Chinese cuisine.

“There is a Chinese cafe in virtually each corner of Australia. Even though Chinese food items is normally beloved, it is not usually recognized. I place a distinctive confront on it and confirmed persons that Chinese meals was significantly extra than just anything to fill the belly,” claims Chong.

“I am happy of the actuality that my father and I experienced been the type of a bridge concerning the two cultures among the two international locations.”

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

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