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Dec 8, 2010 07:22 AM

Are you familiar with chinese restaurant behind the scenes??

i have heard that it is no longer unusual for chinese rests to use/serve frozen dim sum!! I recently had some mushy and not enjoyable dim sum and a poster suggested it could have been frozen and not freshly made. does anyone know if frozen is replacing the real deal prepared by actual dim sum chefs?? is this a trend in the chinese rest. industry.

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  1. I would certainly not find it surprising. At the large, Asian supermarket we shop at here in CT, they have perhaps a half aisle of vertical freezer space filled with a huge variety of wonderful dim-sum, more varieties than a small restaurant might want to prepare. Certainly the Asian people who all shop there find them acceptable.

    4 Replies
      1. re: BiscuitBoy

        Hey BB,

        A Dong Supermarket is at 160 Shield St., in the Shield St. Plaza be hind McDonald's, In West Harford off New Britain Ave just east of New Prk Ave. It's the same plaza that Pho Boston is in.

        As you walk in you face the glass case with the hanging roast ducks, chickens and pork. I always buy the ducks whole and cut them at home. They're large and roasted with aromatics inside, and have that wonderful crispy skin. They're about $15 each. Then they have a bakery with a variey of buns, etc.

        Next is a large fruit and veg. dept. with big variety of Asian and domestic vegs at exteremely low prices. Along left wall are meat and fish depts., with much very fresh, frozen, and dried fish, plus tanks from which you can choose fresh live fish.

        Then aisles of frozen, refrigerated, canned and dried goods from all over Asia. E.g. An aisle of tea, and aisle of noodles, aisles of sauces and condiments, and most at a small fraction of what you'd pay for any at a regular supermarket.

        They also carry kitchen goods, some gifts....

        I've noticed that some folks in the reviews below have commented about the smell as they walk in. I do not find the smell offensive at all, it just reminds me of walking into any nice market in Singapore.

        1. re: junescook

          I'll have to check it out....Thanks!

          1. re: BiscuitBoy

            I wish we lived closer and could get there more often. The prices are amazing.

            However, as others also have noted on the yelp site, staff is not particularly friendly, and some products, like noodles, do not have instructions in English.

            Now I'm thinking about those great ducks. If you get one, be sure and tell the lady you want it whole, otherwise she'll chop it all up into little slices and it becomes soggy. They have containers to put the whole duck in. At home I take it out, remove the neck, and than cut it right down the middle saving all the good things (like slices of ginger and star anise) inside). I lay it cut sides down in a roasting pan with enough water + the sauce they give you, to cover the bottom of the pan to keep the meat moist, and then reheat it in a 400 oven until it is heated through and the skin is sizzling. We than cut it into serving pieces, but you could do the Beijiing thing with pancakes, scallions....

    1. Not surprising at all. Not every restaurant can afford it's own dim sum chef. It's long been common in HK to have dim sum shipped in from Mainland. Sometimes frozen can be quite good.

      1. No dim sum house in my area serves frozen dim sum, AFAIK.

        However, I know that many restos, especially buffets, use frozen supplied dim sum items such as sesame balls, pot stickers, steamed white buns, and xiu mai. This isn't a new trend, though.

        7 Replies
        1. re: luckyfatima

          No dim sum house in my area serves frozen dim sum, AFAIK.

          How do you know?

          We've done blind tastings at home between freshly made dumplings and frozen ones and most people couldn't tell the difference. Same with things like buns, etc.

          Also, certain dim sum items lend themselves very naturally to be made in advance and frozen, e.g. turnip cakes, bamboo wrapped sticky rice, etc.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            It could be possible that they are made fresh in house and then frozen and reheated, or ordered from nearby Houston fresh and frozen. But they are not the packaged ones bought from suppliers…those are the ones on the buffet. They just taste different.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Oh yeah. I recently had some horrible shu mai at a Chinese restaurant in NJ that I'm pretty sure was some supermarket quality mass-produced crap. Super mushy and water-logged. I've actually tried the supermarket versions of shu mai years ago out of curiosity, and this was quite similar. This was the Ellio's of dim sum.

          2. re: luckyfatima

            There are a fair number of Chinese appetizers where, unless I see otherwise, I assume are ALAWYS going to be pre frozen, mass market (Crab Rangoons and Scallion Pancakes are two classic examples). That's why a treasure the few places I know that don't so highly (though in defense I must say that there are a few frozen versions that are, in my opinion actually better than the vast majority of versions I've had, incuding places that did them themselves. "home made" does not neccarily translate to "well made".
            There is also the case of my favortie "roast pork rolls" at a place I go to reguarly. I am almost sure these have to be made earlier and frozen sice I can think of no other way that an bean curd skin tube full of what basically works out to chopped pork stew and open on both ends could be dredged/battered and deep fried without the stuff all leaking out in the process ( I've stuck them in a fridge overnigh and the insides don't jell up so they can be doing it that way.) the fact that there hyave been times when I have been informed that they have "run out" for the day sort of confirms my suspicions.

            1. re: jumpingmonk

              Crab rangoons are actually one of the easiest items to make in-house, and all of the Chinese restaurants that sell crab rangoons (and it's something I almost always get if I ever get that craving for Chinese American) that I've frequented make them in-house. It's pretty obvious when something like crab rangoons or shu mai are made in-house and when it's a frozen, factory-made item.

              Unfortunately, it's harder to tell when cha siu bao or haw gow are made in-house if the quality of the frozen product is good and cooked/steamed correctly. Usually though, the filling of any previously-frozen dumplings/har gow/cha siu bow are usually a bit mushier than the freshly-made stuff.

              Now if you're talking about a chain restaurant like Panda Express or P.F. Changs, then they probably make their own recipe in huge batches to be shipped to various chains.

              1. re: yfunk3

                Maybe around you most of the places do make thier rangoons in situ, around me they don't. Making them in house may be easy, but pulling out a pre made, pre frozen mass market tray and tossing the contents into the fryer is even easier. I also sometimes thing that some of the places don't make thier own becuse some of the ingredients in them are things that have no use in the resturaunt outside of making rangoons, they aren't used in any other dish. I'm thinking here of the cream cheese and possibly the wrappers (I don't think any other regular dumpling uses that bright yellow wrapper. they could but they usually dont.). But I agree that its really easy to tell; I think that there are two companies that supply the lions share of the rangoon market the one that makes them as triangles and the one that makes them like parachutes (four corners gathered up) If I see one that isn't either of those shapes I tend to assume they made it themselves. One of my top three does in fact make thier as a triangle, but its much bigger than the standard one. one makes a sort of beggars purse shape. The third is one I've actually seen them make and is probably the farthers from the crab rangoon norm I have ever seen (well there was the place that sold smoked salmon rangoons, but I'd really not like to remember those. It's closed now anyway) not only do they use a non stnadard shape (theirs look a little like oversized tortellone) they use a regular wonton wrapper (not the yellow one). They are also the one place Ive been to where there is actually more crab in the filling than cream cheese so that the innards are basically solid. Quite tasty but if someone said where they could get good exampes of "traditional" crab rangoons, I'm not 100% sure I'd reccomend that place, they're really a different appetizer.

                1. re: jumpingmonk

                  Most places make their own. There isn't a doubt in my mind. Cream cheese, imitation crab meat and whatever seasonings (usually scallions or just minced onion/garlic) are really cheap and easy to make. And the wrappers ARE standard wonton wrappers. Some places do use the spring roll wrappers, but most places use the wonton wrappers because they're sturdier and can hold the cream cheese filling better. There's this place by me currently that makes them with real crab meat and mozzarella, and they are disgusting. But obviously made in-house.

                  They might LOOK really nicely, machine-made or mass-made to you, but trust me, most of them are handmade in the kitchen and it doesn't take a long time to make them. In most small Chinese American restaurants, there's no room in the freezers (usually just a standard long chest freezer. The walk-in is strictly a regular colder-than-average fridge) for more frozen stuff than the standards (meats, fries, other standard frozen ingredients restaurants use, maybe one or two other frozen appetizers like seafood, fried scallops). Also, they're so CHEAP to make that buying them readymade is just a bad cost move. It's not hard to fold up a crab rangoon to make it look nice and neat. Just because you don't see things being made doesn't mean they're not being made in-house. Everyone used to ask my parents which company made their egg rolls, crab rangoons, duck sauce, roast pork, etc. so they could make it themselves. They didn't believe my parents when they told them it's made in-house because they "looked so neat".

          3. Some stuff can be prepared, frozen in advance and cooked later without a problem. Many dumpling places, for example, will do this because they cannot afford to make dumplings on a daily basis. I've purchased frozen dumplings from restaurants for cooking at home, and I cannot tell the difference in just about every instance.

            Freezing stuff in a restaurant is often different from freezing it at home because many of them don't use frost-free freezers. The non-frost-free freezers preserve the frozen items much better because they don't go through the heating/cooling cycle that home units undergo every 8 hours or so. They don't dehydrate the food, so something like a dumpling wrapper won't degrade.

            It is also possible that the dish you had was over-cooked, cooked but reheated, or made with lower-quality ingredients.

            1 Reply
            1. re: raytamsgv

              I dream of having a walk-in freezer ...

            2. I am the one who suggested that your recent bad Twin City dim sum experience was due perhaps to frozen dim sum.

              There are not enough Chinese people living in the Twin Cities to support that many great Chinese restaurants, let alone four to five dim houses. (Little Szechuan on University is the best Chinese restaurant you got!) Secondly, the Twin City metro area is so vast and an efficient mass transit is non-existent.

              Dim Sum is Cantonese in origin and has spread among the other Chinese cuisines to some extent (Shanghai for example) but not all. How many Cantonese, let alone Cantonese dim sum chefs or even dim sum trained chefs are living in the Twin Cities?

              Top quality Chinese chefs will usually only be found in America in areas with the greatest Chinese population density, where their talents will not only be greatly appreciated, but amply rewarded.

              5 Replies
              1. re: scoopG

                love your posts on the msp board. not sure what the mass transit in the area has to do w dim sum, however.

                i worked at a now-closed, very well known locally, old school chinese-american restaurant downtown mpls over 10 years ago. i believe *all* of the cooks were cantonese. at the time, the restaurant did one of the only traditional dim sums in town, weekends only, and there were very few non-chinese patrons who were interested in this. the older generation and one auntie prepared the dim sum entirely from scratch during the weekdays, and the younger generation ran the restaurant in the main. the restaurant also did a big take out business, a lot of fried rice, 4 kinds of chow mein, and the usual popular chinese-american gloop, but a surprising assortment of traditional and non-traditional foods were scratch-made in house. the restaurant made its own tofu, scallion pancakes, and dumplings, and every tuesday the place had a huge production line on an 18 foot stainless table which involved a large hand grinder and cases and cases of whole-head cabbage, and the entire kitchen staff made the week's egg rolls from scratch. cream cheese wontons (easily the most ordered appetizer, this is msp we're talking about haha) were also made by hand, row upon row of them layered in a clean bus tub. in fact it was one of the cooks' favorite ways to sit slack off-- he would sit on an overturned 5 gal bucket and fold the ccws for hours at a time and complain every time an order came in and he'd have to get up. the main wok cook would always give him garbage, in english and cantonese, about his lazy habits! :)

                these folks were not "top quality chinese chefs," they were just family restaurateurs. but the dim sum was pretty good! of course, many of the cooks are still working in local restaurants currently (i've run into some of them years later) and so they have had years to train other cooks. i don't think it's necessarily a stretch to think that two established chinese restaurants operating in the 1980s could train enough competent dim sum cooks to staff four or five local restaurants in the next generation. whether they are "great" is another subject entirely, but there isn't any reason to assume they would necessarily be using frozen stuff from somewhere else. there is such a good profit margin on these menu items when they're scratch-made, and if you do a high volume of dim sum, it can be very profitable for a restaurant to make it by hand. to me, it's very counterintuitive to think that the larger local dim sum places would do anything otherwise. in short, the thought of using purchased, packaged, frozen dim sum dumplings seems much more offensively "un-traditional" to me than serving deep fried cream cheese wontons with bright red corn-starch artificial "sweet and sour" sauce! :)

                1. re: soupkitten

                  It's not hard to make dim sum from scratch.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    agreed! i guess that was what i was trying to say re: this older couple and their daughter being able to scratch-make all of the dim sum for a good-size restaurant. the old man and old lady were getting on in years, and it still seemed manageable for them. they were not great chefs, but they were very competent at the traditional dim sum prepared at the restaurant.

                  2. re: soupkitten

                    Hi soupkitten! My point on the Twin Cities is that the area is so large and spread out - it is same for the Chinese community. There is no central location for great Chinese food. No one is going to drive from Lake Elmo to Chanhassen for dim sum. Dim Sum houses in Hongkong are hurting - fewer younger people want to be trained. In the great Chinese culinary centers it is possible to get dim sum everyday, freshly made, and not just on weekends.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      ah, that makes sense! my mind was mulling the other way-- i thought it was something about the cooks not being able to get to work--duh.

                      i think there are a few newer-school local restaurants that are trying to offer dim sum (usually very limited menu) any time, like the tea house restaurants. you're right that msp does not have a central "chinatown" area where you can go and get reliable dim sum any day of the week, and the bigger places usually only do weekend business due to the limited nature of the demand.