Sunday, May 11, 2008

Buddhist (mock) Shrimp Dim Sum

The universe has been pushing me to attempt to sculpt my food. A few weeks ago, on the Gourmet show on PBS there was a whole episode about food impersonator (fine cakes, Michel Richard). In that episode, there was a whole thing about Buddhist Thai cuisine with its amazing meat simalcra. Then, today, on Kylie Kwong, there was another mention of Chinese Buddhist cuisine. I felt moved to make some fake shrimp; those crustaceans are so small that it should be easy to fake them. There is a virtual Chinese Take Out dinner party going on at Mochachocolatarita to celebrate her 88th post, and I thought all signs were pointing to me making a Buddhist Vegetarian dish to take to the party.

Very strict Buddhists are vegetarians. In many places (China, Japan, and Thailand), a specific cuisine grew up around these monasteries. One of the highlights was the use of high quality and realistic "meats." For the shrimp, I used eggplant. I looked all over the internet to figure out what the real Buddhist shrimp was made from, but I couldn't find out (duck is often made of tofu and yuba, and ham from seitan). So, I decided eggplant had a similar texture.

I wanted to use the shrimp in something that would highlight its brininess. So, I settled on dim sum. While it isn't strict take-out food, it seemed like the best thing for my fake shrimp. I have had Chinese Dim Sum by Lee Hwa Lin for almost twenty years but I have not once made dim sum (though I have read it cover to cover many times). Intermittently over the years, Chinese restaurants in Cleveland have had passable dim sum, and I have had excellent dim sum in San Francisco, London and Hong Kong.

The dim sum standard shrimp rice noodle seemed perfect. As this was a whim, I didn't have the energy to make rice noodles. I used a rice paper wrapper.

To get the flavor of the sea (I won't say shrimp), I boiled eggplant with asofoetida, konbu, salt, sesame seeds. Then I decorated my briny lovelies with vegetable-based food coloring. I topped the dim sum with garlic chives and tamari. Paired with jasmine tea, this was enjoyable and filled the void of the original--though it wasn't really like it.


Unknown said...

This is super cool! In Hong Kong, it might be easy to find faux shrimps/faux anything in local grocery shops, but making it from scratch? that's just amazing!

thanks for bringing this to the party :)

Thistlemoon said...

Wow, that is so impressive! I have had dishes with "fake meat" before, but making it yourself really takes the cake! Awesome!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll! :)

maybelles mom said...

So, why? This was my husband's question exactly. I love the challenge...I feel guilty a plate full of souls. Honestly, this was fun and easy, so why not.