I recently connected with Evelyn Chau when she was kind enough to send me a copy of her fun guidebook, Have Some Dim Sum (click here to read my full review of her book).
As someone who grew up eating dim sum, I was excited to do a Q&A with Evelyn and learn more about her. Besides being very knowledgable about dim sum, Evelyn has an impressive resume that boasts a career in TV, radio and print.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Hong Kong to Cantonese parents, my great-grandfather having left Canton to pursue his English studies in the 19th century. I was in the same Catholic School from kindergarten till Grade 12. My dad decided that Canada was the best place to continue our education, so he took my sister and me to Toronto. Upon arrival, I enrolled in Grade 13 at St. Clement’s School before taking a four-year B.A. at the University of Toronto. A week after graduation, I found a job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, doing background research for the award winning programs, Sunday Morning and As It Happens. I left the CBC as Associate Producer, having contributed to current affairs programs in Toronto, Regina and Halifax. I also did radio documentaries for CBC Short Wave on topics such as shiatsu and Chinese herbal medicine.
As a freelancer, I filed the occasional stories for English newspapers such as The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, as well as magazines such as EnRoute (Air Canada in-flight magazine), Chatelaine and Hemispheres (United Airlines magazine).
The dim sum book idea came up during the radio days when a colleague suggested I write a book to help people understand what the small plates offered. There is such a variety of tastes and textures in one meal. Nothing in the world matches the scope of dim sum, I thought. The result of that discussion was Have Some Dim Sum!
List three fun facts about yourself that we wouldn’t read in your ‘official’ bio.
Three fun facts about me? I’d love to get my hands on a cute blow-torch and experiment with Chinese egg-tarts. I like smoked anything, including cheese, fish, oysters, and bacon, of course. I enjoy sprouting brown rice and legumes, especially black lentils, which will find their way into some dumplings.
What are your favourite dim sum dishes?
My favourite dim sum dish depends on the day. 🙂 If I have to choose one, I’ll say the “hockey puck”. It’s a shrimp and chive “puck” that’s wrapped in a light dough and pan-fried. I like it with a soy and Chinese vinegar dipping sauce. Yum. My other favourites also include the ones listed on answer #4.
For someone brand new to dim sum, what are 5 dishes you’d recommend to get them started?
For someone brand new to dim sum and who has no food restrictions, I’d start with the classics:
* Ha Gow – steamed shrimp dumplings)
* Siu Long Bao – Northern Chinese steamed dumplings with a very juicy meat filling)
* Daikon squares – grated daikon studded with diced, cured meats steamed then pan-fried)
* Potstickers – crescent dumplings with meat filling
* Sesame Balls – golf-ball sized deep fried dessert with sweet lotus-seed puree
Cart or No-Cart (aka List Ordering) – which do you prefer?
I prefer to order by list and have people come around only with the occasional trays of specials.
What’s one aspect of the dim sum experience that you believe has changed or evolved the most in the last 30-40 years?
In the last 30-40 years, dim sum has become cosmopolitan. For example, we have incorporated Japanese nori sheets into daikon squares. It’s also acceptable to put mango dices and mayo into deep fried dessert wontons. Dim sum is about themes and variations, so it’s natural to absorb ideas from other parts of the world.
Has Canada caught up to Hong Kong in terms of the quality of dim sum?
I’ve not thought about who’s caught up to whom, but I think Canada, especially in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, has dim sum that can stand up to tough scrutiny.
Here in North America, where do you think some of the best dim sum can be found?
Some of the best dim sum can be found, naturally, in Vancouver where seafood is plentiful and fresh; and in Toronto, where some good chefs have put down roots.
Can you tell us a little more about the Dim Sum multi-media project mentioned at the back of the book?
I did a food trivia game for serious food lovers and it’s not limited to Chinese food or dim sum. It has over 700 questions in five categories.
Any plans for another book?
I’ve not made book plans for the immediate future.
A very special thank you to Evelyn for taking the time to answer my questions!
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Have Some Dim Sum and a limited number of copies have been printed for the celebration. Click here to purchase your own copy of Have Some Dim Sum.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I do not receive any benefits or commissions from the book purchase link. All opinions expressed are my own. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.