November 2006 Edition
Festive Appetizers with an Asian Flavour

 

 

The holiday season doesn’t just mean festive main courses.  Appetizers and hors d’oeuvres are also an essential item to any successful catering or restaurant menu.  For years sausage rolls, mini quiches and Mediterranean dips have dominated the appetizer category, but now new Asian hors d’oeuvres are

making an impressive impact.

Asian appetizers are one of the fastest growing appetizer product categories in the foodservice industry.  According to David Packer of Windsor Foods, the best sellers in this category are egg rolls, spring rolls, Potstickers, wontons, Siew Mai and Cha Su Bao.  All of these fall under the category of dim sum appetizers.

The bulk of the category volume is with the egg rolls, but the largest growth segment over the past couple of years has been with Potstickers and spring rolls,” says Packer. 

Dim sum literally means “to touch your heart” and usually consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other Asian treats. Served in small single portions of four or six pieces per plate, they are similar to the French tradition of hors d’oeuvres. 

 

More than Spring Rolls

Packer says the popularity of Asian appetizers, especially in the Canadian market, is due to the large increase in the Asian population and the spread of ethnic items onto mainstream menus. 

Asian appetizers are showing up in casual theme restaurant menus, catering and banquets, and the non-commercial College & University segments,” says Packer.

But dim sum fare is not just used as finger food; it is also being used in non-traditional ways such as adding Potstickers on top of Chinese Chicken Salad or adding them to a stir fry.  Wontons are also versatile and can be served on top of salads, added to soups or deep fried and served on their own.  Wontons wrappers have even appeared in restaurants as part of a deep fried dessert that was served with ice cream.

They can also be served creatively depending on the type of food service business you own.  Because most of the food is either steamed or deep fried, the little morsels can be placed on a platter, served in bamboo steaming baskets, served on smaller plates with a sauce and garnish, or even skewered –allowing the customer to dip the whole skewer into a sauce bowl and eat while standing or walking during a cocktail party or reception.

 

Adding Your Own Tastes

Dim sum and Asian appetizers are typically served with a dipping sauce.  The two most popular are sweet & sour and Chinese hot mustard, but the choice and variety of sauces is only limited by your imagination.

“A great dipping sauce that is easy to make is taking soy sauce and adding fresh ginger and sliced green onions on top,” says Packer.  “This makes for a light sauce that enhances the flavour of the product you are eating.”

Other dipping sauces include peanut sauces, chili and sesame combined for a Thai flavour, and orange marmalade and sweet chili for a spicier dip. Deep fried wontons can also be served with a thick marinara sauce.

If Asian food is new to your clientele, the holiday season or the Chinese New Year is the perfect time to experiment. Try creating a combination platter that incorporates the more familiar items such as egg rolls and spring rolls with a couple of dumplings or fried wontons.  A little tasting can go a long way.

 

Speaking the Dim Sum Lingo

 

Spring Rolls      Consists of vegetables such as sliced carrot, cabbage, mushroom and sometimes meat rolled inside a thin rice skin and deep fried.

 

Egg Rolls          Similar to a spring roll, but instead of the wrapper being rice-based, it’s egg-based.

 

Wok Tei           Vegetarian or meat filled Potstickers which are steamed and then pan-fried. 

 

Wontons          A traditional dumpling filled typically with minced pork, coarsely diced shrimp, finely minced ginger and finely minced onions.

 

Siew Mai          Steamed pork dumplings wrapped with a thin wheat flour wrap.

 

Cha Su Bao      Steamed buns filled commonly with BBQ pork. There are also red bean and vegetarian versions of the Bao.

 

Har Gao           Steamed shrimp dumplings with whole or chopped shrimp filling that is wrapped in an almost translucent rice-flour skin.

 

Rangoon           Similar to a deep-fried wonton, the four basic ingredients in Rangoon are crab, cream cheese, green/spring onions, and wonton wrappers.

 

 

With Contributions From Windsor Foods

 

By Michelle Ponto