I feel a little un-Australian admitting this, but here it is: I’m not a big fan of yum cha. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the food: pillowy-soft buns stuffed with barbecue pork; gelatinous dumplings full of prawns and mushrooms; and steamer baskets holding untold culinary delights, but it’s the atmosphere of borderline chaos that gets to me.
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3 Jul 2013 - 4:48 PM  UPDATED 21 Aug 2014 - 11:30 AM

I’m not a huge one for crowds, so the mayhem of a full-blown, Sunday morning yum cha extravaganza tends to fill me with fear rather than excitement. So, this month’s cover story on how to make yum cha classics at home is perfect – food I love in the quiet and comfort of my own kitchen. What more could a barbecue-pork lover want?

Given it was just Mr Ed and I at home, I decided to limit myself to two of the yum cha recipes – rather than recreate the full banquet. (However, having tasted the prawn toasts with spicy mayo when we photographed them, I’d happily eat an entire batch by myself.) I decided on the spring onion pancakes so I could try the technique of rolling out the dough into a round, then rolling it into a spring onion-filled sausage and then rolling it flat again – aka playing with your food as a grown up. I also made the char siu pork belly. Because it’s pork belly, obviously.

The pancakes are just flour and water – what could be easier? When it comes to kneading, I think I’ve been short-changing some of my recent doughs, so this time around I set my timer for six minutes. The result was soft, silky dough that then rested for an hour in an oil bath. Or, rather, rested for 19 hours in an oil bath, as Mr Ed suddenly developed a raging case of cabin fever and we had to leave the house immediately instead of enjoying a delicious homemade yum cha spread. All was well and that gave the pork plenty of time to marinate. Another great thing about these dishes was that I already had all the ingredients in the pantry.

My pancake-rolling technique definitely improved as I went, and it was one of those simple-yet-satisfying things that I found quite pleasurable. The pork pieces were already in the oven and, at the halfway mark, I drained the juices from the pan as I wanted crispy pork, not boiled pork. Crispy pork was what I got, along with a pan that’s going to be soaking for a while. The pancakes fried up just like they’re supposed to, though I probably left a couple of them in a little too long – lashings of chilli-laced sauce soon solved that problem.
My verdict? Easy, delicious and a lot quieter than heading to Chinatown.

Do you love chaos or calm?

Editor, SBS Feast