A Taste of Childhood: Chef Tam Kwok Fung’s Glutinous Rice Dumpling Soup

For chef Tam Kwok Fung of Macau’s Jade Dragon, glutinous rice dumplings signify family reunion – a tradition that he guards zealously by keeping the recipe close to his heart.
Chefs these days are more than just cooks. They wear many hats: leader, entrepreneur, artist – but chief among them are as custodians of food history and culture. In many cases, this often comes in the form of time-honoured family recipes laced with cherished memories.

That’s no different for chef Tam Kwok Fung who helms two-Michelin-starred Jade Dragon in Macau. One of the dishes he’s fondest of is his mother’s glutinous rice dumpling soup – a savoury spin on tangyuan which is otherwise a sweet dish stuffed with fillings like red bean and sesame paste.
A Taste of Childhood: Chef Tam Kwok Fung’s Glutinous Rice Dumpling Soup | 家乡咸汤圆,谭国锋师傅的儿时美味
Home is where the hearth is

His family’s version is unique to the Cantonese-speaking region, says the chef. “Different parts of China, like Ningbo, Shanghai, Sichuan or my hometown Shunde all have their own rendition of the glutinous rice dumplings,” he explains. His mother’s version is stuffed with minced pork, stir-fried with mushrooms, shallots, chives and coriander.

While the dish itself is not served in his restaurant, it’s a recipe that he keeps close to his heart. “It carries the flavours of my mother’s hometown,” he says. “I used to follow my mother back to Shunde to visit my grandmother when I was three or four years old. We usually cook the glutinous rice dumplings in a big pot of soup and enjoy it during Winter Solstice or Lantern festival together with the whole family.”

Now that he has risen up the ranks and made a name for himself as an acclaimed chef, he adds his own flair to the dish.

“My soup is stronger than the original recipe and I have two types of dumplings, which is different from the traditional presentation,” he says.
Tradition, re-defined

First, the soup: pork shoulder is shredded and used as a base to create the clear broth. While the shoulder is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, it lends itself well for soup as it is fatty and the meat itself is tough enough to withstand hours of gentle heat. This is jazzed up with seasonal greens, shallots and coriander with a good dash of umami by way of dried shrimp.

Next comes the duo of dumplings. While the traditional version calls for dough that’s entirely made of glutinous rice flour, chef Tam incorporates his with wheat flour and a touch of sugar. “Wheat flour is gluten free, which gives rise to the chewy texture of the dumplings,” he notes.

One dumpling is stuffed with the minced meat while the other is plain. The minced meat version is deep fried until it sports a golden hue, which chef Tam says is redoelent of a classic Cantonese dim sum.
As Mooncake festival approaches, chef Tam notes the significance of the dumpling during this festival: “Mooncake Festival is a time for family reunions, and the glutinous rice dumpling is particularly symbolic - It is when the whole family comes together to cook and enjoy a meal. “
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