NO-MSG

DIM SIMS & OTHER MISUNDERSTANDINGS

Priorities. The first order of things when I moved to our new premises @ 123 Eagle Street, Brisbane, was to recce the food situation. Important job… scratch that, VITAL job. I made my way to the nearest foodcourt. I noticed a suit eyeing up the California roll in the glass display at a sushi joint. Naturally, I leaned over just enough to not breach a safe distance (responsible 1.5 metre adherer, that I am!) and politely asked if there were any good Chinese food places in the area.

The guy took two steps away, just enough to not breach the safe distance (must have confused the 4sqm rule with – stay four metres away from everyone!) and pointed to an adjacent mom and pop store. He said “They sell pretty good dim sims.”

Sacrilege, I thought, as I smiled, nodded my ‘thank you’, and whispered under my breath “1.5 metres, it’s only 1.5 metres ya big dim sim”.

1. DIM SIMS ARE NOT CHINESE

Have you ever ordered a dim sim from your local fish & chip shop, assuming it was Chinese? Have you ever ordered dim sim in a Chinese takeaway? Let me be the first to tell you that there is no such thing as a Chinese dim sim.

I'll have two dim sims”

– Nobody in China

Not to be confused with dim dum, dim sim is an Australian food invention. It was invented by Melbourne entrepreneur William Wing Young for his food processing company that supplied snacks to football stadiums. Also known as the “South Melbourne Dim Sim” or “Dimmy”, this commercial snack food tastes something resembling a dumpling. Filled with a minced meat of questionable origin, cabbage, and seasoning, encased in a wrapper that is a bit doughier than traditional Chinese dumplings.

Interestingly, the dim sim was not Mr Wing Young’s only contribution to Australian fish and chip culture. He also invented the chicken roll, later commercialised by Australian businessman Frank McEnroe as the famous Chiko Roll. Well there you have it!

So, what’s Dim Sum then?

You’ve heard of yum cha, right? Yum Cha means “drink tea”, dim sum is all the cool stuff that goes with it; a plethora of bite-sized portions, traditionally served in bamboo steamer baskets. The tea and dim sum go together. It’s a style of Chinese cuisine. It’s an experience.

At nextThursday we love dim sum. Our financial director Wendy Walklate’s ‘top shelf’ recommendation is Brisbane’s Donna Chang. In fact, she loves it so much that she invited the whole gang one Friday night.

Donna Chang boasts specialised dim sum chefs that produce a variety of handcrafted dumplings and yum cha daily, using creative flavour combinations, best quality ingredients, and fresh locally sourced seafood. Disclaimer: I am a bit of a Sunnybank purist, so I tend to steer away from modernisations of Chinese cuisine. However, I must say that I was impressed with the food and would recommend this Brisbane haunt to any person not fettered by the price tag.

A lot better than ‘dim sim’. Lol.

2. Emperor Nasi Goreng DID NOT BUILD THE Great Wall OF CHINA

Remember Telstra’s Great Wall Of China ad?

For the dim sim guy on Eagle Street, who may not get the joke… it was in fact not Emperor Nasi Goreng who built the Great Wall of China to keep his carrots safe from the evil vermon in the movie Bright Eyes. It was in fact, Emperor Qin Shi Huang during the Qin Dynasty.

Furthermore, Nasi Goreng is not even remotely Chinese. Nasi Goreng is Indonesian for ‘fried rice’. But, I guess that’s the joke. Cultural misunderstandings are funny, eh Telstra.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide you with any good Indonesian restaurant recommendations in Brisbane, but, I DO like to cook a bit of Indo – so can point you in the direction of some starter ingredients here. Bamboe Indonesian Spices can be found in most asian grocery stores and will change your life. That, and knowing how to use a slow-cooker.

If you are interested in Telco’s and Chinese defence systems, you can read about 5G here 🙂

3. THERE'S NO CRAB IN THE California roll

You can’t walk into an Eagle Street sushi train without finding a California roll. The California roll is a Makizushi (“rolled sushi”) rolled inside-out and containing cucumber, crab, and avocado. The outer layer of rice is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, or flying fish roe (eggs). Pictured below.

Given the popularity of sushi today, it’s hard to imagine a time when we weren’t eating raw fish, but such was the case in 1970s, when most Americans feared the thought.

The origin story of the California Roll is controversial and contested. The most accepted story of origin is that Ichiro Mashita invented the roll when he discovered that the oily texture of avocado was a perfect substitute for fatty tuna. Americans were shy of visible raw tuna, so he made the roll ‘inside-out’. Accounts of these first California Rolls, describe recipes using frozen king crab legs.

Fun Fact: These days, California rolls often do not contain real crab meat. Instead, they contain Surimi (Japanese: 擂り身 / すり身) otherwise known as ‘ground meat’, which is imitation crab meat made from fish paste. If you are allergic to shellfish, you may just still be able to enjoy a California roll! Though please note, I take no responsibility for you eating California rolls, if you are anaphylactic. Check with your GP first.

Unlike the dim sim, the California roll made its way back to Japan, where it may be called California Maki, or Kashū Maki (加州巻き). It has been reverse imported!

4. CHINESE FOOD DOES NOT SPREAD CORONAVIRUS

Seriously though, as an Australian with Chinese heritage, I’m a bit over coronavirus panic and care about our community.

Did you know that some of Brisbane’s most popular Chinese restaurants say coronavirus fears have hurt their business, with waves of unnecessary panic? In one ABC report, a Sunnybank restaurant owner stated “We’ve had quite serious impacts, not only my business, but all around the Sunnybank area. Food establishments have dropped 50 per cent on average, but I know some businesses are even worse, as much as 70-80 per cent down on last year.” Even ‘King of Kings’ restaurant shut the doors recently. After more than 30 years of trade.

Some amazing restaurants have kept their doors open – Thank God. The Bris-famous ‘Super Bowl’ in Fortitude Valley has been upping their social media game during lock-down and building a narrative around their brand to engage with a home-captive audience. You can join their cult following on Facebook here

Did I mention, they do the best laksa? I’ve been going there since I was a little kid with my Grand Pop. The place has heritage. Hit ’em up for your next long lunch.

So there you have it, a few food myths debunked. Now, you’ve got some food facts to pow-wow over when you chow down. For more, call nextThursday. Lazrus will tell you about hangi’s and Peyton knows about good ole Yankee doodle hot dogs! And, everyone here knows heaps about how to make your brand more tasty.

David Fanning

Head Of Studio, nextThursday