Charlotte Smith-Jarvis marks Chinese New Year with some of her favourite dim sum – and they’re not as difficult to make as you might think.

I’m often asked what my favourite food is...and the question makes me squirm. Because I don’t even know where to start. Is it British farmhouse cheese? Hill St’s amazing chocolates (also loved by Jamie Oliver)? A perfectly made Spanish jamon croqueta? A towering smashed patty burger, with sauce oozing out the side? 

My opinion could pivot on any given day. 

However, there is one foodstuff which will always put a smile on my face, and that’s dim sum. 

My friend Joel shares my addiction. He grew up in Liverpool, where Sunday lunch growing up was often spent tucking into the pick and mix delights of a dim sum trolley at a local Chinese restaurant. It’s a tradition he now follows with his own children when they go back to his home city. 

Last year on my birthday, he and his partner Sarah (one of my besties) cooked up an absolute feast of dim sum in their garden bar. Plate after plate of gyozas, dumplings and buns. It made me giddy with foodie excitement. 

Literally translated as ‘touch the heart’, eating dim sum is an occasion. In Chinese culture often long, lingering afternoons are dedicated to sampling the little bites over bottomless pots of steaming tea. 

The variety is almost endless. From (quiver) gelatinous fried chicken’s feat, to chunks of turnip cake in XO sauce, silky stuffed rice noodles, meatballs, fried dumplings, ribs – and even cute little doughy hedgehogs filled with a delicious salted egg yolk custard. 

Many are intricate and complex to make, but there are some you can recreate at home without using every single pan. They’re perfect morsels for parties.  

Note: You’ll need a two-tier bamboo steamer for some of these recipes. 

Great British Life: Veggie potstickers  Veggie potstickers   (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

Veggie potstickers  
(Makes up to 50)  

Potstickers, or gyoza as they are known in Japan, are one of the most delicious types of dim sum. The thin pastry shell melts away in the mouth and leaves you with an explosion of flavours. These are a real treat for vegetarians, although meat eaters could swap out the mushrooms for chicken, pork or prawns. Serve with your favourite Chinese dipping sauce. I like them with a mixture of sesame oil, grated garlic, chilli flakes and soy. 

1 large onion 
5cm piece fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped 
300g chestnut mushrooms 
100g white cabbage, roughly chopped 
200g carrot, roughly chopped 
2 cloves garlic 
1/2tsp ground white pepper 
2tsps sesame oil 
3tbsps Shaoxing rice wine 
2tbsps soy sauce 
1tsp sugar 
A few pinches salt 
Up to 50 gyoza/dumpling wrappers (available frozen from Asian supermarkets or online) 

Place all the ingredients expect the wrappers into a food processor and blitz until you have a rough chunky paste. You might want to go online to see how to fold the potstickers but here is the method. Take a wrapper. Wet the edges with a little water on your finger. Place a heaped teaspoon of mixture in the centre and bring up the edges (don’t seal yet) so it’s like a little Cornish pasty. Now on one side fold at the edge to make a little pleat and stick that part to the other side. Continue all the way along, making sure you pinch it well to seal. Pop into a steaming basket on greaseproof paper and cook for three to five minutes. 

Great British Life: Steamed char sui buns  Steamed char sui buns   (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)
Steamed char sui buns  
(Makes 10)  

My kids are hooked on these. The buns magically cook in just five minutes, their bouncy, sweet pillowy crumb the perfect foil for a filling of sticky, crispy pork belly.   

For the buns 
225g warm water 
1.5tsps yeast 
375g plain flour 
2tbsps caster sugar 
Pinch salt 
1/2tsp baking powder 
1tbsp oil  
For the pork 
400g lean pork belly, cut in half into pieces about 5cm long, 
1tbsp sugar 
1tbsp each light and dark soy sauce 
3tbps Shaoxing rice wine 
1 star anise 

For the buns pop all the ingredients in a bowl and knead until smooth. Cover and leave for one hour – make the pork (see below) while the dough is rising. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knock it back and knead it again then form into 10 pieces. Roll each into a ball and flatten to 10cm round circles then fold one side in just over half way so you have a half moon shape on top. Set up your steamer as per instructions and steam in the top of this (2-3 at a time) for five minutes. Serve with the pork.  
For the pork. Place the meat in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum and then drain and pat dry. Add a little oil to the pan and return the pork. Fry until golden all over then add the sugar, soy sauces, rice wine, star anise and cover again with water. Bring to the boil then turn to a simmer and cover, cooking for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and boil again until the liquid reduces and thickly coats the pork.

Great British Life: Open satay-style dumplingsOpen satay-style dumplings (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown) 
Open satay-style dumplings  
(Makes 10-12)  

Chicken satay is one of my favourite Asian dishes. Here it’s served within an open steamed dumpling. These are irresistible.  

1 clove garlic 
1 red chilli, deseeded 
1tbsp each sesame oil and rapeseed or vegetable oil 
2 chicken breasts finely chopped 
1tbsp light soy sauce 
1tsp curry powder 
1.5tsp sugar 
2tbsp peanut butter 
50g coconut cream 
Salt and pepper to taste 
Gyoza or dumpling wrappers  

Finely chop the garlic and chilli and fry gently in the oils. Add the chicken and fry for five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (not the wrappers) and a dash of water. Simmer until thickened then taste for seasoning. Allow to cool.  

To make the dumplings firstly cut out small squares of greaseproof paper and set them close by. Take a wrapper. Wet the edge lightly with your finger and place a couple of teaspoons of filling in the centre. Gather up the edges to encase the filling and set on the greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining filling.  

Place a few at a time in your bamboo steamer for four to five minutes. Repeat until all are cooked.  

Great British Life: Sesame prawn ballsSesame prawn balls (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)
Sesame prawn balls  
(Makes 10 to 12)  
These are a lighter alternative to prawn toasts, which I always find a bit greasy. Make sure you use fresh prawns. And you have to chill the mixture well so it is easier to handle. Serve with sweet chilli or hoi sin dip – my favourite is made by Stoke’s Sauces. 

250g raw peeled prawns 
1 egg white 
4 spring onions 
1tbsp light soy sauce 
2cm piece of peeled fresh ginger grated 
1 clove garlic grated 
1tbsp cornflour 
Pinch salt and pepper 
100g sesame seeds 
Oil spray for cooking  

Place all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds and oil into a food processor, and blend until the mix comes together but is still a bit chunky.

Place in the fridge to chill for one hour. Now form into small balls (around the size of a walnut) in your palms and roll to coat in sesame seeds. Place on a lined tray, spritz with cooking oil, and grill, turning regularly, until golden all over.