Chef Wang Yixuan, head chef, Yauatcha India is a dim sum expert from China who is creating new innovations in the restaurants offering 44 varieties of classical dim sum in a modern way for the discerning Indian clientele By Sudipta Dev
Michelin star restaurant Yauatcha is a modern interpretation of the traditional Chinese dim sum tea-house. Launched in London in 2004, Yauatcha is located in four Indian cities – Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. Recently a new menu was curated by Chef Wang Yixuan, who has been appointed as consultant dim sum and head chef of Yauatcha India. Chef Wang is an expert in dim sum making, and has perfected the craft in the last 23 years, along with modern Cantonese cuisine. Having worked in many well known restaurants and hotels across China, he is excited about introducing a whole new range of dim sum varieties in India.
Giving an interesting account of the history of dim sums, Chef Wang says, “Dim sum originated in China thousands of years ago. It is a style of Cantonese food and was originally an exclusive luxury made for the Emperor and his family, but was also enjoyed by the wealthy. In the ancient times, those who travelled the Silk Road across China, required a place to rest, before continuing their journey. As a result, tea-houses opened up along the roadside of Southern China and began offering bite-sized snacks with tea as an accompaniment to the travellers. This is how, ‘Yum Cha’ was born – the act of eating dim sum and drinking tea at any time of the day.” He reminds that the purpose of dim sum is to be enjoyed as nibbles and not to satiate hunger. However, over time, dim sum became popular, being light to eat, which could be consumed anytime. “Also, the fillings can vary from vegetarian to meat and it can be steamed or fried. Recently, there is a growing popularity of dim sum in the Western world and we at Yauatcha, create dim sum that are traditional but with a modern influence,” adds the chef.
The chef was born in Guandong, China which is in the heart of Canton region. He learnt cooking from his family and grew up eating dim sum as a family activity. “I personally have always enjoyed Cantonese food, especially dim sum. And thus, started my career in dim sum making in the year of 1993,” he says. His culinary journey has included Guangzhou Yalongge Hotel, Yuexiu Tian’an Mansion, Haerbin San Diego Hotel, Chengdu Mantingfang Restaurant, Chengdu Century City Intercontinental, Wuhan Optical Valley Hilton Hotel and Sichuan Tianlun Group.
Perfecting the art
Chef Wang believes the skills needed by a chef to make great dim sum requires strong culinary foundation coupled with passion and creativity in producing dim sum that would be good to taste, as well as appetising to look at. “Passion and perseverance will always go hand in hand to be successful. As a dim sum expert, I feel immensely happy to feed people and firmly believe that the focus needs to always be on the tastes, flavours, textures, ingredients and overall preferences of the guest,” he states.
His advice to the Indian chefs who want to gain expertise in the craft of making dim sum is that they should not lose their patience, as that is key to this profession. “It is a delicate art, and needs to be mastered over time. There is no shortcut to learning how to make dim sum,” he asserts, adding that at Yauatcha the chefs take pride in creating traditional dim sum dishes with modern flavours and presentation.
Highlighting the innovation he has introduced in Yauatcha, he shares that they serve over 44 varieties of classical dim sum, in a modern way. “We use recipes that are thousands of years old, and are still received very well. What we have done is given it a modern twist, offering guests something traditional and yet so different. Keeping the Indian market in mind, I have introduced new vegetarian dim sum, to match the local preferences,” mentions Chef Wang. Yauatcha has recently refreshed its menu across India to include many new vegetarian as well as regular dim sum. Some of the new dishes include Mandarin dumpling, made with asparagus, raw papaya, corn and orange juice, hence the name of the dumpling. “Spicy har gau is our twist on the traditional har gau- where filling is spicy has chilli oil and finished with black caviar. The corn carrot and curry dumpling has curry flavoured sauce so tastes quite different,” he remarks.
According to Chef Wang, after joining Yauatcha, his primary focus has been on conceptualising new varieties of dim sum to delight the discerning palates, along with creating an artful balance of classical techniques and innovative ideas. “Our dim sum has a blend of both traditional and modern contemporary twists, either in the technique or the ingredients used. We create a variety of dim sum that can be enjoyed at any time of the day,” he says. For example, the conventional cheung fun, is updated to combine both soft and crunchy textures in the prawn, while the use of mock meat, puts a much-needed twist on the classic puff dish. Har gau, the shrimp bonnets are complicated to create and judge the skill of a chef, and the turnip cake is fried and has a thin crunchy layer on the outside with softness inside.
Are traditional dim sum chefs meeting the changing demands of the new age customers ? The chef reminds that traditionally dim sum dishes are not considered a ‘meal’ in China – it used to be a quick, convenient, ‘fast food’ that the traders used to eat on their journey. For the local farmers in China, it was a nice snack to gather around, and catch up on gossip and news at the end of the day, in the fields. “The original recipes of dim sum that are native to China, would not appeal to the Indian palate, or the Westerner’s palate in general. At Yauatcha, while we use authentic recipes for cooking, we have infused a modern interpretation to it, keeping up with the times, which appeals to all palates. Today customers too are understanding the value of age old recipes, and are open to new experiences. This greatly helps us,” he informs.
For the health conscious consumer dim sum dishes are an excellent option. Pointing out that dim sum has evolved over the years in taste, fillings, flavours, texture from region to region, and will continue to become popular as it is healthy and light, Chef Wang states, “Nowadays, people have become more conscious and aware about their health and as a result there is a preference of healthy eating, across the globe. Steamed dim sum are healthy and are packed with meat and vegetables that are fresh, for example our vegetable chive dumpling, the Crystal dumpling and the har gau.” He foresees the emergence of dim sum culture in India.