19 May 2019
Few restaurants serve the wafer crispy shrimp wonton nowadays because its preparation requires outstanding culinary skills. Photo: HKEJ
Few restaurants serve the wafer crispy shrimp wonton nowadays because its preparation requires outstanding culinary skills. Photo: HKEJ

Daughter’s love breathes new life into long-lost dish

Genuine Lamma Hilton Fishing Village Restaurant is an exclusive dining place in Sok Kwu Wan on the eastern coast of Lamma Island.

Over 50 years ago, a couple acquired a piece of lot along the bay plus an adjoining pier to establish a restaurant.

Since they owned the place, the Chiangs were not concerned about rent hikes and were able to focus on creating excellent dishes and developing their catering service.

They also didn’t bother about putting up adverts to attract customers. The restaurant gained fame purely by word of mouth.

Since it is one of a kind, it faced little competition and could afford to serve only the best.

Its pièce de résistance is an almost forgotten Cantonese dim sum, the wafer crispy shrimp wonton.

According to Tina Chiang, the restaurant’s second-generation owner, the wafer-thin edible glutinous rice wrappers used in making the dumplings were similar to the ones used to wrap White Rabbit creamy candies.

Among the dishes that used the wrapping and became famous during the ’70s were scallop and mango wafer rolls.

Wafer sheets are seldom used in making dim sums nowadays because they require outstanding culinary skills.

The chef, for example, must maintain the right oil temperature during frying. Also, if the fillings are too damp, the wrappers will melt right away.

At Genuine Lamma Hilton, division of labor is involved in the making of wafer crispy shrimp wontons.

Four chefs set aside whatever else they are doing to be able to concentrate on the task at hand.

The first chef removes the shells of the shrimps, the second dries the shrimps, the third wraps the shrimps with wafer sheets, and the last takes care of frying the dumplings.

My friend Cheung Ka-yu, himself an experienced chef, told me that the dish is quite challenging to prepare because the raw fillings require a longer time to fry than the wrappers.

It would seem impossible to have the fillings well cooked while the outer layer of the dumpling is kept golden in color.

Using pre-cooked fillings is not an option either as the resulting taste is quite inferior.

So why would the restaurant bother to offer such a difficult dish?

The answer, Tina said, is love. The restaurant serves the dish as a daughter’s tribute to her late mother who loved the dumplings very much. It’s as simple as that.

Tina’s mother became fond of the dish in the ’60s at the Hong Kong Life Saving Society clubhouse at Repulse Bay, which was founded by her husband.

Back then the wife of the agriculture and fisheries director also liked the dim sum so much that she dubbed it Repulse Bay wontons.

The original version had fresh shrimps embedded in minced shrimp paste in wafer wrappers.

Thanks to Tina’s love, succeeding generations of food lovers can still enjoy this legendary dish of yore.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 7

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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