Dumplings are apparently on the vaccine priority list.
The last of the semi finals and we find Victor, Santosh, Jono and Dave locked in a fierce battle involving dim sum and so much running I think I can skip leg day this week.
The Dumpling Debacle
Today’s masterclass is from Andrew Wong owner of Michelin star restaurant A. Wong (Named after his parents Annie and Albert AND DEFINITELY NOT HIMSELF)
It’s quite sweet – he only really got into the restauranting business because he came back to help in his parents’ restaurant after his father died and he fell in love with it after rejecting it and studying chemistry and social anthropology at university.
He, much like Aktar, is keen on challenging the British perception of an often neglected cuisine – in this case Chinese – an extensively varied and vast cuisine that differs in ever single one of China’s 23 regions. His own restaurant specialises in Cantonese Dim Sum which is what he’s showcasing today.
His first dish is made up of two dim sum dumplings: A Shanghai Dumpling (or Xiaolongbao which literally translates as “little basket bun”) – they’re made by filling a dough with jellied pork fat that then melts into a liquid when steamed which gives them their flat appearance
This is also why they’re often called “Soup Dumplings” and are notoriously difficult to eat which is probably why we never get to see any of the chefs actually try them – I imagine there was many a spillage.
The second piece of dim sum is the Har Gow a dumpling with a very sticky prawn puree filling served with a Rice Vinegar Foam
It’s a notoriously difficult thing to make because the dumpling dough is meant to be translucent but still has to hold together when picked up with chopsticks and because of this it has earned the reputation of being the mark of a truly talented dim sum chef and the fear in everyone’s eyes as they watch Andrew making the dough with a very particular method of smearing it into a circle using a knife is very apparent
Not happy with just showing off his skill at dim sum Andrew whips up a very tasty take on Crispy Chilli Beef
His main focus on the dish is putting a stress on how important it is to build up the flavour of a dish using a variety of sauces and pastes and knowing exactly how much to put in and when because they’re extremely strong, bold flavours and can easily overpower a dish. Thankfully the chefs actually get to try and chilli beef – I was worried about Victor’s sugar levels.
So with that artful demonstrations the chefs now have to make 2 dishes of their own – one has to be a dim sum dumpling and the next merely has to showcase something they took away from what Andrew taught them.
Dim Sum, as we have established, is an artform that requires a series of very specialised skills so of course this round rapidly descended into chaos just about as soon as it began with everyone stumbling through the pantry of Chinese ingredients and being baffled by what any of it was (It’s an alarming 9 on the Problematic Scale). I’m so disappointed that everyone immediately gravitated towards the chicken, beef and prawns and NOBODY opted for the softshell crab -a God Tier food in Chinese restaurants.
Nobody was more at sea than Victor who started the round by declaring “I know the basics of stir fry” – major red flag there. He was having a rough time trying to roll out his dumplings into a shape that wasn’t a roll-up cigarette
I’m sure having Gregg honking in his ear like a drunk goose and Marcus looking at his dumplings like he’s doing a Popeye impression
wasn’t helping his stress levels and he took a great deal of his aggression out on the dumplings he kept having to throw in the bin
His attempt at a Dim Sum was a Satay Chicken Dumpling
And he is carefully hiding their imploded appearance between a generous helping of crumbled up crispy chicken skin. Unfortunately the dumpling tastes more of vinegar and pickling liquid than it does satay and everyone recoils in disgust as they eat it
And because Victor spent so much time on the dumplings his main dish got completely ignored and he had to make his twist on Beef in Black Bean Sauce on the fly ending up with a sort of Fried Beef with Steak Tartare with Fermented Bean Sauce and Crispy Noodles
It was disappointingly under-seasoned and uninteresting. But perhaps Victor’s biggest sin was that Satay Chicken is Indonesian and Beef in Black Bean Sauce isn’t even Chinese and like a Tikka Masala is a British invention. You fed yourself to the wolves there Victor.
Dave was also struggling with the dough but fell short of throwing it against the wall and berating it and deferred to the rolling pin rather than the old knife trick. It goes very well for him in fact as he manages to knock up a Prawn, Ginger and Chilli Dumpling that was the closest anyone got to what Andrew had created
It’s really quite impeccable – especially for someone who has never cooked a dim sum style meal in his life.
His reinvention of Crispy Duck Pancakes is also very well received
The use of Springroll Pastry in place of the pancakes was a nice touch and added the necessary texture. I imagine Andrew has seen a lot of “reinvented duck pancakes” in his time and he looked delightfully annoyed that Dave had pulled this off and that he liked it so much
While Dave and Victor tried their best to get to grips with the dough, Jono decided to bypass the whole concept and just make a Prawn Tartare and Compressed Cucumber Dumpling in which the cucumber was the dumpling dough and it did look delightfully like a Digimon in its lesser form
So squishy, so soft, so cute.
He finished it off with some XO Ketchup and Deep Fried Prawn Shell Shards because it’s Jono
The dumpling manages to hold together just long enough for Gregg to get it into his mouth but everyone agrees that the prawns would have been better fried than raw and everyone kind of just wishes it was a proper dumpling and not the weird Instagram Healthy Version that Kayleigh.Health23 is trying to suggest you make. WE DON’T WANT YOUR LETTUCE TACOS KAYLEIGH.
And then we come to Jono’s main course of Abalone Beef with Shitake Mushrooms, Wilted Greens and an Abalone Sauce which looked surprisingly normal and sounds a little bit like something you’d make at home
BUT WAIT. Jono isn’t done and he drapes a veil of tofu skin over the dish like some sort of weird marital tradition
All be upstanding for the Bean Curd Bride.
The dish is perfectly fine, it could have used a lot more interest and he could have played with the abalone sauce more and done something to jazz it up. As for the Tofu Veil, it’s described by Gregg as having the texture of a swimming cap which gives me an excellent idea for a restaurant
While everyone revelled in their varying and unique states of chaos Santosh was having an absolute ball and delighted with everything, Nepal has its own dim sum culture and he has eaten in Andrew’s restaurant before and is a big fan so is hoping to impress him by risking it all on a sweet dim sum which everyone is worried about because, in Andrew’s own words, “Cantonese dessert dumplings are notoriously awful!” – but we’ll get to dessert later. His main course is an Indo-Chinese Crispy Chilli Chicken with Sweet and Sour Vegetable, Lotus Root Crisps and a Hot and Sour Soup
It’s not particularly pretty to look at but it’s one of those rare dishes that you can just about smell and taste through the screen and Andrew is so enamoured with it I’m pretty sure he’s writing up a work contract for Santosh underneath the table.
And now for Santosh’s attempt at single-handedly redeeming dim sum desserts with his Chocolate, Date and Cashew stuffed Dumpling with a Cinnamon duster Orange Wedge that looks like the perfect amalgamation of a porpoise and a snail
I want to protect it with my whole being. I’ve imprinted on this dumpling. I am its mother now.
It’s a take on a Yomari – a sweet dumpling that is very important to the Newar communities of Nepal and even has its own festival called Yomari Punhi in which they are stored away and eaten 4 days later and the snail-like shape is very specific to them and I think Santosh did them justice.
Everyone is bowled over by just how good it is and Santosh seemingly has a future opening a dim sum sweet shop – it’s niche but it just might work.
Dave might have given Santosh a run for his money but the combination of Santosh’s dumpling and main course was a hard act to beat and Santosh is through to Finals Week leaving Jono, Dave and Victor to scrap it out in the next round.
Cooking For Survival
This was their chance at a redemption, to restore calm and clarity to the kitchen by cooking food they’re more familiar with
Between spending his time ricocheting off every available surface like a bumblebee trapped in your kitchen Victor makes a rather delicious Pan-fried Turbot with Lardo’d Scallops, Bhaji Onions Rings and Cauliflower Puree finished with a Curry Foam
And it looks stunning – I’ll forgive the slightly jaundiced foam because it does serve a purpose on the dish and compliments his garam masala spicing very well. The judges adore it and his handling of a multitude of textures, flavours and colours without making it look like something that It’s-Just-Nine-Components-Paul would’ve cooked and it was all looking so good for Victor until his dessert
It’s a “Deconstructed” Coconut Cheesecake that he proudly declares “I’ve never practiced this before!” (RED FLAG) which is served alongside a very intriguing sounding Kaffir Lime and White Peach Sorbet
It’s unfortunate that the coconut cheesecake didn’t set in time because the flavours of his dessert are wonderful but the presentation looks like The Great Cheesecake Graveyard with those almond biscuits standing up like buttery biscuit gravestones. And it was heart-breaking to see Victor go backstage where his frustration was palpable
10 minutes more and that cheesecake would have been golden.
Dave also had a few issues with his dish, the first being his main course of Smoked Venison with Roquefort Stuffed Beetroots, Confit Potato, Parsnip Puree and a Juniper Jus
Monica, seemingly at her wits ends with Marcus and Gregg’s stanning for Dave takes major issue with his style of presentation when to me it looks like every other venison dish that’s ever been served on this show – they’re all literally indistinguishable. In Dave’s defence he did handle some quite bold flavours very well – the Roquefort Cheese could easily have punched everything off the plate but in the grand scheme of MasterChef the Professionals, it’s kind of simple? And maybe he should have kept The Smoked Chocolate Bubble that he axed from the dish – I’m sure it would have been insane but I feel like Dave needs to take some sort of wild swing for the fences if he wants to to be in with a chance of winning.
His dessert is a very strawberry centric dish of a Strawberry Glazed Strawberry Bavarois, Pickled Strawberries, Strawberry Sherbert and an Over-sugared Shortbread Biscuit
Also, the saddest ice cream I’ve ever seen
LET THEM PUT IT IN THE FREEZER BEFORE THEY SERVE. I know the studio lights kill ice cream in a matter of seconds but there must be a work around so that the judges can actually taste it as an ice cream and not a custard-y glue.
Gregg and Marcus both sing his praises and then it cuts to Monica being old Debbie Downer and she HATES the presentation and is offended on behalf of the biscuit for the amount of sugar gracelessly poured on top of it
And she finishes off by just about bouncing his poor bavarois across the table and suddenly Victor’s mistakes weren’t looking too bad!
While the other two battled for elimination rights Jono was cool calm and collected knocking out an incredibly artful looking dish of Thai Veal Sweetbreads with Lychee Shavings, Crispy Noodles, Finger Limes and Raw Langoustine
It looks like the culinary version of a Final Fantasy theme – it’s just so dainty and pretty. Slightly concerned about the sudden popularity of raw shellfish, but what’s life without a risk of norovirus?
Don’t worry though, Jono’s moment of calm serenity lasted all of one dish and we’re back to the lofty heights of Bone Marrow Crème Brulee served in a Bone with his Mushroom Tiramisu made up of a Porcini White Chocolate Ganache, Shitake Sponge and Coffee Caramel finished with Grated Truffle
Not going to lie, kind of disappointed there wasn’t a whole portobello mushroom hidden in there somewhere, instead he’s using the powdered version of his chosen fungi to bring an earthy nuttiness to the dish but at least you can taste the mushrooms because as John Torode once said “I don’t care if you can make an anchovy chocolate cake if I can’t taste the anchovies.” THAT IS NOT A CHALLENGE JONO.
This round was clearly won by Jono and it’s then up for debate whether it should be Victor or Dave leaving. It’s a really difficult choice because based PURELY on this round? I think even with his setting mistake Victor clearly won – that main course was incredible but the plates he served to Andrew Wong were a unquestionable disaster. Then Dave had a stellar dim sum and two middling plates and has been consistently good from the beginning whereas Victor has had a few hiccups recently.
It’s eventually decided that Victor’s time is up – I don’t entirely agree but unless I get a hold of Alex’s time machine I can’t exactly change the outcome.