30 Jun Meet Mr Lam: Sai Ying Pun Bamboo Steamer 林先生：蒸籠師傅
MADE IN SYP
This story is part of a series of stories dedicated to the Spirit of Craftsmanship in Sai Ying Pun. We discovered SYP through the lens of locals. We visited 16 local craftsmen, to learn about their trade, their tools, their stories. See what they create; learn what they love and feel their passion. Now, for Mr Lam, a Sai Ying Pun Bamboo Steamer maker.
“It takes about three years to learn how to hand-make a steamer from a single piece of bamboo”
Tuck Chong Sum Kee has steamers in different shapes and sizes, they also do custom orders 德昌森記一共有十七款蒸籠，他們也會接客製化訂單
EVER POPULAR BAMBOO STEAMER
Tucked away in a Sai Ying Pun side street you find one of the last remaining places in town where bamboo steamers are still made by hand. Mr. Lam’s family has been making bamboo cooking utensils for five generations, stretching all the way back to his great-great-grandfather, who traveled between village markets in Guangdong.
Dim sum so synonymous with Hong Kong’s culinary culture, is all about bamboo baskets. Steaming helps to capture the moisture and the bamboo scent also gives the dishes their distinct flavour. “There was a time when metal steamers became popular, but they quickly went out of fashion when chefs realised the metal taste was detectable in the dim sum.” says Mr. Lam “now most restaurants insist on using bamboo steamers to bring out the authenticity and freshness of the food.”
Business was very good in the 1960s -70s with Hong Kong’s restaurant scene thriving. “We were producing baskets for places all over town and had lots of custom orders. When dim sum developed into different shapes and sizes, we also had to produce different size steamers. In addition to the 21-inch original, we now have 17 types.’ he says. “We even used to hang the bamboo steamers on a thick leather strap so that waitress could carry them around her shoulders to sell the dim sum’.
Even today Mr. Lam’s baskets are in demand. His clientele is no longer just restaurants, but the city’s creative crowd also know their way to this small workshop in Sai Ying Pun. “There was once a foreigner ordering a big batch of mini-steamers that could only hold one siumai. So tiny. Later he told me later he used it to hold his wedding cards. I liked the idea a lot”.
Tucked away in a SYP side street is one of the last remaining places where bamboo steamers are still made by hand 德昌森記蒸籠是過百年老字號，仍然手造蒸籠
Mr. Lam’s chopping block, a solid block of Singaporean timber 林師傅用新加坡木材來作鋸竹的枕木
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
“It takes a lot of skill. You need to learn how to split the bamboo, how to polish it, how to make bamboo pins and how to knit the bamboo into a basket shape.” says Lam. “It takes about three years to learn how to hand-make a steamer from a single piece of bamboo.” Mr. Lam uses a solid block of timber as a workbench. “In the 1950s-60s, Singaporean timber was imported to Hong Kong for foundation piles. It is very strong, I use it as a workbench to flatten the bamboo sticks.”
OUR PICK . Stock up on steamers large and small. Or why not buy a wooden mooncake press, a set of handmade spoons or a ginger grater.
Mr. Lam’s small workshop is the place to stock up on home-made bamboo homeware products 來德昌森記買竹製廚房用品！
Download the iDiscover Hong Kong app so you can get lost without getting lost in Sai Ying Pun下載 iDiscover Hong Kong 手機應用程式，助你輕鬆遊西營盤！
HOW TO GET THERE?
Tuck Chong Sum Kee (Sai Ying Pung Bamboo Steamer) is at 12 Western Street. For directions download the free iDiscover app or download a printable map. Get your own copy of the iDiscover Hong Kong Neighbourhood Guide.