April 17, 2014

Handmade Bamboo Steamer 手作竹蒸籠

bamboo, steamer, handmade, hong kong, bamboo steamer, chinese

Have I mentioned that we love bamboo?  Yes...well, let me say it again anyways:  We love bamboo!  Slowly but surely we have switched over to bamboo for most of the cooking utensils for our little kitchen, at least all those that are available in bamboo.  Our chopping boards, our spatulas, our chopsticks, our steamers...

A strong, light, durable, inexpensive, mold resistant (much more so than wood!), heat resistant, wildly beautiful material, bamboo's use in Chinese cooking is crowned by this: the wonderful fragrance and taste it subtly infuses when you cook with it!  Once you've tried it there's no going back, you'll be hooked.  Recently, in need of new bamboo steamers, we decided to make a little pilgrimage and procure ourselves a true Hong Kong handmade bamboo steamer!

bamboo, steamer, handmade, hong kong, bamboo steamer, chinese

Yes, yes, I know.  It's amazing that in this ever self destructive concrete jungle of a city, anything handmade can survive.  But survive this little family run bamboo kitchen store has and even flourished as slowly people realized that mass machine made bamboo steamers just don't have the same lasting power and good make of the hand made ones.  

So there we were, one late sunny Hong Kong afternoon, inside this dusty crowded little store, Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Co*, or 德昌森記蒸籠, that was packed from floor to ceiling with all things kitchen and bamboo.  It was so cool!

bamboo, steamer, handmade, hong kong, bamboo steamer, chinese

As Tuck Chong specializes in bamboo steamers, they stock them in all sizes from the very very tiny to the very very large type that are used by the Chinese restaurants for their hard core steaming work.  The bamboo is carefully cut to the correct thickness and size and then bent to shape.  Tiny bamboo nails are hammered in.  Finally a bit of wire is used to make the bamboo steamer extra strong.  Besides that tiny bit of wire at the end, everything else is made of bamboo!

There are also bamboo spatulas, bamboo chopsticks, bamboo wok whisks , etc.  We ended up getting a 10", 5 1/2" and 3 1/4" bamboo steamer.  The 10" is for our serious steaming.  We now have two 10" and we can stack them up for super efficient two tiered steaming.  The 5 1/2" is for steaming small meals for our little girl.  The 3 1/4" was just because it was so adorably small and perfect.  This teensy weensy bamboo steamer works though, it's not just a toy!  My little girl begged to be allowed to use her tiny steamer and so we ended up steaming one potsticker in it.  It came out just perfect!  (See the top photo of my little girl's perfectly bamboo steamed potsticker!)

bamboo, steamer, handmade, hong kong, bamboo steamer, chinese

When you are preparing to get your bamboo steamer, the most important thing is that you know the size of the pots that you want to use with the steamer.  That probably means pots that you have at home already.  The bamboo steamer will sit on the lip of the pot where the pot lid usually goes.  Measure the diameter of your pots before you buy your steamer!

Once you get your beautiful bamboo steamer home, be sure to give it a good steam before you use it.  Just steam it over boiling water for 10 minutes.  This will clean and get rid of the 'store' smell.  When you steam your food, be sure to steam your food on a plate or on top of wax paper.  (Otherwise your food will stick all over the bamboo.  Guess how I know this...)  Tuck Chong also sells pre-sized wax paper liners that fit right into the bamboo steamers.  

To clean the bamboo steamers after using just give it a good rinse under running water and set it out to dry.  Don't use any dish washing liquid on it, just scrub it lightly with a brush if necessary.  Just give it some tender loving care and you will have many glorious food years of use with your beautiful bamboo steamer!

Our favorite non food/kitchen use for bamboo!
Tip: Using bamboo steamers solves the problem of condensation drips on your food as the bamboo cover absorbs the drips.

Tips: Did you know that the Chinese eat bamboo as well?  It's really delicious and was one of my sister's favorite dishes that my Grandma made when we were little girls.  Check out our Stir Fry Bamboo and Mushroom Recipe 冬筍炒冬菇 !

*Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Co 德昌森記蒸籠 is located at 12 Western Street, Sai Wan, Hong Kong.



  1. What great photos! It's so nice to know there are still independent shops that make them by hand. One of the things I regret about contemporary life is how corporate everything has become. It really has made a difference in what we are offered as consumers (cough..Walmart). Sometimes I think people are picking up on this and that the scales might tip in the other direction...but it still feels like a pipe dream.

    Enjoy your steamers!

    1. Hey Brian - We agree with you completely about the alarming state of our global 'corporatized' lives. That's one big reason why we try our best to make things ourselves from scratch and when we buy, we try to buy from people who are making 'real' things with care and good craft. Good to know that you think it's as important as we do! ~ellen

  2. Hi
    I was googling for bamboo steamers and it led me to your blog :-) What a wonder to still be able to find such traditional shops in HK.

    I am in Singapore and the bamboo steamers sold here are limited in size and stocks.

    I am looking for bamboo steamers between the 14.5" and 15.5". My wok's diameter is 16.5"

    Do you mind to check for me their prices and availability the next time you drop by this shop? I am looking at 3 steamers and a cover....

    My email is tsw1668@yahoo.com, if you need to contact me . Thanks.

    1. Hey there, not sure when we're going by there anytime soon but you could give them a call at (852) 25488201 and ask for Mr. Lam, 林生. Hope you find what you're looking for! ~ellen

  3. Sure. Will call them. Thanks.