Hearty and filling, the steamed dumplings served at dim sum really stick to your ribs -- and your bamboo steamer, if you don't line it with parchment paper, Napa cabbage or leaf lettuce. But dumpling dilemmas needn't end in disaster, as a little detailed detachment -- and acidic adjustment, for the main stains -- gets your bamboo back to its bare-bones beauty.
Scrape off chunky, sticky bits of food from the steamer using a wooden chopstick or wooden scraper. Avoid using metal or hard plastic and you won't damage the bamboo.
Scrub the gummy residue from the bamboo using a soft nylon brush and run hot water over it. Don't press too hard with the brush; let the gentle friction do the work for you.
Rinse the steamer under hot running water and let it air dry before stacking it. Line the inside of the basket with a round of perforated parchment paper before storing it so it will be ready to go for the next use.
Stains and Smells
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wok or pan. Place the basket of the steamer upside-down in the wok or pan.
Set the steamer lid on top of the inverted basket. Steam the basket for 5 minutes then remove it.
Scrub the discolored portions of the basket with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water using a nylon scouring pad. Scrub firmly but not hard enough to damage the bamboo.
Steam the basket a second time for 5 minutes to remove the vinegar smell. Rinse the basket in hot water and let it air dry. Steam and scrub the basket lid using the same technique if needed.
Line the basket with parchment paper, cabbage leaves or leaf lettuce before you add the food to prevent sticking.
Don't clean the steamer with dish soap; the perfume permeates the bamboo.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.