This post is for my friend Tracy Kontos… Even though I’m posting it now, I hope that she can’t read this until at least March 25th;)
We had a few discussions about ‘Dim Sum’ out in LA. Tracy hadn’t had dim sum before, I on the other hand grew up with it. The best general descriptor I can give is that dim sum is a style of eating…think Asian tapas. Usually eaten around brunch time, I believe the direct translation is "with tea". You sit in a large dining room and servers wheel around carts of delicious goodies- everything from steamed dumplings, to sticky rice, to chicken feet.
Don’t be too afraid of those chicken feet, you don’t have to order them:) in fact there really isn’t so much ordering as there is pointing- as a cart comes by you point to the plates you want and wave off the ones you don’t.
As you "order" the serves will scribble something in Chinese on a clipboard at your table…that magically translates into your bill at the end of your meal, each plate is roughly $4…you just have to trust their math.
I meet my friend, Melissa in Houston’s China Town for some Sunday brunch- Asian style… After she gets lost a few times, we’re ready to order…get your pointer fingers out!
First: BBQ pork steam buns -sweet, savory, delicious, these make me happy:)
Second: Shrimp Dumplings. Translucent slightly chewy wrappers filled with steamed shrimp. Melissa is not a fan of the steamed rice dumpling skin…more for me!
Third: Chicken Feet. No Sammy Hagar here, just chicken Offal. I’ve never had these before but I’m feeling adventurous. I know that chicken feet have a lot of collagen –the same connective tissue that makes wings and ribs lip smackin’ delicious, so I have high expectations for chicken feet…I gingerly taste one. They’re okay, but not great. I feel like they’d be A LOT better deep fried (aren’t most things better deep fried?) maybe I’ll give them another chance on another day.
Fourth: Pork Spare ribs…sorry, the picture didn’t come out, but these are simple, spare ribs chopped into small pieces, steamed and tosses in a light black bean sauce. Again, Melissa doesn’t like the texture…fine with me:)
Fifth: Banh Coun (or at least the Chinese equivalent). Rice flour crepes, filled with pork (they also sometimes come with shrimp and/or black mushrooms) These are one of my favorite items, however today’s offering is a little thick on the crepe side, oh well.
Sixth: Melissa orders Wonton Soup (from the menu!) I have never ordered from a menu at Dim Sum… oh well, it looks good.
Seventh: Fried Rice. This is pretty good, it’s made with sticky rice which I like. It’s also filled with slices of sausage and bits of dried shrimp.
Eighth: Pan fried dumplings. Again, a rice flour dumpling wrapping is filled with pork and veggies, then steamed, then pan fried. Yum!
Ninth: Mung bean sesame balls. I was practically raised on these things…other kids might have gotten a candy bar from the grocery store, my family would go to the Asian grocery store after church and buy these things three for a dollar. Inside of the hollow crispy fried sesame ball is a sweet mung bean ball.
Tenth: Are we really at 10 already?! WOW!
I should note that at this point in the meal, we both start to get full…maybe fatigued is a better word. This happens. It seems like dim sum restraunt know this, because this is also when they send out carts with the really good stuff on them. The stuff you’ve been waiting all morning for. You have no possible choice but to order more food…clever folks those Dim Sum Proprietors. I should also take a moment to note that Melissa and I have not eaten every bit of food we order. The way to eat dim sum is to fill your table with small plates and take nibbles of each plate while conversing and drinking (tea), the way you would enjoy tapas, wine, and friends. Come to think of it, Dim Sum + liquor seems like a recipe for success!
Okay, back to number ten: Shrimp, wrapped in shrimp, wrapped in phyllo ribbons, deep fried. Crispy delicious, but in this case the inner shrimp is WAY overcooked…I eat around it:)
Eleven: Wings. Let me tell you something, Melissa and I know wings. We used to live in the same apartment complex and would spend countless summer nights grilling wings and throwing the bones in the bushes by the pool. I’m pretty sure if you go back to that apartment complex there is a chicken wing tree growing near the pool. Melissa has been asking me for years for my blue cord crusted wing recipe, but I’m holding out 😛 Some of the best wings I’ve ever had are from Chinese restaurants…these ones are okay, over brined, but it’s hard to find a chicken wing I don’t like.
Twelve: Shrimp on sugarcane. ground shrimp, wrapped on sugarcane, rolled in panko and fried.
And that, Tracy Kontos, is Dim Sum… I hope we get to enjoy it together soon! Not quite the culinary impact of "Tapas" at the Bazaar, but a great way to spend Sunday morning with a friend…best of all, 12 courses of pretty intricate food plus beverages: $48 bucks…not bad for 2 people!
Here’s a wide shot of our table towards the end of our meal:)