Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dim Sum

National Palace Museum Restaurant (Taipei, Taiwan)-afternoon dim sum
Dim Sum (ying3 cha2 or yum cha) is for breakfast, brunch, or Chinese afternoon tea, but over time it has evolved into a proper meal. The incredible variety induces you to order enough dishes to fill your tummy unlike the Western afternon tea selection of 3: tea sandwiches, scones, and mini pastries.

The standard dishes at any dim sum restaurant are: ha gao (steamed shrimp dumplings with rice wrapper), shu mai (steamed pork), luo buo gao (pan-fried turnip cake with Chinese sausage), cha shao bao (steamed or baked Chinese BBQ pork bun)

(a dim sum restaurant in Chicago)-Ha Gao and Shu Mai

(a dim sum restaurant in Chicago)-Luo Buo Gao

From there, you can venture into the safe zone or the more adventurous.

Let's start with the tasty safe dishes: pan-fried shrimp-stuffed eggplants, fried or steamed tofu topped with shrimp, fried or steamed bean curd skin rolls filled with pork and bamboo shoots, steamed sticky rice, egg custards, pudding, all sorts of buns, rice porridge, all sorts of dumplings, steamed pork ribs in black bean sauce, chilled noodles filled with shrimp or pork in soy sauce, fried taro paste filled with ground pork, eggrolls with a variety of fillings, bell peppers pan-fried with shrimp. This list can go on forever.

(a dim sum restaurant in Chicago)-Pan-fried Shrimp-stuffed Eggplants and Shrimp Eggrolls (foreground) with Fried Taro Paste with ground pork (back)

Now to the bold, exciting stuff. N.B. Do not make faces and cringe at food that's not common in your cuisine. It may be exotic or even offensive to you, but it's a culinary norm for others. I have my limits too; many times my mental capacity for certain food consumption stops short. Everyone draws the line somewhere unless you're Andrew Zimmerman, and even the mighty Zimmerman met his match in Taiwan's stinky tofu.
Some dishes that had always been part of our dim sum repertoire are: phoenix talons (chicken feet), beef tripe, and coagulated pork's blood.

(a dim sum restaurant in Chicago)-Beef Tripe and Phoenix Talons

Chicken feet is really all about eating chicken skin. That's not at all unusual, right? Plenty of people eat the skin from fried chicken. The only other thing about chicken feet is the tendon on the pad of the feet.
I loved beef tripe and pork's blood as a kid. Then I found out what they were, and I hit a mental block. Tripe has a good snap and has convenient pockets for holding yummy sauce. Pork's blood looks like brown tofu (that's exactly what I thought when still ignorant) and tastes kinda like tofu but won't give as easily when you gently press down on it with your teeth. The sauce makes this dish, just like with any tofu dish.

The best dim sum restaurant in Austin is Chinatown on Mopac. There's great variety, and the presentation is often times superior to dim sums in Hong Kong and Taiwan. You can taste how the ingredients they use here are fresher than others in Austin. However, Chinatown serves quite a few dishes that are American-Chinese and thus not dim sum fare during their dim sum hours. They are also more expensive than the standard dim sum restaurants in the U.S.
Chili Oil and Shrimp Dumplings

Sticky Rice-filled with ground pork and mushrooms and Ground Pork Wrapped with Bean Curd Skin

Fried Tofu with Shrimp and Steamed Tofu with Shrimp
Desserts: Fermented Sticky Rice Cakes and Mochi filled with red bean paste

No comments:

Post a Comment