Popular Post abcdefg Posted September 21, 2017 at 04:05 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted September 21, 2017 at 04:05 AM Dim sum 点心 is one of the glories of the South China Cantonese food world 粤菜。It is the fine art of leisurely early-day munching on an assortment bite-sized delicacies served in bamboo steamer baskets or on small plates. This kind of feast sometimes goes by the name of yum cha 饮茶 because these small tasty morsels are typically washed down by endless small cups of hot tea. I was fortunate enough to have had several memorable dim sum brunches last week during a trip to Macau and Hong Kong. Let me give you a look at how it works in the hope that this will help induce you give it a try, or if you are already an aficionado, to go back for another dim sum adventure real soon. Three days in a row I just walked across the street from my Macau Hotel (十六浦酒店) to an unpretentious dim sum joint that's always busy and popular with locals. Their name sign boasts 御龙海鲜火锅 but their operating hours are only from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. so nobody really goes there for that. Instead 茶市点心 is clearly their principal draw. You always have to wait a few minutes for the busy waitresses to clear you a spot at one of their long communal tables, each of which seats 6 to 8 people. (Upstairs the tables are round.) Reminder: You can click the photos to enlarge them. She brings you a pencil and a check-box menu. You order your big pot of tea (mine was Tieguanyin 铁观音) and study the options, taking time out to do the ritual washing of your eating utensils. It's something I thought a bit strange initially, but by now I wash my own dishes right along with the meticulous elderly grannies. You use the scalding hot tea water from your big pot, emptying the waste into a bowl provided temporarily for that purpose. In a few minutes the waitress returns with a receipt to show that your items have been entered into their ordering system. Sometimes these dim sum menus can be really forbidding, providing only the names of the dishes in Traditional Hanzi, with no pictures or descriptions and of course no English. I always try to grab an extra menu to study back in my room in preparation for the next visit. Dim Sum works best if you go with several family members or friends so you can order lots of different items and taste each other's selections. This time I was alone, so I just planned on having some leftovers. Not ideal, but still workable. The dishes arrive in no fixed order. As they are delivered, the waitress scratches them off your receipt with her thumbnail. I always struggle with whether to order my favorites, or to try out new options that might not be as much to my liking. Shrimp dumplings 虾饺, made with fresh shrimp, is one of those things I find irresistible. I'm also a sucker for well made Cantonese turnip cake 萝卜糕, shown just below the shrimp. This time I accompanied those two with an order of plain cooked caixin 白灼菜心。It's the small tender heart of a member of the cabbage family, immensely popular in the south. I had some of these left over for a late-night snack in my room, heated together with a container of instant noodles. Lingered at table about an hour, enjoying many cups of tea and even some conversation with two neighbors. Set me back under 100 MOP. This unit of currency is the Macanese Pataca, roughly equivalent to the HKD (Hong Kong Dollar.) Time and money well spent. Returned the next morning, intent on variety. Had rolled out early, hit the gym, gone for a swim, and worked up a good appetite. Decided on shao mai 烧卖 as my most expensive item. These are made with dumpling wrappers squeezed around a filling of lean pork and shrimp combined, leaving the top open, sprinkled with crab roe. (Many recipes exist, using other ingredients.) Accompanied the shao mai with griddle cakes made with whole kernels of sweet corn 香煎玉米饼 and some plain-cooked Cantonese lettuce 白灼生菜。 The menu designates items as belonging to one of several price categories. For example, today's shao mai and the shrimp dumplings that I had yesterday are both in the 特 category, costing 28 MOP. 大点 dishes, such as the luobo gao, sell for 22 MOP, and so on down to 中点 and 小点 items. Pot of basic tea costs 8 MOP, including endless refills of hot water. Some places offer gong fu tea 功夫茶 made in small pots, but not here. Today's expedition once again did not break the bank, coming out well under 100 MOP. If I'm with others, which I prefer, we always order a bowl of porridge 粥。It is offered in many varieties and goes very well with all of these other dishes. My personal favorites are the fish slice porridge 鱼片粥 and the century egg porridge 皮蛋瘦肉粥。These bowls are just right for 2 or 3 people. Sometimes, in a group, we will add a plate of fried noodles 炒面 or fried rice 炒饭。Sometimes a plate of sliced roast pork 叉烧 or goose 烤鹅。Cantonese roast pork, in particular, is a recommended specialty item, slow cooked and glazed with honey. Here was day three. No fear of monotony. One could come here lots of times without it becoming boring. On weekends, one usually sees extended family groups from grandparents to toddlers, making a real project out of it. Cousins and nieces coming to join the big round table as others are leaving, maybe one withdrawn uncle reading the newspaper, an auntie with her knitting, empty bamboo steamer baskets piled high. Merry conversation is the order of the day. They also love to praise and show off the babes in arms. How can a restaurant handle the logistics of putting a large variety of food on all these tables, given such close quarters? They don't use magic, but they utilize available space extremely well. Food is prepared in a remote kitchen upstairs and then sent to the waitresses by means of a "dumb waiter" on the guest levels. One cashier handles all the checks, guarded by a red-faced, bearded kitchen god and and equally iconic "Hello Kitty." (Could he be 关羽, General of Shu and blood brother of Liu Bei 刘备?) Here's what I enjoyed this time around. More Cantonese specialties. No trip is complete without at least one batch of 肠粉，which are a type soft steamed rice noodle rolls, built with an interesting stuffing. Mine were 韭王鲜虾 fragrant garlic chives and fresh shrimp, served with a brown sauce. Nicely balanced, while still following the 清淡 (bland, non-spicy) dictates of Cantonese cooking. Lots of these dishes probably would not sell well in Kunming, where seasoning is more "forward." Had them with an order of plain-cooked 芥菜，usually translated as "leaf mustard." I like that it has a slightly bitter note, even though it's not very aggressive，does not entirely take over the mouth. These steamed dumplings are something I saw my neighbors eating the day before. So darned pretty I had to try them. Made with translucent rice skins and stuffed with a mix of lean pork and a vegetable I don't know how to translate (Latin name Rubia cordifolia.) The Chinese name of the dish is figurative more than it is descriptive. 瑶柱茜草。You dip them in dark aged vinegar 老陈醋。 It's borderline bad manners to ask your neighbors too many questions about their food. OK to maybe just inquire, "What is that called?" 这是什么菜？You enter a troubled zone if you add, "Does it taste good?" 好吃吗？because then they will usually smile and offer you one of their three or four bit-sized pieces whether they really want to or not. So it was another great meal for under 100 MOP, rough actual cost about 70 Chinese Yuan or $11 US Dollars. And being a "tea nut" you probably guessed I would have to play with the leaves at least once. (Tieguanyin again. 铁观音) If you go to Guangzhou, Hong Kong or Macau, be sure to make time for at least one Cantonese dim sum meal. It's a regional specialty and culinary treat not to be missed. It is now copied all over the world, but this is the source, and it remains the original Mother Lode. 6 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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