“Chinese food tries to engage the mind, not just the palate. To provoke the intellect.” Nicole Mones
If I said “who wants to drink tea and eat chicken feet, shrimp, sticky rice and dumplings for brunch”, I might not get many takers. If I say who wants “dim sum” it is pretty easy to gather a crowd of friends to hit Chinatown on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
The translation of dim sum in Cantonese is “to touch your heart”. Dim sum consists of a variety of dumplings, noshes, steamed dishes and other bite sized goodies. The steamy carts circulate amongst the tables and the mark your ticket for each dish you have.
They are similar to hors d’oeuvres and usually come in small bamboo steamers or on small plates with enough for two or three people to try. It is not unusual to for a table to get two or three of each dish so everyone gets to try and then focus on their favorites.
Dim sum is a big part of the Chinese tradition of “yum cha” or drinking tea. Teahouses sprung up to accommodate weary travelers along the famous Silk Road. Rural farmers, exhausted after long hours working in the fields, would also head to the local teahouse for an afternoon of tea and relaxing conversation. Tea’s ability to aid in digestion and cleanse the palate became known, tea house proprietors began adding a variety of snacks, and the tradition of dim sum was born. Their translation to the urban setting was quite easy.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Jing Fong and Golden Unicorn are the big three and quite a spectacle. I really enjoy Oriental Garden, a smaller more intimate place a few doors from the always crowded Jing Fong on Elizabeth Street below Canal Street. A little less chaotic than the bigger places, Oriental Garden has quick service and tasty choices. You are eating within minutes of sitting. Order a couple of items off the menu and enjoy the fare from the carts.
Dim Sum is also fun to make at home and a trip to Chinatown gives you an excuse to roam the markets in search of incredible seafood, ingredients to make your own dumplings and spring rolls, among other goodies. Explore!
A dim sum visit to Chinatown also gives you a chance to pick up some of the freshest seafood in town-