December 30, 2018

Food for Thought

Every dim sum restaurant has a few unique items. At Jin Fong in Chinatown, I saw these two items that I haven’t seen elsewhere. The first one is rolled pancakes. There is nothing in them, but they were tasty plain, slightly eggy and sweet. The second one is fried dough covered in thick sugar syrup. My friend said this is common, but I haven’t seen it elsewhere. I’m sure it’s not good for you but I liked it.

Large dim sum restaurants, like Jin Fong and Asian Jewels, are mostly about the atmosphere, about the whole experience of picking from the carts. If you think about it, it’s not an optimal experience for food. By the time the carts arrive at your table, they are either cold or overcooked.

I personally prefer dim sum restaurants that allow you to order from a menu with photos, like Oriental Garden (next door to Jin Fong) and Tim Ho Wan. Everything arrives fresh from the kitchen, and the conversation with your friends does not have to be interrupted every time a cart arrives. And, you wouldn’t miss any of your favorite items.

The reason dim sum became popular in the US, I theorize, is that Americans wanted to see the food before they ordered it, because Chinese food was still foreign to them. There was too much risk involved in ordering from textual descriptions. This is still true for any restaurants that serve unfamiliar dishes.

I often ignore the menus, look up the restaurant on Instagram, and order by showing the photos to the waiter. It’s a superior alternative to a dim sum cart.

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