When peering into the carts, you will see stacks and stacks of steamer baskets and small plates, filled with more food than you can imagine. The ladies open up each basket, releasing heavenly steams. "Try this one! Or this one! Or this one!" She pushes you to buy in her broken English. Your mouth salivates, because you skipped breakfast and your hungry as hell. In the midst of all the confusion, you find yourself agreeing to just about everything, even though you have no idea what the heck you just pointed at.
One of the more popular Dim Sum items is called "siu maai." They're tiny pork dumplings, wrapped in thin pieces of wonton. They're soft, warm and oh, so greasy. They blew Rick's mind. They're certainly my favorite!
The photo above shows "Har Gow," which are dumplings filled with minced shrimp.
Another favorite is "Bao," which are warm, fluffy buns filled with various ingredients. Typically, they're filled with pork and a sweet smokey sauce. You can't go wrong with them. This particular kind is steamed.
The next item is called "Shanghai steamed buns," I think. They're tiny dumplings, typically filled with pork and a warm, rich broth. Be careful when you bite into them though, because you might just squirt your neighbors. The flavors reminded me of a chicken pot pie-- so hearty and satisfying.
This is one of Briana's favorite dishes. I have no idea what it's called, but it's a kind of thick rice or flour paper filled with shrimp. When you order it, the waiter pours a brothy, sauce over it. Yum!
Here comes the chicken feet...!!!
Yeah, I'm weird. I like chicken feet. It's basically braised until the skin falls off the bones. Chicken feet itself is more of a texture than a taste. It doesn't really have a taste, unless if you season it. I would say it's a cross between eating fat and gristle. Briana and Rick thought it was just too weird for them. But I recall back to when I was a little kid. For some reason, Stater Bros. would actually sell trays of chicken feet, for none other than the Asian crowd. My dad would buy them and my mom boil them at home. Then we'd all sit around the table, gnawing on chicken feet... Sorry if I grossed you out. But it's one of my fondest childhood memories. :-)
The next dish is called "Char Siu Baau." It's very similar to "Bao" because it's filled with BBQ pork, but it's baked and sugar glazed instead of steamed. It's delightfully sweet!
Although we couldn't try everything, know that there are hundred of kinds of dim sum out there. It's always fun to come in and try something new. And it's often different from restaurant to restaurant.
If you are lucky to live by a restaurant that serves Dim Sum, I suggest that you go with someone who has been there before. It can get a little overwhelming.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that service is quite different at a real Asian restaurant. (And I'm not taking about the likes of PF Chang's.) At an Asian restaurant, waiters don't work for tips, because tipping is purely American. Although tips are appreciated, they're not expected. So don't get offended or angry if the waiters seem like they're a little rough around the edges. It's just how it is. You have to be assertive when you want something. If you go to Asia, you'll experience the same thing. And don't be afraid to say "no." Rick thought that the ladies selling Dim Sum were surprisingly very assertive, but they're just doing their job. Don't get intimidated by it. And if you don't know what to order, stick with items that have pork or shrimp in them. You'll like it.
After lunch, we walked over to the Asian Garden Mall across the street, located in Little Saigon. It's THE destination for Vietnamese people who travel to California, although Briana and I don't see what the big deal is. But Rick has been trying to get me to take him for 2 years now, so we finally went.
Rick decided to be a tourist.
He's very good at it. :-)
The Asian Garden Mall features many small vendors that sell Vietnamese food, clothes, jewelry and random knick knacks.
It's ok if you don't know how to speak Vietnamese. Most vendors know how to speak a limited amount of English. If not, just point and use your fingers. You'll get through it.
Rick liked this.
You will also find fruits that you don't normally see in American grocery stores, like Chinese apples, dragon fruit, lychee, longan and durian.
And also odd statues and images of animals... because they're supposed to be lucky, or something. Asians think everything is lucky.
The moral of the post is, if you have the opportunity to experience something different, do it!
Of course, one must not forget to visit the hanging, Chinese BBQ ducks.