Today we visited Chinatown for Dim Sum. We have never enjoyed the experience of authentic Dim Sum before this adventure. I try to eat a vegetarian diet, yet today, with an adventurous spirit, I knew sticking to that diet may not be possible.
If you’re not familiar with Dim Sum, it is the Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. The servers pass by your table with carts of food. They explain, as best as possible, each food item and then you choose if you want to give it a go. When you are served a dish, the server puts a small stamp on your sales slip. The stamp tells them what food item you purchased. Essentially, you run a tab that is tallied when you’ve finally had your fill of Dim Sum and then you pay your bill.
Dim Sum is very popular on Sunday. We arrived around 10am and were seated promptly. If you arrive closer to noon time, you may find yourself waiting in line for a table.
We started with two varieties of shu mai, red bean buns (my all time favorite), and a couple more shrimp dishes.
Then things got interesting. We saw the ever popular chicken feet, were offered ribs, beef items, meatballs, sausage, and a watermelon drink with tofu and honey (if I understood the explanation correctly.) We passed on the beef and other meaty items and stuck with veggie, shrimp, and tofu options. Boring to some, perhaps. It was also fun to look at other diner’s tables and see what they were ordering.
After about an hour or so we all started to slow down on the grazing. A server came by with a cart of colorful looking buns. We thought she said the one bun had seaweed inside. Yum. I like seaweed. Sure, let’s try those.
Eric passed the plate over to me…with three large, round, green balls on it.
Hmm, okay. As we joked about the green balls, the manager came over and explained what we had in front of us. The balls contained a filling from the durian fruit. Durian is the “king of fruit” in Asia. However, it is also a rather stinky fruit even though it contains a creamy interior.
Well, if I wasn’t going to eat chicken feet, I guess this item would be my culinary adventure.
Yes, it was a bright nuclear green inside, which made us laugh even more. However, the taste was rather, uhm, tasteless. I could detect a faint scent; not exactly noxious but not overly pleasant either. (I’ve since read that the stinky smell tends to dissipate by the time the durian fruit arrives in the US.)
We each tried a piece and joked about glowing later on.
Inspiration in a Chinese Grocery Store
With full bellies, we left the restaurant still talking about our experience and ventured into the shopping area of Chinatown. Here were more restaurants, bakeries, shops, and grocers.
I’ve been into a couple local Chinese grocery stores in my neck of the woods but nothing like the one Ken took us to in Chinatown.
When we entered the store, we were greeted with the smell of fresh seafood. In tanks there were eels, carp, crabs, and other critters. In the meat case were cleaned, fresh chicken, chicken feet, duck, and other items. (I glanced at both of these cases and passed them quickly.)
And then we came to the produce area. Oh.My.Goodness. Here were vibrant eggplants, squash, and huge daikon radish. So much inspiration in the colors and textures of these food items. First, the durian fruit which filled the green bun that we had at Dim Sum.
The Durian fruit has a spiky exterior which was sharp to the touch. In this picture, the spikes look like a mass of tiny bird beaks, pencil tips…or a bunch of nipples.
We didn’t get the name of the fruit shown above. It was shaped like a tear drop with these soft pink with green tipped petals. If you recognize this fruit and know its name, please let me know.
I love this okra’s bent and twisted character. It has a slightly nubby texture with little ridges. It looked rather sensual laying there.
I’m not sure of the name of the veggie pictured above. Perhaps a type of cucumber or squash? It also had a wonderful skin with ridges and bumps in the crevices. Any ideas what this might be called?
I loved the textural effect that happened with this stack of green onions. The root ends draped over the edge of the produce display like a little forest of whiskers.
Finally, I was quite taken with these Chinese long green beans. And they were long; a good 16″ at least. Laying in bundles they reminded me of long, luscious fingers longing to stroke your hand.
Thanks to Ken and Verjik for a great time in Chinatown.
Capturing My Shadow
As I lowered my cell phone with the camera still turned on, I caught a glimpse of my shadow in front of me through the camera lens. This made me giddy like a little kid. There in front of me, my elusive shadow. I remembered how we’d try to catch our shadows as kids. And there it was. Unaware.
I snapped this picture.
Finally I gotcha!