Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hong Kong :: Dim Sum Delight

Monday was "Respect for the Aged Day" in Japan, so I went to Hong Kong for the long weekend. You can't really mention Hong Kong without talking about the food and you can't talk about food without talking about dim sum. It's pretty tough to find good, authentic dim sum in Tokyo, so I was happy to be reunited with this Sunday morning tradition.

Really fucking happy, actually. I didn't realize how much I missed it, but once we stepped into our first tea house and I heard the clinking and clanging of tableware, I was transported to a happy place. This despite being seated at the most disgraceful seat in the house -- furthest from the kitchen! You gotta box out for the dishes you want! Naww, just kidding. Since it was lunchtime, we just ordered off an English menu, instead of the morning carts. But I would have gotten East Bay/SF Chinatown on the locals if I had to! Anyways, back to my happy place. I love snacks and can put away a ridiculous amount of food so long as there is variety. If I had to eat a huge dish of just 1 thing, I probably couldn't stomach too much of it. But place 100 little plates in front of me and I'll eat you under the table. That's a threat and a promise.

I wish I had written down the name of this particular tea house next to the Western Market. Basically, if you ride the tram down Des Vouex Road in Central, it is the dim sum restaurant next to the Western Market. There are bunch of cool old dudes off-track betting outside if you need another landmark. I'm almost certain they'll still be there if on your trip to HK.

I finally learned that these pork and shrimp rolls are called cheung fan in Cantonese. This was the first Cantonese word I looked up when we booked our tickets. This has been my favorite dim sum dish since I was a kid. Even though you're supposed to share everything on the lazy susan, my family would order me my own plates of shrimp cheung fan and just leave me alone. These are steamed rice paper rolls with pork or shrimp filling. Sounds pretty bland, but the key is the soy sauce. Cheung fan comes with its own special sweet soy sauce. I could drink it by the tubs and would save my empty plates to sop up the extra sauce with other dumplings and buns. Omagahh...I'm so disgusting. I love it.

The other must have dish at dim sum for me are phoenix talons. That's a fancy Cantonese way of saying chicken feet. Now, trust me when I say that it is not the meat of chicken's feet that appeals to me. I've been served cold, plain boiled, unsauced chicken feet (oddly enough, on a number of occasions) and they're pretty gross. (Special message to Squidward, my sister and mom -- remember those gnarly black ones we got in Vietnam?!) The dim sum style chicken feet come in a spicy black bean sauce and while they're not the sexiest things to eat (you have to spit the tiny bones out on to your plate and you constantly have sauce on your face) they just can't be resisted.

Hey wait a sec. That's not dim sum! That's right, it's not but I'm not afraid to order off the menu. When a restaurant goes out of it's way to hang their roasted meats in their window (basically every restaurant in HK), you'd better order it. This is a plate of chopped pork topped with crispy pig skin -- also a childhood favorite of mine (no seriously, I was a disgusting child! how did I have friends and not develop gout?) Salty, sweet, fatty and delicious.

Look at that shiny delicious morsel! 

Eating Dim Sum in Hong Kong was at the top of my list of things to do. Had we eaten at a tea house for every meal, I would have been perfectly happy. But we didn't. We had lots of other great food! Perhaps I will tell you more about it sometime. (Probably tomorrow.) 

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