Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sum Dim Ones At Dim Sum

Boston has a thriving, if small, Chinatown section. When we lived in Boston, we used to go with friends to have Dim Sum about 3 or 4 times a year. We can get Dim Sum in Florida, but it’s not the same. While we were visting in Boston, we went out with a big group of our friends. Fortunately, most restaurants that serve Dim Sum anticipate large family groups, so they have lots of big round tables.


For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Dim Sum, it’s a kind of Chinese smorgasbord brunch. The food is continuously being prepared in the kitchen, and servers wheel around carts carrying the most recent offerings to your table. The food is primarily small portions of dumplings, custards and buns, with occasional ribs, shrimp or shellfish dishes. The portions are delivered on a plate or in a steamer. People take what appeals to them, and everyone shares, family-style. Here’s a typical cart, carrying shrimp and stuffed mussels.


In Boston, Caucasian people at Dim Sum are a significant minority. The wait staff speaks Chinese, for the most part. Usually, if you don’t speak Chinese (I don’t), you can make yourself understood by pointing at what you want and holding up fingers to indicate how many.

The server hands you your order, then picks up a bill on the table and stamps it to indicate what you’ve ordered. The bill is tallied when you leave. The only problem with Dim Sum is that if you don’t read Chinese, you have no idea what the meal will cost:


One of the delights of Dim Sum to us non-Chinese people is that the dishes are all pretty mysterious. Unless you go often, most of the food is unidentifiable. Pretty soon, the table is littered with tasty morsels, and everyone picks away at it:


Of course, some people are a bit put off by the food, which does not resemble American food in any way. One friend of ours wouldn’t touch anything, because she said it all looked like “placentas.” Another friend of mine gagged at the sight of a dish containing a duck-meat meatball clutched in the foot of the duck who had donated the meat. My daughter, a skeptic, examined her food closely before trying it.


Not everything is a treat. We ordered a plate of these things, which everyone referred to as “implants.”


I managed to remove a bite-size wad of one and tasted it, to everyone’s amusement. It tasted like half-congealed Elmer’s glue, covered with coconut sprinkles.



I imagine the guys in the kitchen dreaming up these weird things and telling the servers to wheel them by the Round-Eye’s table. Bets are placed, and if anyone eats it, one of the cooks goes home with wads of cash.

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