The Good - My tops include the shrimp and snow pea shoot dumplings (picture at right) that I had in San Francisco at Great Eastern. The buttery tender shrimp and fresh pea shoots seasoned with garlic was a marriage made in heaven. In Hong Kong, Luk Yu Tea House served top notch perfectly steamed classics and was one of the most satisfying dims I've summed - especially the steamed pork buns. And the place has ambiance.
Shrimp paste 'fish' in broth
The Bad - Is there really such a thing? Well, maybe. Any dim sum served at a breakfast buffet in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macau. And probably most other places. It just isn't good. I strongly suspect that this variety of dim sum comes from the freezer. Blech.
The Ugly - Phineas has a nose for finding truly local gems wherever we travel. This is normally fantastic, but it backfired one afternoon in Hong Kong. It turns out that, although I was ready for the local cuisine, I was inadequately prepared for the local manners... or hygiene... or lack there of.... You get the point. I fled, giving thanks all the way to the door that I had recently had all my shots updated.
My favorite - bean curd rollsMy observations:
- Dim sum doesn't vary all that much from place to place. And there is good dim sum to be had around the world - even Hong Kong doesn't have a monopoly.
- Ordering from a check-off menu trumps the carts. This is heresy to some, I know. The carts are fun and can add to the experience, especially for the uninitiated. But all of the best dim sum I have eaten was ordered from a menu and it arrived steaming hot and perfectly fresh, unlike what you often get off the carts.
- Cost is not an indicator of quality. The dim sum I had in Toronto was $$$, and it was beautiful to look at, but woefully under-seasoned and rather spottily done (some came fresh and hot, other items seemed like they were sitting around).
- In general, if you aren't somewhere that pays the bills by serving dim sum, just skip it. Resist the urge to try it at the breakfast buffet.
- Dim sum is enjoyable by yourself, as a couple or with a group. With a group you get to try more things, but by yourself it is still so perfectly portioned that one or two items makes a great meal.
Ducky dumplings (duck and foie gras) at Lah Wah Heen in Toronto.