Fast-paced and frenetic: how I would best describe both Dim Sum at the Oriental Pearl on a Sunday afternoon and my almost 2-year old Little A’s personality. The frenzied parade of carts stacked with bamboo steamers circling around large tables with spinning lazy-Susans is a perfect match for my little man. It offers variety and speed at your fingertips; no song or dance is needed to occupy your Little Foodies, unlike the typically slammed Sunday-brunch restaurants in town. You sit, and you are immediately served.
When it comes to Dim Sum, my husband and I practice what we preach to Big and Little A: “try it and you make like it.” We certainly have our favorites, including the cloud-like steamed BBQ pork buns (cha siu bao) and chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. Big A is always game for dumplings, with steamed shrimp (har gau) topping her list of favorites . Little A loves the sticky rice with sausage. My personal favorite is the omni-present siu mai or open-topped steamed pork dumpling and rolled rice noodles (cheong fan) stuffed with shrimp or beef and drizzled with sweet soy sauce.
We even recently tried, at the insistence our friends’ daughter, the fried, steamed chicken feet (fung zao). She claimed it was not her “Chinese cup of tea,” nor was it ours, sporting a unique texture only experience when sucking on the digits of a chicken. Big A was not going near it, no matter what the bribe. Little A, too young to know better, or perhaps the true foodie of the family, seemed to enjoy the taste of sweet and savory fermented soy bean sauce. Of course any Little Foodie loves dessert, often prematurely presented before you feel as if they have eaten an adequate meal. My Little Foodies particularly love the simple Malaysian steamed sponge cake (ma lai go), which is perfect for the parents while finishing off that last cup of tea!
10 Tips to Dim Sum
1) Try it…you might like it. Even the chicken feet!
2) Bring friends and share. This is what makes the Dim Sum experience fun. Cut items in half so you can try more things.
3) Drink the tea. Dim sum originated in tea houses, so it is only appropriate. Your Little Foodies will delight in a few sips in the teacups like the rest of your party.
4) Don’t order multiples of the same dish until you see the variety. Inevitably you will be stuffed right when the dish you were looking for finally rolls around.
5) If you see something that you want from across the room, don’t be afraid to get up and get it. Bring your card so it can get stamped.
6) If you don’t see what you are looking for, ask your waiter.
7) Order larger dishes off the regular menu (for picky eaters).
8) Chopsticks are the norm, but don’t feel bad requesting a fork if necessary.
9) Go with the flow when it comes to stamping. I used to be paranoid that we were getting charged more since the stamps were indecipherable, and it seemed very arbitrary as to what constituted a small, medium, and large dish. In the end, you will leave stuffed for a reasonable amount (just a few dollars for each dish).
10) Go Christmas Day! Maybe it’s because we are Jewish and there is the whole obligatory Chinese meal and movie thing going on, but if you are looking for the perfect place for a family meal, Dim Sum is the way to go!
*Warning: If you have a peanut, soy, egg, gluten, or any other allergy, I highly recommend that you not partake in the yum yum of Dim Sum.*