One of my favorite events when I go and visit home (the bay area) is just indulging non stop on some dim sum, or what I refer to as dimmers. It’s one of many cuisines found in the Chinese culture. If you really want to know about the history about it, you can wiki here. This blog will only be the SURVIVAL GUIDE of how to join the satisfying experience of dimmers to the fullest.
First off, picking the right restaurant is very crucial. Sometimes the amount of people waiting could seem like the obvious choice but in reality the food and service deserves a D (luckily in Frisco, you don’t have to display it on the window). The true reason for the huge lines are either super cheap dishes or some holiday special on free tea. If you’ve picked out your “spot” with the right balance and wanna avoid the traffic, you can either be old school Chinese and be there at 9am right when it opens or the lazy hung over people that go super late at about 1pm.
Next, always designate either the best Chinese speaking person or most veteran dimmers eater on the edge of the table. That way you’ll get the best stuff and you’ll have someone to yell at the old ladies that try and force you to eat something random. By tradition, tea pouring etiquette is usually designated to the youngest male at the table but shit, we in America and its 2009. POUR ME SOME TEA!
The noise level in the restaurant is normal. You don’t exactly have to yell like the rest of the people, but enjoying your experience is encouraged with random outbursts. Don’t worry about using a fork or stabbing with the chopsticks. It takes some crafty skills to pick up a pork dumpling. When the teas out, simply make the top of the kettle exposed displaying to the waiter, more hot water!!!
Now on to the must eats! Names and descriptions please…
Har Gow – shrimp dumpling – it’s a no brainer unless you are anti-seafood. If that is the case, boo to you.
Sui Mai – pork and shrimp dumpling – I love to little red dot they put on top.
Churn Fun – Rice noodle rolls – they have a variety of main ingredients but I usually eat shrimp or beef. Topped with light soy sauce makes my mouth water.
Fung Zao – Chicken feet – don’t knock it to you try it. I kinda describe it as the Chinese sunflower seeds (not by physical resemblance). Its about flavor and texture.
Low Bak Go – turnip cake – one of my favs as a kid. These are the carts where they grill it right there. (maybe its suppose to give a street food feel, who knows). Make sure to ask them to grill it longer to get the crispier outside.
Siu Lung Bau – Shaolin bun – actually from the Shanghainese (maybe stolen) but damn so good. These dumplings are filled with meat or seafood with rich broth inside that explodes in your mouth upon biting. Be careful not to burn your mouth and to dip it in the vinegar given.
Don Tot – egg custard – basically one of many desserts but always a fav since a young buck. The best ones have a flaky crust but some experts will argue
If you’re a lover of a little spice to make everything nice, make sure to ask for the hot mustard “gai lot”. I love it so much I make it at home. If you move away from the dimmers and get fried noodles or fried rice, sometimes that alerts the cart ladies that your table no longer needs their service. So be careful what kinda signals you’re sending.
Finally comes the bill. With a typical Chinese family, this is where you watch the male elders of the table fight over the bill to uphold respect and dignity that this great meal was given by him (sometimes her). If you’re more of the type that goes Dutch, expect a reasonable $10-15 each. This is where I’ve seen some trickery. If the waiter “lo ban” (sometimes woman) calculates the check right in front of you so you can pay on demand, they sometimes try to catch you off guard by adding a few extra “taxes” on the check. But if they take it back to the register, you should be safe. FYI Most places charge for tea per person at the table ranging from $1-2.00.
I have no specific reason why I love dimmers. Maybe it’s the experience I have with the people I’m with. Maybe it’s the joy of finding a better hai gow or siu mai. Or just maybe I wish I had a dimmers plate named after myself. Only one can dream…bikini serving girls, that is.