Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Yum Cha

On January 1st, we enjoyed such a tasty dim sum lunch in San Francisco. There was a TON of food. And tea. Major Yum Cha action.

Chinese dumplings were part of the meal. Wrapped in wonton skin and/or wrapped in other thin noodle dough. Pork-filled, shrimp-filled or filled with other tasty ingredients.
They were good. I mean goooooooooood. Perfect, actually. At least I thought so...

Many a diner in Chinese restaurants (dare I actually say 'in particular those diners of Chinese-descent'?) will talk about the food whilst eating it. What I mean is discuss in detail. As in analyze. Evaluate. Scrutinize. JUDGE.

And I do mean pick it apart.
Oftentimes, the entire meal conversation will be focused on the preparation of the food that was just ordered, labored over in the kitchen and presented now for gastronomic enjoyment.
Or not.

Typical comments: too salty, not salty enough (no flavor), ingredients chopped too fine, not chopped finely enough, overcooked meat or fish, undercooked meat or fish, stringy tough vegetables, too many vegetables, not enough vegetables, not enough sauce, too much sauce, meat not trimmed well of fat and gristle, meat is overtrimmed of fat and gristle, too much filler of baby corn, onion, bamboo shoots, celery, not enough baby corn, etc. (this comment is rarely made), etc. etc. Portion size is also looked at: not enough = skimpy. Overladen plate = Hmmmm, they give a lot. (this comment is never uttered loud enough for the restaurant staff to overhear, lest they reduce the portions next time round).
Temperature of the food is just as important as taste and portion size: Too hot to eat, too COLD to eat (this is a biggie - hot cooked Chinese food is supposed to be right off the burner piping hot when it comes to the table - ready to serve - not a minute too soon or too many minutes after final prep in the kitchen).

The 'kiss of death' comment that scares every diner away from a dish: 'NOT FRESH!'.

This all sounds negative, as in why go out to eat if every meal is a re-enactment of the panel from Iron Chef? That's just the way it is, folks - part of the (family-style Chinese) dining experience.

But really, there is a deliciously delectable positive side to the 'food talk at the table'.
The meal is well-prepared and perfectly cooked. Arrives at the table at just the right temperature. When that happens, you don't really hear a thing.
Chinese diners typically don't mmmmmmmmm and ahhhhhhhhhhh over a perfect dish of food. They just eat it. In relative silence.
After a few bites, someone will say 'Pretty good'. 'Not bad'. 'Think I'll have some more'.

Now, that'sa good review!


jessamynit said...

I am too picky for most dim sum (don't like pork or onions; or sparrows feet) but I LOVE dumplings and sweet buns and all kinds of yummy sweety things.
and sticky rice...

jessierose said...

i'm ready for more!