December 3, 2009

Dim Sum

Big case today.  Three lawyers from our firm, including me, in downtown L.A.  Afterwards, we went to Chinatown to get dim sum.  Fact is, I've never really had the dim sum experience before.

The place was busy, bustling with people.  I noticed that most of the patrons appeared to be Chinese, and took that as a good sign.  When we sat down, right away there was a lady pushing a cart by us.

"Would you like some duck?  Ve-e-ery good."

"Okay," I says.  I like duck.  It looked nicely-roasted, the color of tea.  Maybe this would be a stripped-down version of the famous Beijing Duck.  She put the duck down, marked our ticket, then picked up the plate of duck again and went away with it.

"What's up with that?" I asked my more experienced dim sum diners.

"She's heating it up." 

"Oh."

Then another lady with a cart came by.  She said something I simply could not understand at all.  My companions nodded their heads, and the lady reached into her cart and pulled out two metal pots to reveal within each four small orbs of variously-colored food, one of them covered in mushrooms and the other in what looked like chicken broth.  I took one of the darker orbs and found to my delight that it was ground pork with something inside that made it red-colored and gave it an interesting flavor, but not hot or spicy.

This pork meatball thing -- I'm sure someone told me what its name was but I forgot -- was about half the size of my fist.  There was absolutely no way I could have picked it up with chopsticks so I was trying to slice into it with a fork and reduce it into smaller-sized pieces that I could use chopsticks.  While I was doing this, still another lady came by and said in a loud voice right in my ear?  "Chao su baow?"

I turned away from trying to get into my food and looked, she had a bunch of wide, white rice noodles that had been stuffed with things.  "Thees is wit feesh, thees is wit porr, theese is wit chicken!  Try it, you like!"

"No, thanks," I said.  I wanted to eat this pork dumpling thing I hadn't even been able to slice open to get at yet.  Then, in my other, a fourth dim sum lady came by and said, "Dim sum?  I haaa dim sum!"

"Thees is vegetabo, very good.  I think you like, have some!"

"I haav with shrimm and scallo, ve-e-e-ry good."

"No thanks, " I said, and so did my friends.

Next thing I knew, my other friend had been given a plate with three white discs,  I took one of those and it was a steamed shell around bits of mushroom, bok choy, and carrots.  I grabbed one and he didn't seem to mind at all, so that worked out nicely.  Savory, if a little bland.

"No, is good!  You try, you like!"

"No, it have shrimm and scallo!"  She really put emphasis on the "scallop," as though if she said it louder, I'd understand.  "Fresh scallo!  Ve-e-ery good."

"Only good if I want to die," I said.  "I'm allergic to scallops."

"No, it good!  Here, you try."  And she put it down on the table and marked something on the bill.  Fortunately, one of my friends ate the scallop thing.

Then I turned around and there were more globular-looking food things at my other friend's side.  The duck had also re-appeared and was hot.  And tough -- a lesson I learned in Knoxville is don't microwave a duck. The meat is gamey and can't take that kind of abuse.  But they had warmed it up in a microwave and while it was warm and still had lots of good flavor, I didn't have a knife to cut through the meat.

"Shiny brokoee?"  The fifth or six dim sum cart I'd seen in less than three minutes was being pushed towards me with a set of brilliant green tentacles on top of it.

"I'm sorry?" I said.

"Shiny brokoee!  Is good vegtabo!"

"Oh, sounds great!"  And it was.  The Chinese broccoli is very long, mostly stem, and it grows in mostly thin spears like asparagus.  The florette is very small and it is served with the leaves.  They had sauteed the broccoli in what seemed like a gallon of sesame oil and served it up in oyster sauce.  It tasted delicious.

"Chicken feets?  I have chicken feets if you want!"  This newest antagonist held up orange-colored puffy tridents in tongs.  They actually looked pretty tasty, and under other circumstances I'd have tried them.

But by now, although the food itself tasted quite good, I was fed up with the service.  I was being interrupted to be offered more and more food about every twelve seconds, and could not eat anything, which was quite annoying.  So I looked around to see what the non-English speakers were doing, and that seemed to be studiously ignoring the dim sum ladies altogether.  They weren't shouting in the Chinese peoples' ears, and the Chinese diners were enjoying their lunches

So I tried to ignore the dim sum ladies and just eat my food.  I felt rude but that seemed to be the only way to get these women to leave me alone so I could eat.  Several slices of duck (they butchered the duck oddly; I got a lot of bones and gristle in a few cuts), a shrimp shu mai, pork shu mai, that white vegetable puffy thing, and a lot of Chinese broccoli later I was quite full, and had liked the food.  But the service -- the loud cries in my ear, the pushing of food on my plate even when I said I did not want it, the hawking and constant interruptions -- substantially detracted from the whole experience.

The lesson here is that very bad service can ruin even good food.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Those pork buns are available here, too, usually in convenience stores. Normally, one eats them with the hands. No chopsticks or cutting required.