27 Nov Dim Sum Roulette
Our good friend Hana sends this photo from her recent Sunday dim sum at Fu Sing restaurant in Wan Chai. When we stoppped spitting Hong Kong milk tea all over our keyboard, we emailed her to find out what happened here, and she told us, “This is what arrived when we played Dim Sum Roulette.”
Dim Sum Roulette? For a second we were puzzled, but then we put two and two together and figured out what Hana and her pals had been up to. Here at Little Adventures in Hong Kong, we love the dim sum at Fu Sing Restaurant, and we go there a lot (if you come on one of our private guided food walks, we’ll take you to Fu Sing, too!).
At old school dim sum restaurants the waitresses walk through the room with steam trolleys heaped with delicacies–you wait for the trolley to come around, then peek into the baskets and point at what you want to eat. But here in Hong Kong nowadays, the pushcarts are passe (although you can still find them at classic old tea houses like the fabulous Lin Heung).
Fu Sing follows the dim sum system that modern Hong Kongers prefer. At Fu Sing, and most other HK dim sum restaurants, you order your dim sum from a menu, so that it arrives at the table fresh, instead of over-cooked and steamed to a soggy death which is what happens with the old pushcart system. (Unless you’re aggressive and grab your baskets just as the carts are zooming out of the kitchen, which is how we often (mis)behave at Lin Heung!)
The Fu Sing dim sum menu is printed on five or six horizontal slips of differently colored paper. The papers , and the dishes, change every day, depending on the changing seasonal specialties of the kitchen. When you sit down, you peruse the slips of paper, reading down and across the vertical rows of Chinese characters. You use a pen to tick off the dishes you want.
It’s a great system…IF you read Chinese. And if you don’t? Well, Fu Sing does have an English language menu that lists their basic and best-known specialities. But if you want the freshest, most interesting seasonal dishes and you don’t speak Chinese, you have to fly blindly, and mark a tick under random rows of Chinese characters. Then wait to see what comes out of the kitchen.
Welcome to Dim Sum Roulette!
It’s fun, exciting, and sometimes it works like a charm. Still you take your chances with Dim Sum Roulette, and occasionally you “win” the chicken foot. (or the osmanthus-infused jelly, seen here clutched in the rubbery “Phoenix Claw” which is the elegant term that we Hong Kongers use for this part of the fowl’s anatomy because it sounds a lot better.)
Here at Little Adventures in Hong Kong, we don’t believe you should approach the dim sum table as if it were a gambling table. That’s why we created the Guided Dim Sum for our clients (for more about this, and our other programs, you can email us). Come with us, and we’ll order for you from the little slips of paper to make sure you get the best dishes. And while we’re doing this, we’ll describe the dishes, so you know what you’re signing on for. Then when the food arrives, we’ll explain and describe it for you. We’ll point out the subtle ingredients you might miss, and guide your palate so that you appreciate the flavors of each bite the way a local Hong Kong person would.
With Dim Sum Roulette, you take your chances, but with Little Adventures in Hong Kong, the odds are tilted in your favor. In fact, we guarantee you’ll hit the culinary jackpot.