Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dragon Dynasty Dim Sum

I love dim-sum. As simple as that.

And even though I am told that a lot of dim-sum restaurants are moving towards a system where you order the dishes from the menu, I like the traditional ones where they bring the food in carts, with circular bamboo containers stacked one over another with the various dumplings and other dishes.

And I had not had been to a dim-sum place since June, when I was in Vancouver. So, it was time to visit one, and this time I went to Dragon Dynasty in Scarborough, Ontario.

Dragon Dynasty is located within the Chartwell Mall, one of the Asian (non-North Americans read: Asian here means East Asia/China)malls with a number of, well, Asian stores and even a food court, all selling Asian food.

It is always a good strategy to reserve if one wants to take a trip to a dim-sum restaurant, for they are always full. But I did not reserve and fortunately, had to wait just about twenty minutes.

One reason I love dim sum is the ambience; with Chinese families sitting together eating and engaging in pep, or even passionate, talks while some reading newspapers.

But one of my weaknesses with dim-sum dishes is that I do not know the significance of most of the dishes. I mean, is there a difference between the dumplings with just shrimp or with shrimp and some other vegetable, other than the content? What is the significance of the envelopes – some with translucent wraps while some of sturdy flour wraps?

I usually barge into the bamboo trays and order whatever I know and I feel I like; so, usually I end up with having eaten different types of dumplings filled with either shrimps or shrimps with something else. Then I go for rice noodle roles, which are longer and wider white roles, often served in small plate in paris with sweet soya sauce.

Then of course is what I call the sticky rice. I don’t know where I got the name, but I think it is the lotus leaf rice – a mixture of glutinous rice together with egg and mushrooms wrapped in a lotus leaf.

If blind ordering is bad enough, I also engage in another, almost sinful, activity; using hot sauce on every dish. For example, at times Chinese greens liked bok choy will come with its own sauce, and some types of dumplings also come with their own sauces. However, I always used the hot sauce.

Fortunately, though, I have to proudly say that I have recognised my folly of destroying a good dish by making it universal through the use of the same sauce for everything. Now, I try to dip the dish in the sauce provided. Alternatively, I also use other sauces provided for the other types of dumplings.

And it has been a good experience so far. But I hope to be able to visit a dim sum restaurant with someone, may be a Chinese, who can explain to me the fine nuances behind each of the dish.

Of course, Chinese tea is so closely connected to dim sum (supposedly, they are also called tea houses, serving, of course, tea and the light dishes), and it is here that Dragon Dynasty fails. May be they use too much tea leaves because after a while the tea turns very bitter.

Otherwise, it is a good restaurant with helpful waiting staff.

A Little About Dumplings

Dumplings are a universal dish – and they are made and enjoyed in different forms in different countries – from Peru to China.

While in Korea and Kazakhstan, they are filled with lamb, pork or beef and can be fried or steamed, in north and South India, they are used as desserts – filled with coconut and sugar or jaggery.

From Russia to Ukraine and Poland, the name can vary from pierogi to perogees, and can be savoury or sweet. In Germany and Austria, they are called by different names, from spaetzle to knoedel and can have different toppings, from ground meat to plums. I always liked the bread dumpling, but then there are also liver dumplings.

And some say papas rellenas (stuffed with potatoes or meat) in Peru can also be called dumplings.

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