Dim sum (or dim sum supplies) in Iowa and Minnesota
I have good friends who live in Northeast Iowa (Winneshiek County). They love dim sum -- we introduced them to it when they visited us in LA -- but it's not like Decorah is exactly a bastion of Cantonese cooking... one Chinese restaurant is a buffet and the other is owned by Koreans.
Is there dim sum within a reasonable distance (let's say Mason City, Waterloo/CF, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Dubuque, La Crosse, Rochester)?
If not, is there a place where they can buy the required ingredients? Things like ginger and shrimp pose no issues, but I don't know about the availability of rice flour or wonton skins.
Finally, they go to Minneapolis/St. Paul reasonably often, what's the best place to get dim sum there?
Thanks for your help, Hounds!
As a Luther alum, I can definitely echo Ubergeek's sentiments about the lack of decent asian food in Decorah. Actually, it's really more like the lack of any decent food at all.
Anyway, I second the nomination of Jun Bo for quality dim sum. However, if they're in the mood for something other than dim sum, I tend to fall back on the following:
Thai: Taste of Thailand - Selby Avenue
Vietnamese: Lagoon (for lunch. Best $5 lunch around the capitol)
Actually, it's pretty easy to get very good Vietnamese, especially along the University corridor.
When your friends are in the Twin Cities, they can shop for dim sum supplies at United Noodle.
This huge and amazing store has a wonderful selection of equipment and ingredients (like many brands of wonton wrappers and frozen sausages).
Hmm, husband, baby and I went to Jun Bo yesterday and weren't nearly as impressed as we have been in the past. The dumplings were soggy (though still very very tasty), the steamed buns were a little dry and hard, and it seemed like the service was avoiding us with certain items (perhaps judging what we'd be interested in based on our appearances?).
Also, we never saw any veggies. I'm sure we could have ordered them from the menu, but we didn't expect to have to, you know?
Perhaps it was due to the time of day (mid-afternoon, say 2ish)?
We did try a new dish which we really enjoyed - "squid meat" (I don't know if there was a more precise name), which was several small pieces of squid cooked to a perfect chewy, not rubbery texture and dressed in gingery, scalliony yumminess.
I'll certainly go back, but my heretofore untarnished impression of Jun Bo is history.
I've always had mixed feelings about the dim sum at Jun Bo. I think it can be hit or miss, but I'm afraid I've never been able to pinpoint what factors, exactly, are driving the variations and how to control for them. I think, as with any dim sum place, you're best off going right when the service is in full-swing, when lots of dishes are coming hot out of the kitchen. You don't want to be among the first people they are serving for the day, but you definitely don't want to be among the last, either. I haven't been to Jun Bo in mid-afternoon, but, if that's past the point where the kitchen has slowed down, then the food might no longer be at its peak. Personally, I think that's a bit late in the day. Also, I've noticed that the "hits" at Jun Bo in particular are almost always the "specials" they bring out of the kitchen on trays.
In general, and I'm sure you know most of this, if you can figure out the cart circuit, you might be able to ask for a table that is best situated so that you get the dishes just as they come out of the kitchen.
Finally, if you think they are avoiding you, I've found it helps (at other dim sum places, I haven't necessarily tried it at Jun Bo) to ask for one of the more "traditional" dishes like chicken feet very early in your meal so they know you're adventurous. Also, to refer to and ask for the dishes by their traditional names if you know them. It's not really considered rude to call a cart over if they are about to pass you by and you're interested in seeing what they have.