SF Chronicle article on Bay Area dim sum.
- PeterL Jan 28, 2009 07:47 AM
An attempt to be a comprehensive list of bay area dim sum restaurants. It does cover a wide range, although it missed Fremont and Milpitas. Interesting to see a list of dim sum houses in the north bay.
I am sure everyone will agree and disagree with this assessment of the state of dim sum in the Bay Area.
In terms of the restaurant listings, it's a good general and fairly comprehensive guide of the more well known ones, inclusive of "old timers", and a few new ones (well new perhaps that I've never heard of). They've left out Diamond Harbor (replacing the former Mr Fong's, and also Mr Fong's in Daly City (for those who may want to splurge on lobster gow or abalone siu mai).
I will say that Northerners (and to an extent Taiwanese expats) in general have a slightly different approach to dim sum versus Cantonese, so that is just one opinion that sfgate is using for the article. Now if only sfgate took in the viewpoints of people like Melanie, Chandavkl, Yimster, and others of Cantonese extraction who know the dim sum scenes of HK/Southern China, Toronto/Vancouver in addition, then maybe there will be a more balanced viewpoint. EDIT: I just noticed the comments section...had no idea Cecilia's son is Philip (of PF Chang's)..... I guess we'll have to form our own opinions now..
Now if we are really really picky, har gow should have at least 12 pleats. The skins should be translucent yes, but it also shouldn't be too thick or rupture too easily after steaming. It's basically an art form (like steaming fish). Do it right and capture the fresh sweet shrimp juices coming out. The shrimp should also be clean and gutted (ie the intestines and yucky black lining removed). Some places add fat, and some include bamboo shoot with varying thickness/width.
Siu mai - well similar to Chinese style jiaozi, and arguably XLB, the better cuts of pork to use for siu mai are upper back leg as they do in Hong Kong and anywhere around Guangzhou/Southern China. Interesting that the siu mai skins in the sfgate pictures looked more light brown vs golden yellow, so someone must have skimmed on the eggs/duck eggs in making the skins...
I suppose the only two Cantonese dim sum restaurants where I would comfortably order XLB are Yank Sing and Koi Palace. Otherwise save your XLB ordering at a Shanghainese place that does it well and frankly much better.
re: K K
There were a couple of snippy comments on the article regarding the lack of Cantonese viewpoint. Oh well.
My Cantonese family avoids XLB at dim sum places because it is really a Shanghainese thing which should be eaten in a Shanghainese restaurant. I think it is an example of Chinese restaurants trying to offer everything to everyone without being actually good at it.
The thing that bugs me about some har gow is when they jam just whole shrimp in and think they've done a good job. There should also be some minced shrimp (properly seasoned to enhance the shrimpy flavor) to bind the dumpling together.
According to a fairly well known Hong Kong author who wrote some books about the best of Hong Kong flavor, Maxim City Hall dim sum restaurant (well not always regarded highly by chowhounds in HK), their chefs teach the apprentices how to make crispy yet juicy ha gow filling:
- rub shrimp (presumably after cleaning) with sugar and flour mix and let it sit for an hour
- rinse with cold water until shrimp is translucent
- marinate with salt and pepper (to draw excess water out)
- then mix in sugar and flour (to absorb the excess water)
- add sesame oil, place the mix in the refrigerator to allow for hmmm what's the proper translation... to allow the filling to perhaps co-agulate.
Translating the paragraph for the board, in hopes some dim sum managers and restaurant owners see this and relay it back to their SF Bay dim sum chefs if they are not doing these extra steps....
9 to 13 pleats in ha gow is supposedly OK. 12 is a nice round #.
As far as deep fried stuff goes, going beyond wu gok (taro puff), spring rolls, sesame mochi balls (dzeen dui) is just taking the easy route (more skilled labor is required for the steamed stuff). I think I've seen shrimp stuffed deep fried crab claws at some older dim sum restaurants in Chinatown (normally typical wedding banquet fare like honey walnut prawns) but in reality a big meh and no no (which Ton Kiang seems to excel at with the fried offerings)..
re: K K
KK, there are two more XLB's at Cantonese dim sum restaurants worth ordering. Joy Luck in San Mateo and Asian Pearl in Fremont. I have had the ones at Joy Luck more times than I can count (not recently).
As for Asian Pearl in Fremont I was told they hired a Shanghai dim sum chef for that a dish as well a few more "Northern" dim sum dishes. Have not been and will not be able to go for while. Too many Lunar meal to eat and need time to lose the pounds before eating outside the family.
Dim sum restaurants lists are so hard to keep up to date since chefs move so much.
Yes Philip is the son of Cecilia which is why I have always wonder why is PF Chang's is like what it is.
I know Cecelia Chang is the queen of all Chinese culinary things in the Bay Area, but I have to say her tip of ordering one dim sum at a time and eating them like courses is ridiculous! Sure, if you're famous and you're being catered to, that's no problem. But when you're at a crowded dim sum house, it's all about survival so we always order what we can get or what comes by because you don't know when you'll see that server again.
Well in a way she has kept her old school thinking of enjoyment.
You should see how these retired elderly gents in Hong Kong in the old days (and a select few to this day in the boonies) eat their dim sum. After they do their early morning tai chi exercises in the park, they then bring their caged prized pet birds along (wooden cages too), sit down, order a pot of tea, bring a newspaper, and stay there forever. If you're lucky they may order one or two items. I doubt people can bring caged birds into dim sum restaurants in the Bay Area, but I dare say I've seen a few of these kinda gents solo at some Peninsula dim sum restaurants (a pot of tea, Chinese newspaper, and nary a dim sum item on the table for over an hour), and the managers don't say a word (they're either regulars or friends, but it boggles the mind to have a regular who only occupies a table, drinks and reads).
The other part about dim sum culture is that the typical restaurant at some point sells out of certain items, in which case the key fillers come into play, aka the stir fried rice or noodle plates to cure hunger pains where dim sum fails to succeed (choices, variety, selection, availability). I dare say some of the best stir fry rice and noodle dishes are at dim sum restaurants for SF Bay Area (over the neighborhood joint in Chinatown) if not at a HK style cafe, but it can be heart wrenching to pay $10 to $16 for something that costs close to half at places that don't serve dim sum...
For yucks and grins (and cuz I love map apps) I tried to map the restaurants in this article using the new list feature. Not sure if I found a bug or not, but I could only add the first 18 to the map. So here it is, in its incomplete state:
SfGate Dim Sum Review List
What happens when you hit #18? You should be able to put 26 in there? Or you can divide it up by regions ...
SFgate North and East Bay dim sum
SFgate South Bay, Peninsual and SF dim sum
Sometimes the site freezes up in the middle of lists, so if that is the case, try again the next day ... well really the next time you access Chowhound after shutting down. Well, actually there's other stuff you can do, but this is the simplest way to do it. I'll bet you could try to add another list item now and it would work.
If you want to link to the original article in your list you can but this in your general list description
<A href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article..." hasbox="2">Click here for Chronicle article</A>
To put a blank line between paragraphs paste this
Need to put this in or the above will truncate
Pleased to see that HANG AH made the cut. I had my first taste of dim sum there in 1959. I returned in the 70s when I moved to the west coast.and took a trip to San Francisco. Hadn't been back until recently - the only complaint I have is the slow service, but to know what you've ordered is cooked just for you - is a pleasure.