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Dim sum items you'd never eat...or never thought you'd eat, but liked?

This year, I had 3 different co-workers come to San Francisco to work for a few weeks. They were all 25 to 30 year old, and from the Sacramento area. For lunch, I brought them each to a dim sum restaurant. Two of them had tried dim sum once or twice before, but one never even heard of dim sum. They all liked the basics such as shrimp and pork dumpling, baked pork buns, rice rolls, fried items, etc.

For two coworkers, I ordered a few "exotic" items, including tripe and mochi, and both hated it, especially the tripe. Thus, when I went out with the third coworker who never had dim sum before, I stuck with "safe" items. One coworker said he had tried fried calamari before, so I ordered the dim sum version But he did not like the dim sum version because the calamari pieces were too big. He was used to small calamari circles. I assume that if the dish came with the tentacles (which it did not), all three would have been disgusted...

Wanted to ask Chowhounders whether there's dim sum items you or someone you know would never eat or items you have eaten but would not eat again. Conversely, are there items you thought you wouldn't like, but ended up liking it?

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  1. I have a friend who is very uneasy around unusual textures. She doesn't like the idea of dumplings with mystery items hidden inside. Dim-sum for her was a disaster. I love it, but there are definitely a couple of items that I won't touch, namely the mixed stewed tripe dish and the book tripe dish. Oddly, I like the honeycomb tripe. I just strongly dislike the other types. There's also a heady bile-like thing going on that turns me off. I also avoid the riblets, be they beef or pork. I find them gristly and unchewable, most of the time. Beyond that, while there are items I don't order because I am not a fan, I'd try most anything. As for what I never thought I'd eat, but liked, I'd have to mention thousand year old eggs with pork in congee. The preserved eggs work in that dish. Very tasty. Chicken feet are another. They're not appetizing looking, don't offer much in terms of eating, but boy are they tasty when stewed with 5-spice! This isn't a dim-sum item, but at Chinese BBQ places there is often a steam table with sundry pig parts that have been stewed in a master sauce. I have to admit I've been won over to the intestines and pig tongues. The pig's ears didn't thrill me, though. Too much crunch.

    To people that turn up their noses at the weird variety of delicacies served up at dim-sum houses, I always suggest that they try at least one bite of everything, before declaring that something isn't of interest to them. How can they know until they've tried it? Dim-sum is probably the chief reason I eat pork. I never used to care for it much, but knowing that many dim-sum items have pork in some form incorporated into them made me take a stronger look at pork's versatility and ability to carry flavour. I'm a total convert now.

    1. The first time I ordered curried squid, I only did it because I was hungry, and that seemed to be the only cart that was coming around. Now, it's one of my 'must-have' selections when I go out for dim sum.

      1. I assume those three fellows you brought out to dim-sum were all gwailo. (What is it about these kinds of 'less usual' dishes that squick out chaps like them?)

        A food blogger (caucasian) here once wrote about how utterly repellent a dim-sum item in a local restaurant was in smell and taste...the best guess I could come up with as to why (after revisiting the place myself and sampling (again) said dish as described in the blog; and an exchange of comments with the blogger) was the inclusion of dried prawns [har mai] in that version of loh mai fan. Odd. I found it fine but clearly the blogger and her dining companion did not.

        I myself generally eat all types of dim-sum. None are ever repulsive to me although some are preferred over others. At times, depending on the restaurant, some items are pushed aside unfinished but that would be because they were poorly made or were of poor quality, not because they were unpalatable just merely for being what they were.

        1. -Jellyfish

          -chicken feet

          Okay, I wouldn't go as far as to say I liked them, but I thought they were interesting and fun and didn't think they tasted badly. I enjoyed watching the Asian folks eat the feet with their chopsticks. How they would bite off a toe and then spit out the bones, catching them with their chopsticks. Impressive!

          4 Replies
            1. re: huiray

              Me too. Didn't start out eating them but they're one of my must-haves now. I cheat and stab the foot with my chopsticks or it gets away from me.

            2. re: lynnlato

              I agree on the chicken feet. Not something I would ever develop a craving for, but it was unique!

              1. re: lynnlato

                I love chicken feet. I grew up eating them in a Jewish context.

              2. I am gwailo, but grew up eating a wide variety of food, and my mother loves offal. But dim sum remains somewhat exotic as I have been less than 10 times in my life. Tripe I have tried in the past but didn't like it, was like chewing on rubber bands that would never break down, basically did not seem edible to me. I should give it another try. Chicken feet, the first time I had them were kind of a 'dare' and I thought they were okay. I wasn't really looking to enjoy them and just found them edible. I had them again recently and thought they were amazing. I've always liked rich, fatty, collagenous meats but only more so as I get older.

                I still find dim sum overall as a meal very heavy and lacking in vegetable and acid flavours to cut the fat... are there items I should be ordering to break things up a bit?

                4 Replies
                1. re: julesrules

                  Most dim-sum places ought to have kai lan (or gai lan) [chinese broccoli: Brassica oleracea Alboglabra group] available as part of dim-sum service, blanched in oiled water or briefly cooked similarly and drizzled with some sauce, usually "oyster sauce" or a preparation including "oyster sauce". Ask for it if it does not appear in the circulation of trays/carts.

                  1. re: huiray

                    At one restaurant I tried duck tongues. Interesting flavour, but didn't love the cartilage crunchiness in each tongue. I've see duck webs (feet) on a couple of menus. I didn't have the guts to order it for fear that I wouldn't like it and would leave the dish uneaten. With a few adventurous friends, I'd be willing to sample them, though.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      Cartilage? Did you eat the bone in the duck tongues? Usually people spit them out.

                      Duck webs are fairly similar to chicken feet in texture.

                  2. re: julesrules

                    The first thing I do is order vegetables, as huiray recommended. Pea sprouts, chinese broccoli, baby bok choy, whatever they say they have when we ask. I find the cart dishes filling but the tea, and taking your time, makes a big difference.