In countries that celebrate the Chinese New Year, more food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. Which reminds me of my time in China Town, New York City. We weren’t eating traditional New Year foods but celebrated Chinese cuisine with the most delectable dim sum.With my two girlfriends and my sister, we ventured into the banquet hall of East Market Restaurant on East Broadway, a grand venue for a Sunday dim sum family affair. It was my first time eating in New York City’s China Town and by far one of my favorite meals in the fabulous city that never sleeps and never stops serving food!
What is dim sum? I would describe it as individual portions of food that include a wide variety of steamed buns, rolls, vegetables, etc. I learned that the dim sum is meant to “touch the heart” and traditionally was served as a snack to accompany your morning tea. They are often served on small plates or small steaming bamboo baskets and at our venue we shared them around a lazy susan on a round table. The decor was flamboyant and I felt like I was eating at a dim sum wedding reception sans speeches and music. There were silver food crates that were pushed around in between the maze of tables for you to choose which dim sum plate you wanted to share. The server placed the basket or plate onto your table and stamped a piece of paper that indicated which dish we chose.
After all the lotus leaves were unwrapped and all the steamed bao’s began to expand in our tummies, we agreed our dim sum breakfast was a culinary success. All of our senses feasted and I exhaled a happy digestive sigh. I looked around as we exited the pink dining hall and quickly glanced at all the large families gathered around their Sunday dim sumsharing tables. Whether we share taro dumplings or tofu skin rolls, it is true to say that when people share food together, they certainly share a piece of their heart with eachother too. I think dim sum is certainly a food language in itself, a symbol of how food, when shared together, whether steamed or fried, does communicate straight to the heart. It certainly captured mine.
When I returned to Cape Town, I checked out the unofficial China Town strip in Sea Point. Since then, I haven’t found that NYC pink-dining-hall-with-food-crates-and-stamps restaurant yet, but I have found where to buy the frozen dim sum they sell in the restaurants. I don’t have any dim sum to defrost and celebrate the New Year, or second new moon after winter/summer solstice but will try to make a dish to share with my family in hopes it ‘touches their heart.” Or according to some superstitions related to Chinese homonyms, I’ll pan-fry some bamboo shoots to “wish that everything will be well” and find a recipe that includes black moss seaweed and dried bean curd for “wealth and fulfillment in happiness.” Happy New Year 2011!