Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dim Sum

Any opportunity to visit Vancouver usually involves work; picking up restaurant supplies and checking out new products and suppliers. Any free time provides an excellent opportunity to eat ethnic and eat often. All in the name of "market research"...
Dim Sum is perhaps a Chinese version of Western brunch. An afternoon affair usually offered up between 11:00 and 3:00, "Dim Sum" roughly translates from Cantonese to English as "touch the heart". It is also known as Yum Cha ("tea tasting"). Many small plates of food are served and shared, over fine tea, with friends and family. Dumplings, steamed buns, veggies and sweets are all to be enjoyed.

Sun Sui Wah, near #3 Road in Richmond is one of our favourites. Like most Chinese restaurants in the area, it's filled with large round tables packed with families, and groups. It's always busy, parking is a bitch, and if its a weekend afternoon and you show up without a reservation, you will wait for a table. So we arrive sans reservation and we sit and we wait. It's worth it.

Most restaurants have English language menus with pictures, and dishes are cooked to order. Some serve Hong Kong style Dim Sum from carts that servers push around the restaurant. This is fun because you can see exactly what you are getting. Trouble is sometimes you can't identify what is on the cart and the server may not know the English to explain. "This dumpling". "This pork". Get the picture? The details may be few and far between.

Some non-Chinese diners prefer this style of dining as they can see exactly what they are getting. Ordering "Phoenix Talons" from a printed menu may sound exotic. But those not in the know are sometimes disappointed receiving chickens feet....

Sun Sui Wah has easy to read menus with pictures and everything is cooked to order. There are lots of lovely steamed dumplings, savoury buns, "potstickers", deep fried favourites (like spring rolls) and sweets for after. To simplify things, they leave an order sheet for you to fill out. Start slow. Watch what the table next to you has. You can always add more items. It's easy for you and your server, and even Dim Sum virgins will enjoy their first time.

We started with some familiar favourites. Steamed shrimp dumplings (har gow), gai lan (steamed leafy Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce) and shu mai. For round two, we added spring rolls and steamed BBQ pork buns (Char Sui Bao).

Har gow; steamed shrimp in rice dumpling
Dishes were flying out of the kitchen. Within minutes, spring rolls and dumplings materialized on the table, small dishes of dipping sauce alongside. Many dishes did not require any additional seasoning but a little vinegar, soy sauce or chili oil provided a nice kick. Perfectly cooked chunks of steamed pink shrimp could be seen through the translucent dumpling wrapper of the "har gow". Yum. Chive and prawn dumplings were pan-fried; crispy outside, a bit chewy inside, and stuffed full of prawns and Chinese chives. Steamed gai lan made eating healthy veggies easy.

Gai lan (Chinese brocolli) with sauce

No need to feel guilty indulging our sweet tooth after all the savoury goodness. Dessert for lunch? Absolutely. The egg tarts were already sold out so we went mango instead. "Mango pancakes" were like crepes (rice flour?) stuffed with fresh whipped cream and slices of sweet and tangy mango.

The damage? Lunch (with take home leftovers) tea, dessert, tax and tip; for 2 very full adults was less than $50. You could certainly do Sun Sui Wah for less. But we don't mind over indulgence once in a while. All in the name of "market research"...