(Photo courtesy of http://www.shermansfoodadventures.com)
I was probably introduced to Chinese dim sum before I even had my first McDonald’s hamburger. With feet dangling off my chair in the restaurant, I would keep pestering my parents to order my ultimate favorites of siu mai and ha gao. And as I’ve grown up and expanded my food genres, dim sum has always remained at the top of my list. It reminds me strongly of my family’s Cantonese roots, of days when I traveled to Hong Kong to visit my relatives and we’d chatter while circled around a large table laden with dim sum. That was the good life.
Unlike typical huge entrees, dim sum comes in small bamboo or metal steamer baskets. My utmost favorite part of dim sum is when the waitress uncovers the little lids to reveal the delicacies hidden beneath with a burst of hot steam. Dim sum is also served usually in groups of four. There are options for steamed items like siu mai, ha gao, and chicken feet while there are other options that are deliciously fried and rich, like barbecue pork pastries and sesame balls. Don’t be deceived, though—while the portions look small, a culmination of these Chinese wonders will certainly satisfy your appetite.
So last Saturday, my family and I decided to try out Wong’s King dim sum. Wong’s King stands as one of the finest Chinese restaurants in the Portland area—when I walked through its doors the first thing I saw was a glass display of various awards and stunning reviews. “Top Ten Seafood Restaurants in the United States” and “Gold Medal in Fifth World Cooking Competition” blazed in large letters on newspaper clippings and large pictures of grinning chefs. Right off the bat, I knew that this place was golden.
Chinese restaurants also really enjoy flair and an elegant look. At Wong’s King, bright chandeliers hung from the ceiling and tables were covered with pale cream-colored tablecloths. Waitresses dressed in lavender uniforms strolled around pushing carts of dim sum, stopping occasionally at tables to present their selections. I love the hustle and bustle of busy restaurants, and Wong’s King was brimming with customers. Couples, families, and large groups of friends clustered around their meals chattering away in various conversations. And people from all kinds of cultures were there—it was open to everyone who loved an afternoon of dim sum snacking.
Now onward to the FOOD.
First we ordered “siu mai” (pronounced in the Cantonese way), which is actually similar to a meatball. A thin layer of wonton pastry covers a dainty ball of minced pork, Chinese mushrooms, and bits of shrimp. It’s steamed and then decorated with a small sprinkle of orange crab eggs on top.
My brother in particular is very partial to “ha gao”, which is simply a shrimp rice dumpling. Yet instead of the classic dumpling dough, a thick rice paste dough covers the shrimp ball. Its texture is much softer and chewier, perfect with the steamed shrimp. And last of all, we just had to order the glorious chicken feet. A bit adventurous I suppose. But hey, for all you men—the best way to get admirers from Asian ladies is to tackle the chicken feet with gusto. In the end, it’s not too bad. I actually secretly like it, especially the way it’s steamed in a rich and sweet red sauce. Nevertheless, I do admit that it’s a challenge to eat it. So here are some my tips:
1. Stab the middle of the foot with your chopsticks. (It can be a struggle to pick up the slippery thing).
2. Bite off each bone one at a time.
3. Savor the tendons, meat and fat by chewing, then spit out the clean bone onto your plate.
4. Bite off another piece, and repeat chewing then spitting.
Now if you can’t handle it, it’s totally fine. Just wash everything down with some jasmine tea and explore the other numerous options of fine Chinese dim sum dining. And the best part is, you can come to Wong’s King during the weekdays and get a discount of $2.50 instead of 3-4 dollars for ALL dim sum. If you want to come on the weekends, make sure that you come early, though. People flock there faster than me lunging for a plate of steamed pork buns. Happy eating!
8733 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97266