Dim Sum LoveWednesday, October 29, 2008
Hop Shing is probably the first memory I have of eating out. And by eating out, I mean stuffing my 2-year-old face with fistfuls of delicious barbecue pork buns (guk cha siu baau), baked to golden perfection and containing the ideal balance of savory and sweet, while my grandfather chatted with the other old timers over a cup of strong coffee with cream and sugar (the only way they serve it) and the daily Chinese newspaper.
Now, twenty plus years later, I find myself back in Chinatown and craving Sunday dim sum here. Walk into this timeless hole in the wall, and you are immediately transported to another place, another era. Jostle with the aggressive old ladies shouting orders and waving money at the take out counter, make your way to one of the communal round tables, and prepare to feast for cheap. $10-$12 can take you a long way here, through three to five plates of tasty morsels carted out steaming hot from the kitchen. Speaking of which, keep your eye on the kitchen doorÃ¯Â¿½the most popular dishes go fast and regulars will not be shy about snatching them off the cart right under your nose. Waving your dim sum card and pointing is fully acceptable.
My all-time favorite dishes:
Barbecue pork buns (cha siu baau) – Warning: these buns are filled with barbecue cha siu pork, carmelized onions, and other highly addictive substances. You will end up scarfing one down, wonder where it went, and then quickly order another before grandma over there buys the last dozen to go. I am admittedly a cha siu baau snob and believe that the baked version is the one true version to be enjoyed, with its light golden glaze and freshly baked aroma, but for all you wayward fans of the fluffy, white, steamed version, they have those as well. Seriously though, if you dare to cross over to the enlightened path, Hop Shing’s baked cha siu baau is a veritable ode to umami. A poetic exercise in complementary flavors and textures. Someone over there at Hop Shing sold their soul for this baby.
Shrimp dumplings (har gau) – Hands down, the best har gau I’ve ever had (including ones I’ve had in Hong Kong, the motherland of dim sum). These steamed dumplings are chock full of shrimp, little bits of water chestnuts that add a nice crunch, and a secret melt-in-your-mouth ingredient that melds it all together into one amazing bite.
Pan Fried Dumplings with Chives and Shrimp (gau choi kau) – Stuffed with a mixture of chives and shrimp and then pan fried until golden crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these dumplings fly off the cart fast.
Rice noodle roll with beef (ngau coeng) – This dish is pure comfort food for me. Finely ground beef wrapped in sheets of rice noodle that are thin, smooth, and doused with sweet soy sauce. A classic.
Cocktail bun (gai mei baau) – A dessert bun to cap off your dim sum gluttony, Hop Shing’s hot-out-of-the-oven gai mei baau will melt in your mouth. It is filled with buttery, sugary, coconutty goodness.