Posted 24 July 2011 - 08:18 AM
Leaving in a few minutes for OUR version of brunch, dim sum! I'll go ahead and share my plan for a proper farewell to the week just so I don't chicken out or get lazy...I'm giving the duck breast roulade with morel sauce and creamed corn from the French Laundry Cookbook a shot. I've never cooked duck before, believe it or not, so win big or lose big.
Posted 24 July 2011 - 02:50 PM
The bad news- any Keller-level cooking is going to have to WAIT. I could spend the majority of my afternoon working on that and pull it off with some degree of success, but on the way home from dim sum I thought...why not just close with a signature-style writeup of THAT, enjoy the rest of my Sunday, and start looking at the seafood-porn that RRO has going on. I DO have two gorgeous La Belle Farms duck breasts thawing out, so I will be making a visit to the "DInner" thread soon....
When Meredith and I think of "brunch", it's rarely of the omelette or panini variety. We generally go with Vietnamese or dim sum. Dim sum is something I've apparently never been able to eat correctly during my travels....there's always some BETTER place I didn't hear about that is a magical wonderland that everyone but me knows about. And even if you DO go to the right place you weren't in the right city....the best dim sum in San Francisco doesn't compare to the worst Vancouver has to offer...etc, etc. I like the crazy big rooms and cart service, so I'll end up somewhere like Golden Unicorn in NYC or Y Ben House in San Francisco. I know I don't approach it as wisely as I could, but I usually have a blast. At 7am on a Sunday morning, sitting solo at a table in Y Ben House with nine Chinese senior citizens, watching them literally run and attack the carts as they come out of the kitchen tends to make up for whatever magic I'm missing flavorwise elsewhere.
I say all of that to say- the Ng family, owners of the multiple Bo Ling's locations around KC do dim sum that is at least as good, if not better, than what I've had in my travels. A beautiful space, boomin' cart service, large selection, and from 11am to 2pm on weekends the place is totally packed. The absence of soup dumplings is strange, I will say that. We've been there enough times now to kind of narrow it down to the bare necessities.....it's very easy to overdo it. We'll always try one new thing, but the rest of our meal is made up of tried and tested favorites. If you are new to dim sum, we're excellent dining companions for your maiden voyage.
Shu Mai- the logical beginning to ANY good dim sum brunch...
Bean Sheet Rolls- a very major favorite of ours...ultimate mix of unique texture and rich flavor
Seaweed Salad- This was our first time to try Bo Ling's version, and it's good and crunchy, plenty of sesame
Shrimp Toast- this is NOT your average Pu-Pu Platter version
Brown Tripe- this is one of my very favorite dim sum dishes, but I am generally eating this one alone....
Pan Fried Fun Rolls- our over the top favorite thing at Bo Ling's...outside the texture is almost like crisp pork belly, then the inside is all soft noodle, topped with a sweet and savory hoisin type of sauce and sesame seeds.....it is best when it is still burning your mouth. Totally worth it.
I'm sure by now I've shown that tradition, loyalty and nostalgia are very important themes for me in dining and in life. In order for me to love food there has to be a connection to it that goes way beyond flavor, and I know that most people in this online community can appreciate that because we all share it to some degree. Dim sum is delicious. One of my favorite chowdown foods on earth, but it's also iconic. Specifically, these stupid sesame balls. I like them okay when they are sizzling hot out of the fryer, but the reason I get them every-single-time I dine goes back to my first experience with dim sum....1989 in New York City, eating in a dim sum parlor I cannot recall the name of, dining with my late brother.
That trip is a very long story, but the short version is- I was twenty, he was fifteen and after visiting NYC for the first time when I was staying with a friend of mine at Yale the year prior, I thought it would be cool if we saved money from our part time jobs and I took him out there. We planned our trip by consulting....Fodor's. Went all out and stayed at the Waldorf, ate at Carnegie Deli a ton, Benihana, saw Cats AND we saw Phantom of the Opera when it was still THE show. We had to purchase scalped tickets with the money that was going towards a meal at Tavern on the Green. It is hilarious to look back on the dining and cultural choices, but hey, two kids from Kansas in the late 80's....whaddaya want? We were blown away by that town, I'm still blown away by it after two more decades and god knows how many trips out there. It's my favorite place in the world. The dream life would be to live there and write about the culture through my unique filter, but I have no interest in doing it poor. The good life is practically free here in the midwest compared to that place.
I can't remember how we even heard about dim sum, but our Fodor's guide told us where we should give it a try. In Kansas and Missouri we have a lot of space, and we appreciate our personal space very much. Getting buddied up with two total strangers at a table for four in the dim sum restaurant kind of blew our minds. We sat with these two ladies, and there is a specific word I know but I'm not sure if it's a derogatory Yiddish term or not, so I'll just say.....they were really, really super loud, gossipy, TMI to nth degree, Fran Drescher-y bombastically invasive of your personal space women. And we sat talking quietly to one another in our bad sportcoats, choosing from an array of exotic dishes as the shockwave from their conversation exfoliated us.
The sesame balls are the only things I remember from that first dim sum experience. I don't think they are ever GREAT, but these were bad....cold and the sweet bean paste in the middle had set up and gotten crumbly. We just looked at each other like "are these SUPPOSED to be like this?". When I go out to NYC, the first place I ever eat, and there is literally no scenario on earth other than the place burning down that would EVER change this, is the Carnegie Deli. I am aware of deli beyond Carnegie, but it's total tradition stemming from that trip. Likewise, whenever I eat dim sum I always, always, always order sesame balls for dessert. We lost my brother later that year, and so it's just something that I do because it's funny to think back to that morning in the dim sum parlor. And I have the type of mind where a sesame ball can be a touchstone to remind me that I've packed in a hell of a lot of life since the first time I choked one down. When it comes to the food I love and I want to share with others, it always has to fit some sort of narrative...a contender that may end up being a major sense memory.
I wish I could have fit more into this week, but I guess there's always at least one more dish or restaurant to talk about no matter how long you keep at it. Thanks everyone for the encouragement and kind words, this has been a great experience and it gives me a whole new respect for what it takes to crank one of these out. For anyone with an interest in my town, I can always provide you with a Kansas City that is as Kansas City as Kansas City gets...
Posted 24 July 2011 - 03:29 PM
Your dim sum post is wonderful.
Many years ago (maybe just after you graduated high school) I spent 6 weeks in Hong Kong for work. (Not a fun thing for a Western woman alone in the heavily Chinese part of that city, especially since it was exactly one year after the Tiannmen Square massacre.) Anyway.. I got to experience all sorts of dim sum, from the Westernized hotel versions to a wonderful Saturday morning in Aberdeen with an Aussie guy fluent in Cantonese. The Aberdeen place was a literal dim sum HALL, full of big round tables, populated by old Chinese guys who had brought their birds with them. The walls were full of cages hung on big hooks! My Aussie friend dealt with grabbing stuff off the carts and arguing with the cart ladies. I just ate and ate and ate! I'd love to experience KC dim sum with you!
Posted 24 July 2011 - 05:24 PM
Posted 24 July 2011 - 05:57 PM
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Posted 24 July 2011 - 06:53 PM
Posted 24 July 2011 - 11:38 PM
Posted 25 July 2011 - 06:29 AM
And boy is it nice now not to worry about getting the little knee-jerks throughout the day remembering a photo op I missed..... .
Posted 25 July 2011 - 09:37 AM
I've been through your neck of the woods a couple of times, doing a mad dash from the great white north to sunny California, never stopping. Should I be so lucky to get there again I'm going to plan on spending some time. Thanks.
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