• Monday, January 29, 2007

    Vessel Holds Key to Dim Sum's Mysteries - and more

    Treasures in your own backyard - Or, in our case, across the surface artery.

    I finally found the hip new store Vessel open. I don't know what it says about me or the hours I keep, but I have to admit I was a little surprised to learn they're open every day 11- 6. And I've tried to stop by there at least two other times.

    Third time's a charm:
    Found Vessel open on the third visit and like the name's promise, it is a thing holding treasures.

    Probably my favorite score is the Pocket Guide to Dim Sum by Kit Shan Li (Chronicle Books, San Francisco). This tiny little book, appropriately enough, has a red cover. An auspicious start one might say.

    No better start to a day than Dim Sum.
    For any who've been skeptical, squeamish or just uninformed, this book is for you! As the author states in the forward:
    "The purpose of this book is to help non-Chinese speakers order Chinese Dim Sum...I hope this will clear up some of the mysteries and uncertainties that make ordering dim sum intimidating or simply strange."

    In the interest of full disclosure I must add that I will eat nearly everything and will try to learn almost any language. A few barriers, more speed bumps really, have eluded my mastery of dim sum. First, Chinese especially Cantonese, is an inflected language where the wrong intonation can result in your request for soy sauce sounding for all native speakers like a request for poop. (I couldn't make this up, folks, really...)

    The very nature of how a dim sum meal is served is another factor that contributes to some diners' reticence. At least at a dinner one could ask for an English menu. No such luck with dim sum. Steaming carts (steam tables on wheels, no OSHA around here!) are wheeled by the tables. Diners must look at the steamer baskets and decide whether the offered morsels are to be accepted.

    Effort is rewarded.
    First of all, nothing is too pricey. I recommend trying lots. At $3.00 or so a basket, what's the risk?

    Here is where our new Pocket Guide comes to the rescue! Not only do you get clear, simple photos, but phonetic pronunciations too. But wait, you also get a list of typical ingredients for the item.

    If that weren't enough, you also get tips like ordering tea, how to read the bill, which dishes are sweet, or savory, etc.

    Like tapas, dim sum is a meal that is best shared. If you try one basket of dumplings, three or four are usually included. More people means more variety of items to sample.

    The book:
    Dim Sum - A Pocket Guide
    The Store:
    Vessel
    The Best place for Dim Sum:
    Heil La Moon on Beech St, between Lincoln St and Surface Artery.
    The offer:
    Diners interested in a guided dim sum experience here in Boston? Write me here and let me know. I'd be delighted to accompany your party and introduce you to the yummy world of dim sum.
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