Dim Sum for Three

 Yuen has been feeding us the leftovers from her soirees into Atlanta’s Chinatown for weeks. Tony the grill guy, had spent two years  in Hong Kong teaching English, fallen in love and found a wife before returning to the United States, suggested it would be fun, if we all met up for Dim Sum one Sunday. We all agreed, and Yuen volunteered to take us to

Learning to use a chopstick is not as easy as it looks

her favorite restaurant. Chinese restaurants usually serve Dim Sum on Saturdays and Sundays between 11 am and 2pm which would be perfect for our little crew on the night shift. We could meet, hang out, eat and be at work in time for our 2pm shift.  That was a month ago.

EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES

Celia – “Sorry, I’m pulling a double this Sunday, can’t make it.” Like Murphy’s Law if something could go wrong it did.

Tony –   “my father is coming that day to help with repairs on the house, can’t make it.  Finally, I decided that with or without my coworkers, I was going, so Yuen and I made plans for this Sunday, December 12th.

This is my first Dim Sum experience; I’m twelve years old again and dreaming about opening all my presents under the Christmas tree. The night before, I made sure to set my alarm for 10:30am, but there was no need. At 10 am, my eyes pop open like twin slices of crisp warmed bread from the toaster. Impatient, restless and excited, I try to lie still and breathe. It’s warm and cozy under the blankets but adventure beckons. I stretch, wiggle my toes, turn on my right

Naw Mai Fan (Sticky rice): steamed sticky rice with chinese sausage, dried shrimp, shitake mushrooms, soy sauce
Shrimp spring roll

side, then the left and squeeze my pillow tight and tighter until finally, exasperated; I toss the covers aside and head for the bathroom. It’s December, and the water is bracingly cold and invigorating. With a bar of soap in hand, I quickly wash my face, shifting from foot to foot, as tiny droplets cascade down my chin and onto my pajamas.  Shivering, I reach for a towel and with it, wipe away the last vestige of sleep from my face. 

Oolong tea

I’m awake and like the squirrel, bright eyed and bushy tailed. It’s a Sunday morning and I’m not sure if the rest of the world is up like me; so I text Yuen instead “Are you up?” I ask.  Standing in the kitchen, I press the send button and begin to poke around in the pantry, for something warm to appease my (tummy) savage beasty. A steaming cup of hot

Jun Gee Gai (Lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice and meat): Soft, chewy sticky rice mixed with fatty pork bits, chicken, and Chinese sausage.

chocolate will do. Some people drink coffee, others prefer tea, but I’ve never outgrown the taste of Nestlé’s Swiss chocolate mix, with the tiny marshmallows in it. Triumphant, I find my prize, hidden behind a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I’m still in the kitchen, sipping from my coffee mug, when the phone vibrates on the counter, it’s a text message from Yuen, “yes I’m up, 11:30am at the BP gas station on Buford Highway,” she replies. Yuen works as a bartender at my restaurant and has agreed to meet me today. She’s from Hong Kong, which in my opinion makes her an expert on Dim Sum, and the perfect person to act as my guide.

Cha siu bao, (Cantonese barbecue pork buns), the buns are filled with barbecue-flavored cha siu pork.

Outside, it’s cold, wet and windy; already Jack Frost has sent the first December snowflakes a swirl in the air like fine confetti. Don’t care, like a true Jamaican I’m wrapped from head to toe, – knit cap, scarf, jacket, gloves, boots and thermal under clothing – its dim sum or

Haa Churng (Rice noodle rolls stuffed with shrimp): Soft, slightly chewy sheets of rolled up rice noodles filled with shrimp and doused with sweet soy sauce.

bust. My phone rings, its 11:30, “grabbing my car keys I head for the door, as the phone continues to ring, “I’m heading to my car, I’ll be there in five minutes” I say while closing my apartment door. “That’s okay, I’m on my way too” Yuen replies. This is good; I thought I was late, which would have been embarrassing.

I’m ashamed to admit, that I’ve been living in Atlanta for more than a year, and I still get lost easily, which is why Yuen had agreed to meet me at the BP gas station. So we meet and I drive behind her on Buford Highway. Within minutes, we are in the parking lot of a large Chinese restaurant filled with cars. We go inside and head towards the table where her son, Daniel, is already seated.

The restaurant is busy and the loud hum from a hundred different conversations is reminiscent of bees gathering nectar for the hive. The restaurant has a festive feel, parents with children in tow coming and going and servers pushing carts laden with food in steaming metal containers navigate between the tables. The color red in Chinese culture symbolizes good fortune and joy, and it is prominent- in the lettering naming the restaurant , in the main foyer, on vases, even the servers’ aprons are red. I love it! This is Dim Sum in full swing.

Beef Chow Mein

Yuen explains that in Hong Kong, Dim Sum is a communal affair where people gather to eat, gossip and most important of all drink tea. She says it’s not about the tiny bite size morsels offered on these carts, “Dim Sum is about drinking tea”. On our table there are three ting cups, and an aluminum tea pot filled with steaming hot Oolong tea. The idea is that one drinks tea, talk/gossip and if something on the Dim Sum cart catches your eye, it is placed on your table and the server makes a mark on your check. And so we sat, for an hour then two, drinking Oolong tea, talking and sampling whatever caught our fancy. It’s fun, there’s no rush, we could stay as long as we pleased, and at the end whatever food lay uneaten was placed in “to go” containers, for home. Between the three of us the bill came to around sixty dollars, which is a fair price to pay for all that food. Sated and content, we said our goodbyes, and made promises to do this again – soon. Taking my little container of goodies home, I felt as if indeed I had received an early Christmas present. I will be back, hopefully with more friends, on a Sunday morning to enjoy an ancient custom and cuisine that is Dim Sum.

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