May 162014
 
Harbor City Roast Pork Buns

Harbor City Roast Pork Buns

 

On Mother’s Day, I took the family to Harbor City Restaurant in Seattle’s ID District. Knowing that it would be crowded, we arrived early around 9:40am to get a table. We were a little surprised that the wait was already 20 minutes when we arrived and even more surprised when the wait turned into over an hour before we were finally seated. The staff apologized promptly for the long wait and, as soon as the first cart arrived in a few minutes, our memories of standing in line quickly faded.

Harbor City stuffed eggplant

Harbor City stuffed eggplant

The roast pork buns, both steamed and baked, were moist and stuffed with a flavorful pork filling. The Chinese meatballs, a family favorite, were bold and meaty. The shu mai were plump and chock-full of delicious pork and shrimp. Before I could bat an eye, let alone grab one, the honey walnut prawns were snapped up by my kids. My favorite that day was the stuffed eggplant; the skin of the eggplant was slightly crispy and contrasted well with the moist shrimp stuffing. And, to top off our Mother’s Day meal, we devoured dishes of miniature flaky egg custard tarts and sesame balls. As usual, the dim sum at Harbor City was some of the best in Seattle.

The usual big crowds every Sunday morning at Harbor City are testaments to the quality of their dim sum.  Whether the long waits are worth your time is debatable. However, as soon as you take your first bite, your focus shifts to the delectable treats at hand.

 

 

 

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Dim Sum Guide: Steamed Fish Balls

 Posted by on May 6, 2012 at 6:51 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
May 062012
 
Steamed fish balls with bean curd skins

Steamed fish balls with bean curd skins

If you are a fish fanatic, then steamed fish balls may be right up your alley (or creek). These balls are made of chopped up fish meat with added scallions, garlic, and other ingredients. They are steamed over a bed of bean curd skins. I have found fish balls to vary widely in taste and quality so you’ll need to be careful ordering it. Most of the time, I find them a little bland and in need of spicing up with chili paste. Steamed fish balls may be an acquired taste for people who did not grow up eating lots of fish.

 

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May 022012
 
Fried scallion pancake

Fried scallion pancake

Fried scallion pancake (cong you bing), also know as green onion pancake, is one of my favorite dim sum dishes. Yes, this is a Mandarin rather than Cantonese dim sum dish but no dim sum guide would be complete without mention of this dish. Scallion pancake is made from wheat dough folded with chopped scallions and salt and fried in oil until it becomes a crispy, aromatic pancake. Because the pancake is fried in a generous amount of oil, it can sometimes get quite greasy on the bottom. When dipped in a little chili oil paste, you wonder how such a simple pancake can make your taste buds so happy.

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Dim Sum Guide: Water Chestnut Cake

 Posted by on April 26, 2012 at 6:49 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Apr 262012
 
Water chestnut cake

Water chestnut cake

Water chestnut cake (ma ti gao) is a dim sum dessert that is often eaten at festive occasions. But there’s no reason to wait for a special event before eating this interestingly sweet dish. Water chestnut cake is translucent yellow and looks like jello. Quickly pan-fried before serving, you’ll usually see pieces of crunchy shredded water chestnut swimming near the top of the cake. It’s an excellent choice for people who like to savor the flavor of their dessert.

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Apr 172012
 
Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf
Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf

Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf

Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf (nor mai gai) is a glutinous rice ball filled with chicken, mushrooms, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, scallions, and other ingredients. It is steamed after wrapping the filling in a lotus leaf or, more commonly, a banana leaf in the US.

Sticky rice in lotus leaf unwrapped

Sticky rice in lotus leaf unwrapped

Unique in its appearance on the dim sum table, it demands attention from diners who are eager to unwrap it and taste the intriguing present inside. I’ve had good nor mai gai and some mediocre ones (the rice sometimes gets packed too dense). This dish is best with a little soy sauce since the rice is sometimes bland. I like nor mai gai but sometimes prefer its more flavorful cousin, nor mai fan (sticky rice).

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Dim Sum Guide: Steamed Pork Dumplings

 Posted by on April 10, 2012 at 6:01 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Apr 102012
 
Steamed pork dumplings (sui mai)
Steamed pork dumplings (sui mai)

Steamed pork dumplings (sui mai)

Steamed pork dumplings (siu mai) are a mainstay of dim sum brunches. The dumpling is made of pork, shrimp, black mushrooms, scallions, and seasonings. The filling is wrapped with wonton skins or other thin dough. In many cases, you’ll see a small orange dot on top. This is usually done with crab roe or minced carrots. A good siu mai dumpling will have rather large, firm chunks of pork and shrimp that separate as you eat it. They are great dipped in a little chili oil and soy sauce.

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Dim Sum Guide: Egg Custard Tarts

 Posted by on April 3, 2012 at 6:24 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Apr 032012
 
Chinese egg custard tarts

Chinese egg custard tarts

Chinese egg custard tarts (dan tat) are a classic desert dim sum dish with a flaky puff pastry crust holding a warm, mildly sweet custard filling. The sweet filling is typically made from eggs, milk, and sugar but you may see variations in custard ingredients.

The best egg custard tarts will still be warm from the oven with a crust so flaky that the layers will sometimes separate as you eat it. The flakier the crust, the better and fresher the egg tart. Look for the custard filling to be firm but not dense. A runny texture is not good. And the custard should be mildly sweet so that the flavors of the eggs and milk are not overpowered.

Egg custard tart with flaky crust"

Egg custard tart with flaky crust

Egg custard tarts come in two sizes, small and large. Both are excellent. The smaller tarts will expose more of the flavors of the flaky crust. With the larger tarts, you’ll get more custard filling in each bite.  As a kid, I recall eating egg custard tarts with a spoon so I could savor each bite.

Egg custard tarts are amazing when they are fresh from the oven. But when they get cold, the pastry crust tends to get dense, losing its flaky texture. They don’t keep well in the refrigerator so eat them when they are fresh!

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Dim Sum Guide: Chinese Broccoli

 Posted by on March 31, 2012 at 7:34 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 312012
 
Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli (gai lan) is one of my favorite vegetable dim sum dishes. This dark green leafy vegetable is typically steamed or poached until the thick stems are slightly crunchy on the outside but tender inside. The oyster sauce that is drizzled over it contrasts well with the slightly bitter taste of the vegetable. Chinese broccoli, a member of the mustard family, has a stronger flavor than its Western broccoli counterpart.

This dish is usually considered an “extra large” dish so it will be more expensive than others. But it tastes great, is good for you, and is well worth the money.

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Dim Sum Guide: Baked Pineapple Buns

 Posted by on March 29, 2012 at 6:04 am  Food & Cooking  2 Responses »
Mar 292012
 
Baked pineapple buns
Baked pineapple buns

Baked pineapple buns

For good reason, pineapple buns (bo lo bao) are a very popular dessert. These buns get their name from the fact that the crunchy, sweet top crust closely resembles a crisscross pineapple pattern. Beneath the cookie-like top crust, the soft wheat bun holds a sweet, thick custard filling.

Sweet custard filling in a pineapple bun

Sweet custard filling in a pineapple bun

Pineapple buns are a big hit with kids (and almost everyone else I know). I remember how my youngest daughter in her preschool days would first lick and nibble the cookie crust from the very top of the bun. Once she was temporarily satiated with the cookie crust layer, she would proceed to “drill down” directly to the sweet creamy custard filling, lapping it up as she went along. The sides of the bun, mostly bread, would be the last to be devoured.

Pineapple buns are often found in Chinese bakeries as well as dim sum restaurants.  Some bakeries offer as good, if not better, buns than restaurants.

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Dim Sum Guide: Baked Barbecue Pork Buns

 Posted by on March 27, 2012 at 6:35 am  Food & Cooking  No Responses »
Mar 272012
 
Baked barbecue pork buns
Baked barbecue pork buns

Baked barbecue pork buns

Baked barbecue pork buns (guk char siu bao) are the oven baked version of the very popular steamed barbecue pork buns. The baked buns have the same barbecue pork filling but the golden brown bun is quite different. The buns are more similar to baked bread and are top coated with honey or sugar mixture. In addition, baked barbecue pork buns are quite a bit larger than their steamed cousins so you get more for your money. These buns are commonly available in Chinese bakeries as well as dim sum restaurants.

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