Every time I’m back in Hong Kong, I head straight for a good dim sum restaurant. If you haven’t had dim sum before, it’s as close to competitive eating as I’ve ever experienced. And I’m not talking about the amount of food consumed, either. In Hong Kong, many dim sum restaurants don’t have a nice, orderly wait list, buzzing beepers or call-aheads. Instead, you start by taking a calculating, broad sweep of the entire layout, and in a split-second survey which dining guests are closest to asking for the check.
You then divide up your party, assign tables (even the kids) and plant yourself right there at the table like hungry vultures.
This signals that you are next to take that table. Not too close, because if the table considers you rude, they’d just linger at the table longer to piss you off. But not too far, because another waiting patron could come squeeze in and take claim.
The moment that the very first guest lifts his/her torso to get out of the chair, you must quickly, effectively and stealthy signal to the rest of your party to dash over and take control of the table-handoff situation. Timing is important. Because if the rest of your party doesn’t recognize your signal, too much time passes or worse yet, ANOTHER waiting party sees your signal and makes a mad dash in for a hostile takeover, you’re totally screwed. And once more than half the table is seated by hostile takeover, you have no chance in hell to get the table back, even if it was rightfully yours.
And I haven’t even gotten to the best part – since the cart-pushers are paid on commission, there’s competition for having the A+, easy-selling dishes like Shrimp Har Gow (you wouldn’t want to be stuck with Black Moss Lotus Seed Steamed Duck Tongue that only a few people would find appetizing). They even jockey for floor space with pushers teaming up to cart-block a path to a good table with hungry guests. Yes, it gets nasty.
Thank goodness we don’t have to experience that type of competitive sport here in Tampa Bay. A few weeks ago, I was shooting a television segment at Publix Greenwise and then afterwards scooted over to T.C. Choy’s Asian Bistro across the street and got to enjoy a dim-sum lunch sans vultures.
I’ve asked them for a recipe to publish, and this is a brand new one that will be part of their new menu. While it’s not a typical “dim sum” dish, it certainly is a very popular recipe from Hong Kong.
Fresh Pear and Shrimp Stir Fry Recipe
adapted from T.C. Choy’s Asian Bistro
serves 4 as side dish
1 whole pear, peeled, cored and cut into small wedges
4 ounces thinly sliced carrots
2 tablespoons cooking oil
4 ounces snow peas
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Blanch the pear wedges and carrots for 30 seconds, then drain immediately. Pat the shrimp very dry. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, chicken broth and cornstarch. Set aside.
2. Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add in the cooking oil and swirl to coat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the grated ginger and continue stir frying for 30 seconds. Add the peas, carrots and pears and toss well. Stir fry for 1 minute. The shrimp should be just barely cooked through.
3. Pour in the chicken broth mixture, stir and let cook for an additional minute, until shrimp is cooked through. Serve immediately.