Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gimme Some Dim Sum (in Philadelphia)

A dim sum cart rolls by.
This is the cryptic ticket
Friends accompanied us to the Imperial Inn in Chinatown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA to experience the dim sum. I had heard of this but never been: it is kind of like a Chinese brunch buffet, but you sit still and the food selections on small plates roll around on carts. There's a cryptic ticket on the corner of the table, and when you choose a small plate of dumplings or spring rolls, or a slightly larger plate of sticky rice, the server puts a circle or an 'X' on the ticket. We really had no idea what this would cost, but in the end we were pleasantly surprised. We were all full when we left and spent only $45 total for the four of us.

This thing was like a potato, but more likely deep-fried mashed taro.
There are many things to try, but some of us (me) have to be careful of shellfish. Many of the selections on Sunday included shrimp, so I watched many of those carts roll past without yielding a tasty morsel. Tiny shrimps made unwelcome appearances in some of the items that were supposed to be shrimp-free. Luckily my shellfish allergy is on the mild side and Fred was standing by ready to confiscate any shrimp that appeared on my plate. Some got through our defense system, and I will blame the weird headache I experienced later that afternoon on those sneaky shellfish. There were Chinese steamed (beef) meatballs, and some combination of things wrapped in a cumbersome lotus leaf and then steamed.
Steamed lotus leaf with stuff inside
There was a rumor about fried chicken feet, but I prefer to believe someone was pulling my leg with that one. (Alas, I checked, they are chicken feet and they are called Phoenix claws.)

This bun is filled with pineapple custard. Isn't that a pretty plate?
Dessert! Don't forget dessert! The dessert cart rolled by periodically loaded with sweets. We were tempted by little egg custards in pastry cups and sweet buns filled with pineapple custard.

Denise brought her own chopsticks in their snazzy case.
The restaurant was packed, and everyone seemed to be enjoying their dim sum experience. Half the diners seemed to be Chinese and half not. I was assured that there usually isn't such an overwhelming amount of shrimp--maybe it was on sale somewhere. I'd enjoy another dim sum experience sometime.

To finish off this excursion, we walked around the corner to a large Chinese store called Shanghai Bazaar. This place is lit up beautifully at night when I drive by, but I had never been inside. There are clothes made from beautiful silks and brocades, purses, chopsticks, tea sets and Mah Jongg sets, paper kites and books in Chinese. In the back were dragon costumes, the kind with the huge heads that appear on the streets of Philadelphia at Chinese New Year. I showed restraint and bought only a couple of handmade greeting cards. I'm thinking about those tea cups with the matching lids, and how stunning some of those textiles would be worked into a crazy quilt. I think I'll be back. Anyone interested in going for dim sum?

Shanghai Bazaar: I could have wandered around here for hours.

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