Happy New Year 2019! I wish you happiness and a year where your dreams take you on wild journeys to the skies and beyond-the-skies.
I have always found the phrase ‘the sky is the limit’ quite targeted towards non-astronauts and not very inclusive of dreams, hopes, and ambitions that go further than the skies, of which I am sure there are many.
It is in this light, that I wish you unlimited wish potential, capitalisation on wish potential, and that you receive a teddy bear sometime this year—because teddies embody general awesomeness and one can always do with more of that!
I digress, this is my long-winded dim sum tale from December.
The dormant dim sum enthusiast and I were talking about the last few months. Her words were peppered more than a good pepper steak pie. Her choice of seasoning was a well-crushed mix of dreams, disenchantment, regret, expectations, and dissatisfaction. She had an axe to grind. She was a ship, hungry for the seas, unable to up-anchor age, responsibilities and duties. Time this year has flown, she told me.
‘It’s Christmas,’ she said, exasperated. The park Christmas tree in front of us had been done up with coloured lights that would warrant a night visit.
‘Christmas has come fast. But—on the plus side, Buble’s Christmas album has been a go since December first and will be till we’re kicking January or the neighbours bulldoze my front door.’
‘Time goes forward,’ I turned to her, ‘There is time. You’re young.’
‘No, I’m not, though, thanks,’ she replied, ‘You’re young.
And when you’re young, the world is your oyster. When you are my age, it’s very different.’
Her hand grazed over mine. There was a pause; words of empathy, the right words eluded me. You’re a spring chicken. Nope, couldn’t use that; now was not the time for food references. A toddler from the family picnicking near us zoomed past us, spring roll in hand. Disaster avoided.
The truth was she had a decade on me.
‘Anything’s possible, mate. Age is just a number. Plus, you don’t even look your age. I keep saying, you are young. Believe it,’ I said. She exhaled sharply and shook her head.
‘The world may be my oyster, but I don’t really like oysters. I’m a sucker for squid.’ The playfulness was taking over, ‘Deep-fried squid? Uh huh. Ye—es? What do you think?’
I ducked an air slap. What better way to pass the time. She was in.
We arrived at Canton Lane on a Tuesday morning. The place was busy, but the seating was ample. Stepping inside we were greeted by fridge-cold air con. We promptly retreated to the outdoor tables.
The food began arriving on trolleys.
Here’s some of what we had: carrot cake, xiao long bao, char sui bao.
We also tried, I think, another one or two other dishes. They were the fried squid, har gow, sui mai, spinach dumplings, fried taro dumplings, chicken feet, chee cheong fun, durian mochi, and fried flat noodles. (This is an all-encompassing judgment-free zone. By this definition, no attention is paid to bad maths, the seven sins, or anything else that may seemingly herald judgment.)
My dim sum enthusiast is in the photos I’ve left unpictured; the display of gluttony that was this dim sum feast is reason enough to swear each and every image to secrecy.
My first thought was that the food was unsatisfyingly warm; that of frozen meals missing an extra minute in the microwave. Goods on the trolley looked hot, but the moment the steamers hit the table, they were like dancers getting cold feet. Dim sum is one of the rare times where a temperature is something I want.
The flavours did better. I tucked into the sui mai, a blended prawn and pork filled dumpling that was a compacted, meaty ball of bounciness with a fullness that spoke, as much as dumplings can, of the meaning of satisfaction and of wonton love. For, from within the privacy of bamboo steamers, an unlikely pair, a sea cockroach and a hooved beast, emerged; united, and blessed with the richness and wealth of the land and sea. Saltiness, I’ll admit, got my better judgment. I drowned them in hot tea.
The xiao long bao was another victim of temperature crime. The risk of palate burn never eventuated, to my dismay. The bao were Chinese-inspired thin-skinned ravioli filled with Campbell’s chicken stock. Fusion confusion or a daring bao from the ’burbs that had dreams of replicating in Australia the experience of a broth in Italy? I wasn’t entirely sure.
The hargow, a ball of prawn paste in a translucent wrapper, came with a gloopy outer-layer reminiscent of skin in humid weather. It would likely have grossed out any unseasoned dim sum-mer. We pressed on, rolling the dumplings in wonder moisturisers, chilli oil and soy sauce, that immediately addressed the sticky concern. It was a tasty mouthful. The use of non-vannamei prawns, which I initially thought seemed fishy, turned out a delightful surprise. They imparted actual flavour of the sea and spawned thoughts about how much it might cost to start a backyard hobbyist prawn farm.
The carrot cake, fried squares of radish were seasoned well but average tasting. They were mushy but paid a high dividend in dried shrimp and Chinese sausage. They were automatically deemed awesome, from a stereotypically Eastern perspective of quantity and value outweighing other factors that an astute diner, unlike myself, should consider.
Char siu buns had a lovely soft, white dough. The barbeque pork filling was dry. No stickiness, and no proper coagulation of barbied ingredients.
The fried squid delivered reserved deliciousness. Each bite was as you’d hope; crispy, seasoned, good batter, unchewy tentacle, a few spring onions flicked over the top. These were all of that dialled back a bit: a perfectly good movie that you would’ve directed differently. It needed oomph.
Fried taro dumplings had unfilled, patchy, over fried purplish brown centres. The hairy pastry coating was missing lightness and needed the equivalent of a keratin regrowth solution. These had been left in the deep fryer too long.
Spinach dumplings are an offering I’ve never been keen on and that I can never quite understand as a dim sum dish. Stone the flamin’ crows, I’ve tried and still can’t, for whatever reason, get my head around the notion of a spinach dumpling—my tongue, though, seems to manage fine. The spinachy-seafood filling was trapped in a translucent skin and glide-able. The filling wasn’t particularly tasty; it was another average dish.
The chee cheong fun at this place was good. Slippery, smooth flat noodles trapped flavourful prawns and entered the alimentary canal with the glide of gondolas through Venice. This was the most impressive dish of the day.
The durian mochi was a beautiful offering. A creamy filling of durian came with a snowskin and overtook the senses with its fragrance and softness. I took a box home.
The flat noodles were very ordinary; a yawn-fest.
Taste verdict Recommended. A dim sum feast that takes you through the cold to lukewarm; Asia to Europe. ‘Good, but a little avs,’ she said. Avs. A word that speaks of averageness and of youth eroding the English language.
She turned to me at the conclusion of this dim sum outing: ‘I’m in a food coma. I can’t think.’
I picked up a piece of fried squid: ‘Food for thought, huh? I like your idea of going swapsies.’