Dim sum and the art of patience
June 29th, 2012
02:00 PM ET
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Hieu Huynh is a writer producer at CNN On-Air Promotions. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

As the steam carts roll by, I caution my dining companions, "Never pick from the first one that comes along."

Eating dim sum is like a game of strategy and patience. The goal is to fill up on the good stuff, which usually means waiting as the cold and lifeless items pass by.

"Never pick the first?" my best friend asks. "Isn’t that almost like dating? If you're too quick, and just pick the first thing you see, you might miss out on something even better."

“Well, it’s not quite that simple,” I said, as I surveyed the expansive dining room of one of my city's best dim sum joints.

Amid the chatter and din of eager diners getting their dim sum fix, are teetering stacks of bamboo steamers filled with Cantonese delicacies like steamed buns and dumplings. And that’s exactly what you want to be on the lookout for - precariously stacked steamers on the verge of tipping at any moment stuffed with the freshest and hottest goodies.

Gobbled up in seconds, these delicious ready-to-eat delicacies require the skilled hands of a master chef.

Take for example, the ubiquitous dumpling. Each pleat, each pinch of the dough is a mastery of technique that requires patience and practice to perfect. Filled with chicken and scallions, or pork and shrimp - one never really knows what’s inside.

Like that tattered book whose pages house a story of mystery and intrigue, one should never judge a dumpling by its appearance. Even the most unassuming morsel may have something special buried deep inside.

We just have to look a little closer, take a chance, and take a bite.

Are chicken feet a favorite? Or is it the old standbys of Shu Mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) and Char Siu Bao (roasted pork buns) that satisfy the palate?

Or does one forego the usual, and take a leap of faith with something like Lo Mai Gai (sticky rice and sausage neatly wrapped in lotus leaves)?

As cart after cart passes by, our eyes first light up with anticipation, and then slowly lower with disappointment. "No, those beef balls don't look as fresh. No, those spring rolls look too cold.."

And then...jackpot! We find the holy grail of all steamed carts containing all the dim sum varieties we love and crave.

"See, it took a while, but we finally have everything we want," I said with a satisfied smile – table overflowing with little plates and conversation. With a little luck, and a couple of good friends with adventurous palates, there’s something for everyone.

Got a dim sum strategy of your own, or a restaurant whose name you want to shout to the rooftops? Please share in the comments below.

Previously - Sundays are for Dim Sum and Make the most of your dim sum experience

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Filed under: Asian • Chinese • Culture • Rituals

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. luvdimsum

    If you are at a dim-sum place where cold, stale stuff keeps rolling by, then you're in a lousy dim-sum place. Something that you do need to learn is that the best seats are near the kitchen!! Go ahead, enjoy your bao and your favorite dumplings, but try the tripe, nibble a chicken foot, spare ribs with black beans, and definitely the sticky rice in the lotus leaf will not disappoint. But sorry, Chinese desserts are uniformly worthless. Save your calories for another steamer of greasy goodness.

    July 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  2. Ericka A.

    I had my first experience with Dim Sum at a restaurant named Cai. It's located in Chicago's Chinatown. We had a group of about 20 people and split the bill. I couldn't believe how delicious and ridiculously cheap it was. We each ended up spending about $20 and I was completely stuffed. My favorite were the pork and shrimp dumplings and the bbq pork buns. Honestly, aside from chicken feet and some very gelatinous dish, I loved everything.

    July 2, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  3. Criskel

    Get in touch with any and all churches in your area. They may offer you a job (especially the big congregations) and probably offer a type of homeless and or job ministry. I live in Texas and have been a member at two "mega churches" so based on my knowledge, you can find some assurance. Will it cover everything? Maybe not but networking can be accomplished. You'd be jumping through hurdles whether you go through govt assurance or through a faith outreach. Nothing is free out there but it's a start. God bless you!

    July 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  4. Shannon

    I must admit I thought you were Mexican by your name.I live in Ca. So pretty much everyone here named Jose is Mexican.Wow i'm sorry you're having such a hard time life can really throw curve balls at you.I have a good friend who just became homeless and is a woman with breast cancer and just found out she has terminal leukemia she's only 23.If there was something I could do to make the world fair I would.You just have to keep going one foot in front of the other and not give up.Especially if you have kids.When you go in for interviews just be honest and explain your situation.Personally i'd leave the weed thing out of it though or just move to Ca. where it's legal here.I'd say make as many resumes and just ask for interviews on the spot employers respect hard work and persistence.You may not get your dream job at first.My first job I did slave labor for 4$ an hour and that's no joke.But in all honesty you must attempt all avenues posting is good but people write on here from all over the world.I wish the best for you and your family.Get out there and don't pass anything by because you never know what it can lead you to.I've always thought of life as an adventure book.Whichever page you choose will lead you to something entirely different.Best of luck.

    July 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  5. Creative

    Jose u are definitely creative posting on a cnn blog your story. I dont live in NY or id probably give you an opportunity. Have you thought about going back to school for a profession? Nursing or maybe even a social worker so that you can be a part of the fix of the obviously broken system you have discussed. How about the military as an option? Your young.. Dont give up make an opportunity for yourself and your daughter. Someone believed in you you have a roof over your head. So now you have to push ahead and do whatever it takes legally to support you and your daughter. Dont wait for an email go find the opportunity and do it! May God bless your path and may you take the path Hes blessed for you..

    June 30, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  6. jose

    Hi. my name is Jose. Before you decide to keep scrolling or go to the next page, you should really at least hear what I have to say. Its funny that all i've said thus far is my name and i'm sure many out there have come to at least one conclusion, in your head, about me....... just like everyone else that looks at my job application. Truth is, I'm a 24 year, African-American, single father. I was a product of Foster care. So was my mom. So was her mom. Unfortunately i chose to pursue my dream of music instead of focusing more on school. At first, things were going smooth. Then comes a child. Still there? Then im told the mother of my child is not fit to raise her kids unless she goes to one on one therapy, which, she refuses. Two options. I take my newborn daughter, or, she become just like me. and my mom. and my mom's mom.( did i forget to mention that the mother of my kids is a product of Foster care also). I don't know anything about raising a child. I was living with my mother at the time so i figure she would help me with the baby..... boy was I wrong. in the state of NY, due to the fact that my mother lost custody of all 5 of her kids, I am not allowed to live with her(with my child) until 'ten years after her youngest child's birthdate' . So where does the place me? NYC shelter. Or the rat motel as some of them are called.. I went through 4 of them before i found a decent on suitable for a newborn. What an experience that whole first year was for me. Who would've thought i, of all people, would be raising a little newborn girl all by myself. i was on the verge of getting a job when one bad judgement sent my life downhill. Because of an illness, i decided to purchase Marijuana for the pain. What I also did was made sure my daughter was in someone else's care. My shelter worker does a room inspection and then guess what happens? Yup. She finds it. Guess what else she does... She calls administrator of children services. Then my child is place in Foster care....like I was. and my mom. and my mom's mom. Now that my child is in Foster care I have no place to stay. why? Because you can't stay at a family shelter with no 'family'. Did i mention by this time my mom lost her apartment and she's back in the shelter system? No place to go, no money, no job, and most of all, someone out there thinks I'm unfit to take care of your child. Fast Forward six months later. After completing all types of mandatory programs and classes, I get my daughter back. Along with my daughter comes her 3 year old sister. Don't ask me why but everyone made me feel bad cause the kids were in the same Foster home and they had time to bond. Acs doesn't want to split kids up. And since I've been in her life since she was 2 months, she knows me as daddy anyway. So this 24 year old, African American , name jose, took his two daughter's and went back to the shelter. Did I mentioned that I have no job at this point because I had to quit because I was at risk of being fired for missing days. Apparently, legal excuses doesn't matter to them. So lets catch you up if your still here. One 24 year old African American, two girls(1&3) no job, no constant source of income. and we're in the shelter. Should i even start to tell u how awful that place was? Maybe i could have dealt with the rats(not mice) and roaches a little better if the room wasn't the size of your average jail cell. Then they would. not honor my doctor note and request that we be moved because of my youngest asthmatic daughter. After they got tired of me complaining, they waited for a chance to get rid of me. And they did just that on a technicality. so now im 24, no job, 2 kids, homeless. Fortunately God gave me the gift of playing the keyboard so after calling around and trying to find a place to stay, some told me that i can stay above the church in exchange for my services. So now i was just 24 YR OLD BLK ML name jose, 2 girls, with a rent free apartment. It doesnt sound that bad until you think about the fact that i still have no job. Why? Because my name is Jose. Even for those who make it past the name, they are still highly disappointed when I show up. my side income was a musician at different churches and events. But i traded that for a place to stay. so now i have no income whatsoever. then comes the hardest and smartest decision i had to make. In May 2012 i made the difficult decision to place my, now four year old, back in Foster care. Why? Because i don't have a job. i can barely afford to support my self. let alone 2 kids. i get food stamps and they help but i need some cash flow. My reason for writing this is because i need help. My resume isn't the best but im willing to learn anything new. i am a very hard-working person. All i want from someone is to give me a chance. Im trying to make the best out of cards i dealt myself and be able to provide for at least the one child that is actually mine. I decided to write this because i saw the how everyone was generous to the lady being bullied on the bus and it gives me hope in humanity. Im not trying to take up donation( although the are very welcomed cause my child is in need of some new clothes) all i want us for some reading this to tell someone about me. The African American, 24 year old, single father is looking for a job. my daughter depends on me. All i really want is to be able to provide for me and my daughter. I don't my child growing up in Foster care but what other choice do i have if I'm not even able to meet her most basic necessity? If you know someone who is hiring on NYC, let them know that Jose needs a job. urgently. feel free to email if anyone wants a copy of the little resume that i do have...... if your still reading thank you for your time God Bless.......

    June 30, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • sputnick1

      What does this have to do with dim sum you idiot.

      July 2, 2012 at 11:09 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Says the Republican.

        July 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Mitt

      Not buying it. Someone who grew up in foster care and no college would not write like that.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:35 am |
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