After an entire day of visiting and walking around London, it is only normal to feel the need for (or better yet, crave) a nice, warm and comforting meal. Personally I love trying out new gastronomies from around the world and hate having the same kind of dinner two nights in a row. Accompagnied by two friends from home with a tourist guide in hand, we read a good review about Ping Pong, which was refered to as a great Chinese restaurant with affordable prices. We were immediately convinced.
The funny thing about this is, I wouldn’t even know how to review the restaurant. Well, I can say that I liked the decoration, can’t complain about the service and enjoyed the atmosphere. But the problem is that Ping Pong is not just a Chinese restaurant, it is a dim sum restaurant. Can’t tell the difference?
Photo: Courtesy of Haute Living
Dim sum is a specific type of Chinese dish that contains small individual portions of food, usually served in a steamer basket. Traditional dim sum are a kind of steamed buns and dumplings filled with a range of different ingredients. They can be cooked by steaming, frying or baking, and sizes are usually small. It is customary to share the dishes among all members of the dining party, kind of like the Spanish tapas, the Chinese way.
So as you can probably tell I was expecting sweet and sour pork, not tiny dumplings the size of a golf ball. To be honest, fried dim sum are just like spring rolls, which I love. Apart from that, I felt like I was eating hospital food with barely any flavour. Even if the Evening Standard tells me that Keira Knightley maintains a diet of dim sum to keep her figure, it won’t change my mind; however healthy it is, I’d rather eat cooked vegetables all my life.
This notion that seems to have become established as common sense that dim sum are really healthy was peculiar to me. I get that about the steamed buns, but what about the fried and the baked ones? And what about sauces such as black bean sauce, which only to the taste is extremely salty?
While researching about the benefits of Chinese culinary and dim sum in particular, I came across a press release by the government from last year, and it was easy to conclude that dim sum is like any other food: any excessive intake is bad for your health and you need to complement it with other healthy habits, such as eating fruit and vegetable, exercising and not exaggerating on the fried products. You have to be especially careful about sodium and fat levels if you consume dim sum regularly.
When leaving the restaurant, me and my friends felt unsatisfied, craving for some (from our point of view only) “real” food. However, I quickly realised the problem wasn’t the restaurant; it was the dim sum. Quite obviously I was not very excited about this new culinary discovery and couldn’t blame anyone else but me.
Maybe it’s because it’s not part of what I’m used to eat, or my taste buds don’t scream with excitement at the thought of rice wrapped in lotus flower. Whatever reason, everyone is entitled to their tastes and opinions, and I am still proud to say that yes, I have tasted dim sum; one more thing I can cross off my personal world gastronomy list. And anyway, I wouldn’t lose hope about dim sum just yet: after all, “a man’s palate can, in time, become accustomed to anything”.