Happy was I when my friends Kai and Andrew asked if I’d like to grab dim sum with them last Sunday. Though I had had dim sum before, I’m definitely still a novice, so the opportunity to grub it up with a few experts was gloriously enticing.
We ventured out to the colossal Ocean Palace on Bellaire in Houston’s Chinatown, where the huge dining room was more than half filled by the time we got there at 11:30. Older Chinese women scuttled about with their carts, leaving treasure bins of goodness on various tables. The heavily Chinese crowd of youngster, middlers, and elders conversed with subdued animation.
And then there’s the food. Kai and Andrew intrepidly guided me through a hulking list of delicacies, showing me the good, the bad, and the just plain gimmicky. They patiently taught me how to identify the best dumplings, what dishes to avoid (eggplant, for example, since it’s not native to China), and how to pick the tiny bones and tendons from the chicken feet, a dim sum staple. Perhaps best of all, they didn’t laugh at all when I squeezed the Siracha bottle so hard that the little green top went flying… And. Sauce. Went. Everywhere. Heh.
I loved the shrimp dumplings, textured turnip cakes, Lotus leaf rice, tofu-wrapped pork, and slippery rice noodle rolls. Kai craves the chicken feet and steamed pork buns, while Andrew’s perennial favorite is the spongy tripe.
The morning turned out exciting-yet-relaxing, serene, fast, formidable, I’m-so-full, and fun. If only all my weeks could begin with such varied grace.
Ocean Palace – 11215 Bellaire Blvd. (near Wilcrest)