A girl never forgets her first chicken foot.
It was my birthday, 2002. Somehow I’d made it to my twenties without ever putting a chicken foot into my mouth. But, I was at a dim sum joint in Seattle and chicken feet soon appeared. Now, I’m white, right? So yeah, I got through one before admitting that I’m too Caucasian — still! — to enjoy chicken feet. Luckily, I was surrounded by a thousand delicious dumplings and buns and tentacles and plates and balls and all the mystery and majesty that is dim sum. And I fell in love.
When I heard about the Dim Sum Truck my first reaction was, well how’s that going to work? The joy of dim sum is in large part the frenetic puzzle of roving food, language barriers and the ever-present challenge of how to fit three hundred dumplings into your abdominal cavity. And then a giant, blinding lightbulb appeared over my head and then exploded in a shower of glass. What if I didn’t have to order a whole plate of everything? What if I could just casually grab one or two of my favorites?
Enter Dim Sum Truck.
Ranking way up there in my list of favorites is the above, a sesame ball with lotus seed paste. They’re often filled with red bean paste, but I prefer the lotus seed. If you’ve never had one, you should try one; greasy, chewy, nutty, sweet – you might feel pressure to refer to them as a “Chinese donut” but you’ll need to restrain yourself. They’re nothing like a donut. They’re not like anything else on Earth. They are simply sesame balls, and they are singularly magical.
And here’s an interesting thing. You see, like all Americans, I first had an egg tart thinking the same thing every other American thinks: lemon! And then you bite into one and find this hard, stale, rubbery egg thing and set the rest of it down, focusing while you attempt to python-swallow the chunk in your mouth down without having to chew or taste the rest of the bite. Perhaps unlike you, I never learn my lesson and get them over and over again, every time disappointed and angry. I know Chinese people have taste buds, so what is this shit?
Until now. What is this delicious, flaky, tender, custardy delight? It’s like flan in a pie shell. It’s like a working-class creme brulee. I finally grok it: this is an egg tart. Woe is all that other garbage I’ve been eating. Dim Sum Truck, stop! I already have a boyfriend. Okay, you can touch me there. But just once!
Oddly, what should have been the easiest home run was the biggest miss: the pork bun was merely adequate. Too much jelly in the filling. It wasn’t bad, but I suppose in light of the rest of the meal it was a stinker.
But this is what we came for, soldiers. Sticky rice. Good god, look at it. So demure. So tidy and unassuming.
Right away I have a good feeling. It’s hard to explain, but the combination of stickiness, odor and immediate presence of inter-rice vittles had my ears perked.
This is terrible food photography, and at this point I no longer cared. This is sticky rice. This is what I was hoping that the Dim Sum Truck would pull off, and I could tell just by looking at it that they did. There’s Chinese sausage, fatty pork, big pieces of mushroom, shrimp, maybe even chicken? And all in an aggregate of sticky, fatty, salty-sweet, delicious rice. Some of the rice around the exterior had even crusted and caramelized a little, and my hands shook a little as I picked up my chopsticks.
It’s the little things.March 18th, 2010 | Eatin' Fancy