Saturday, December 22, 2007

Playing with Dim Sum

The phrase dim sum has been translated to mean "the heart's little treasures." It is one of the best ways in the world to play with food! While dim sum is best enjoyed with a group, the larger the group, the more impossible it becomes to photograph the little dishes still intact. We seldom go alone for dim sum - and it has been way too many months since we had any!

We are lucky in Cleveland Ohio to have a modestly sized Chinatown, which offers no fewer than four dim sum restaurants that I know of (and probably more).

Well, after being tortured the past few weeks with these two fabulous internet accounts of Hong Kong eats (EGullet Thread 1 and EGullet Thread 2), I woke up this morning and cried uncle - and asked Bob if he was game for dim sum for just us, since we both had no plans for this day. He agreed, and off we went to Chinatown.

We decided upon C&Y Chinese Restaurant, 2222 St. Clair Avenue, (216) 566-1188, because we have had our best dim sum experiences there. C&Y is a very strange story - it was originally owned and operated by a restaurant group out of New York City, and had outstanding food. After about one year, the quality of the food started to slip, and then it closed, though the phone number never was disconnected. C&Y then re-opened about a year after it closed, with some of the same faces, and some new ones. Among other things, they began to feature Burmese cuisine, which we have yet to sample, and which is now only represented by a few dishes on the menu. They have always catered to whoever comes in - and whether their tastes run to authentic Chinese food or American Chinese.

C&Y offers a good variety of dim sum daily from 10am-3pm. They are also the "Official Restaurant of A Christmas Story," or more accurately, the Christmas Story House and Museum. C&Y gives Museum patrons a 20% discount, and at this time of the year, they show the movie A Christmas Story continuously, and offer a special Christmas Story Menu:

The Peking Duck is served with a gong strike and a rendition of "fa la la la la" as done in the movie. Kitschy, yes - but I gotta say - I got a good look at one of those ducks today, and it made my mouth water even though I was already full!

We arrived around 11:30am, rather early for Cleveland Dim Sum (in NYC, they start running out of the best things shortly after noon). The place was pretty empty, which concerned me, seeing that this restaurant has already gone "out of business" once before. But I need not have worried - it filled in well, and had a very nice crowd by the time we left around 1pm.

So - here is the food we played with:

Jook (or Congee or Rice Gruel)

I haven't had Jook since my trip to China in 1999 - we usually avoid it because it is so filling. But for some reason, it just called to us today. This Jook was creamy, and typically bland (chili paste helps!), and contained strips of meat (either chicken or pork or both) and cubes of tea smoked eggs, which become translucent in the cooking process:

We really enjoyed this treat.

Black Pepper Beef Ribs

I have grown to like this better than the "pork knuckles" I'm accustomed to at East Coast dim sum. You can see the gobs of marrow in the bones, which added to the flavor of the gravy. And I'm a huge fan of Hong Kong style Black Pepper Sauce - and this was a lip smacking version of it!

Turnip Cake

The only items that disappointed us at all (and not very much, I might add) were on the cart of fried foods - they had been too long out of the fryer, and were getting close to room temperature. The turnip cake was served without the traditional Hosein sauce, and tasted very fresh and good - but I would have liked it hotter.

Chives Dumpling

This is one of my favorite dim sums - a "turtle" of fun gwoh dough (rice flour and wheat starch, which can be either deep fried as here, or steamed, as below) stuffed with Chinese Chives and Shrimp. Again - it was a little colder than optimal - but it tasted so good!

Pork Fun Gwoh

This is one of the few fried dumplings that I really love - a toothy, crispy on the outside chewy on the inside, slightly sweet wrapper loaded with tasty pork! Yes, it could have been warmer, but it was oh so good!

Bean Curd Skin Roll

This roll is stuffed with two things I normally don't care for - mushrooms and shrimp. Somehow, the mushrooms meld into the texture of the roll and don't bother me - and today particularly I noted how tasty the shrimp was - no off textures, smells or tastes, as often happens with the frozen shrimp we Midwesterners are relegated to.

Chiu Chow Fun Gwoh

Commonly called a "vegetable dumpling" even though it may have meat (as this one did), shrimp, and/or peanuts - it is one of my favorite dim sums and was served hot and fresh. This is how the fun gwoh dough behaves when it is steamed, rather than fried.

Stuffed Eggplant or Eggplant Sandwich

While I prefer these to be made with fish paste, I cannot quibble at all about the quality and tastiness of the shrimp mousse surrounding the eggplant.

Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)

There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that the last time I had these at C&Y (many months ago) they were downright stale and smelled and tasted bad. This time, both the nose and the color told me that they were not made fresh today, so I prepared myself to not like them. To my surprise, the good news is that they were very very good - though not exquisite. The crab and pork filling tasted fresh and the soup satisfying. C&Y has added a clever touch to these dumplings - they now serve them on a radish round - which makes the delicate pouches much easier to handle!

I wanted to try the "Red Ryder Rolls" - Banana & Crab! And I was really hankering for some Baked Egg Custard (Dan Tak). But we were too full - and they were out of the custards. Guess that means we need to round up some eaters and get back to C&Y for dim sum soon!

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