Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fun Playing with Dim Sum in Cleveland

Inspired by last week's episode of Top Chef, "Dim Sum Lose Some," my friend Tom asked if we wanted to visit Cleveland Asiatown Dim Sum stalwart Li Wah for lunch on Sunday. Hmmm - I'd been thinking the very thing! Looking at my photography records, I realized that, for no particular reason, it had been two full years since I've dined at Li Wah. While I have honestly had better dim sum in my life (and what was with those flimsy bamboo chopsticks?), our meal was mostly satisfying and very tasty. And lots of fun to play with!

Six of us convened. We were seated right by the roasted/BBQ meat stand:

Ducks and Chickens and Pigs, oh my!

That tiny specimen of roast pork on the upper right started out as a full side of pork that I tried (and failed) to photograph as the cooks schlepped it past our table towards the food stand.

Eggplant Sandwich

Our first bite. A shrimpy filling generously sandwiched between two slices of Chinese Eggplant is battered and fried - delicious!

Stuffed Bean Curd Skin

Whereas the first dish of eggplant was a little cold, these morsels were piping hot!

Right about here is where the shao mai, or steamed meat/shrimp dumplings go - looks like I didn't photograph them. They were hot and tasty. I also missed the Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings). Oh well.

Chicken Feet

The Top Chef episode had our mouths watering for properly made chicken feet. These were ok, but weren't cooked to fall-apart creamy perfection. Better than Casey's, I'm sure, but I've had better.

Baked Coconut Bun

These lacked profundity.


The smell of soduim polytriphosphate hit my nose before the meat could reach my mouth.  These last three items were the most disappointing dishes of the day. Fortunately, we got them out of the way early, and the rest of the meal was much, much better.

Taro Dumplings

Shredded taro surrounds a scrumptious ball of minced taro, creamy pureed taro, pork, and shrimp. Yum.

Chive Dumplings

Fried wheat-starch based wrappers stuffed with fresh chives, pork and shrimp - more yum.

Roast Duck

Skin crisped to perfection enveloped the ducky goodness.

Turnip Cake

Though not as ethereal as the Wonton Gourmet version, we all agreed that we enjoyed these fried squares of cooked turnip/Chinese radish, pork and dried shrimp.

Fried Rice Noodle

These noodles had intense flavor from dried shrimp (and they may have had other shrimp components) - a little too intense for my taste, but we again enjoyed the dish.

Shrimp Stuffed Bell Pepper

Though I'm not a huge green pepper fan - the exquisite freshness of the vegetable combined with a very agreeable shrimp-based filling for a lovely bite.

Shrimp and Chive Dumpling

I love this wheat-starch based dough, which surrounded inoffensive shrimp and more fresh chives.

Pork Fun Gwoh

One of my favorite dim sums - this version satisfied with chewy, slightly sweet dough and savory pork.

Beef Rib with Black Pepper Sauce

Black pepper sauce is one of my favorites, and the meat fell tenderly off the bones. We were actually offered a choice between pork or beef for this dish.

BBQ Pork Bun (Steamed)

These buns were lovely. The dining companion to my right ate three of them. 'Nuff said.

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce

We lamented how it seems that the green vegetables always seem to show up after the table is gorged on dumplings, rice and buns. However, since we'd skipped the rice and gone easy on the buns (well, most of us had gone easy on the buns) we decided to share one last plate. It was the one thing we'd been lacking - roughage! And tastefully done. Though in retrospect, the other thing our meal lacked (which was not remedied) was any truly fresh or auspicious fish or seafood - a hallmark of genuine dim sum. Still, being in landlocked Cleveland, I can say that no one at our table left hungry or unsatisfied.

Tom had saved room for a bubble tea from Cleveland's venerable Koko Bakery, and we all decided to pick up some sweets for later.

Dan Tac or Egg Custard

No one in Cleveland (or anyplace else I've ever tasted this) makes it as well as Koko Bakery.

Chocolate Stuffed Bun

Don't be fooled by the apparently small bit of chocolate. Trust me that behind that little spot flowed a veritable river of chocolaty goodness.

Taro Bun

Monday's breakfast.

Moon Cake

Proprietor Jessica handed out mooncakes to all at the register. These were wrapped in cellophane and I do not know if they were made at the bakery or not. I'm guessing that they were - I've never had a more silken, gentle mooncake; it was delicious. Usually a dry, tough dough, this tender specimen surrounded a thick, fruit-based filling (think Fig Newtons on steroids). The mooncakes were welcome tidbits for the holiday season that continues for our Asian friends through February, when Chinese New Year is celebrated beginning February 3.

We had fun playing with the heart's little treasures in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio at Li Wah and Koko Bakery!

Li Wah on Urbanspoon

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