Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

My Dim Sum Experience

The first time I had dim sum was years ago in San Francisco's Chinatown. I've forgotten the name of the restaurant, if ever I knew it, but I still know where to find it. It's upstairs, with huge windows overlooking Chinatown's main thoroughfare. My first dim sum experience was a delight, with all those tasty little treasures brought right to your table on rolling carts, steaming hot from the kitchen in stacked bamboo baskets. That day, we tried everything that rolled by, including an order of chicken feet! I had no idea they were standard fare, and I watched in horror as my intrepid dining companion deconstructed them joint by joint, gnawing the scant morsels of meat from each knuckle. But as I pictured that chicken walking around in a poopy barnyard, I just couldn't bring myself to eat them. Nonetheless, to this day, that order of chicken feet remains one of my most amusing dining anecdotes.

Fast-forward ten years or so, to the time I introduced Rene to his first taste of dim sum in that very same restaurant. This time we tried everything that rolled by EXCEPT the chicken feet. Although Rene was far less horrified than I at the notion of eating them. Having grown up in Mexico, where every scrap of food is put to use without waste, he thought it quite natural that the feet of the chicken would be considered perfectly edible as well.

Since that time, I've only eaten commercially packaged dim sum that I found in the freezer section of my local supermarket. For about $12, you can buy a box of 40 assorted pieces, including spring rolls, dumplings, meat-filled buns, and croquettes. When my son Will was first enrolled in Tae Kwon Do, I used to pick up a box of frozen dim sum as a special dinner treat on Friday evenings after his class. But I haven't seen them for sale lately, and have missed them terribly.

So, for my 'Road Home' Dinner & a Movie, I'm going to try my hand at the ambitious task of making dim sum from scratch.