One oft-heard comment about my Restaurant Hot List was that it was heavy on Chinese places. I don’t apologize for it. Chinese is my default cuisine. For some reason, when I want to eat but don’t know what to eat, nine out of ten times I find that something Chinese will satiate my appetite: dimsum and congee for light days, or rice toppings and ho-fan for my man-eater days.
Depending on whom you talk to, dim sum means snack or “heart’s delight.” The Chinese character for dim sum also means “touch the heart.” There are more than 100 varieties of dim sum, and everyone has their favorites. My heart beats for ham soy kok, machang, taro puff, siopao, hakaw (shrimp dumpling), and anything encased in a glutinous wrapper and fried. Also can’t get enough of those egg custard tarts.
So I was shocked/stupefied/amused at the latest food report that came my way about dim sum being unhealthy. Apparently, all of Hong Kong is atwitter about a report by the Hong Kong government that claims that eating dimsum is bad for the health. It’s caused such a reaction that it’s now fodder for newspaper headlines and teahouse conversation.
The findings were based on laboratory analyses of 750 dim sum samples. Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department found high fat and salt and low calcium and fiber in everything from fried dumplings to seaweed. (Duh. I never thought dim sum was a particularly healthy food choice). The report suggested that locals should eat these kinds of dim sum in moderation and choose more dim sum like steamed buns and steamed rice rolls.
To add salt to injury, the government also suggested that regular dim sum diners should order plates of boiled vegetables, (with dimsum??!) to go with their meals, the report said, and should beware of some steamed dim sum for which the ingredients are fried, like bean curd sheets.
Obviously, the report came as a shock to Hong Kong locals because dim sum is part of the culture. It’s like the government issuing a study that we should have boiled vegetables as a side dish to our crispy pata (fried pork hock) and kare-kare (peanut beef stew). Hello?
I must aver however, that people are more mindful of their health now, even in teahouses. In the more upscale Hong Kong restaurants, working women and taitais (homemaker wives of rich businessmen) can sometimes be seen dabbing their dim sum with tissues to soak up some of the grease and leaving the fried exteriors of some of the dumplings on their plate. Some women even dip their dim sum into their tea to remove excess oil before eating it.
I will not go that far, since I believe in everything in moderation. Now excuse me while I run to my nearest dimsum house.