Pop, Morgan made the trip out to Ton Kieng for a Dim Sum lunch. Sketches and images follow.
I like the luck of dim sum. The small plates. The mystery. I like trying things I’ve never had before, returning to dishes I’ve forgotten and finding the familiar flavors I’ve come to expect. The little, non-commital tastes encourage trial, and even if you can’t fully understand what the lady has under those steaming tin containers, if it looks good, it just might be. We tried silken tofu nests each with a tender shrimp centerpiece. A whole host of steamed dumplings and shu mai. There was a long noodle folded over and back on itself with morsels of BBQ’d pork nestled in the pockets of soft dough. Vibrant green pea shoots brightened the table and of course, every time the steamed pork bao lady came by, we took her up on her goods.
I wonder about when the dim sum servers get their assignments for the day. Does the girl who picks the ‘chicken feet’ cart sigh sadly, knowing that she’s going to be turned down again and again? Or does the girl who proffers steamed baos anticipate her feet aching at the end of her shift, knowing that she’ll have the most popular item.
I like the pace of the meal, that you start right away with no attention to menus or what you’re in the mood for. You’re in the mood for whatever’s in front of you, and maybe something you’ve never heard of before.
Whenever I go, I try to have something new. Push myself beyond the baos and shu mai and anything that contains BBQ pork. A woman came by and offered little doughy disks in shattered English. Before the guys could wave her off, I said yes, and brought them in front of me. I broke open the warm stretchy dough to reveal a bright yellow custard inside. It was just like mochi, but warm and immensely comforting. Rice pastry pulling across warm vanilla custard. I tried and I tried to share my giddy revelation with the guys, but the brother was in pork bun bliss and pop wasn’t feeling the want for sweet. It always makes me a little sad when I have a moment of gustatory excitement that try as I might, I can’t share with the people I’m with. Really, after all the times I’ve forced bites of this or that on them, they should know better.
I’m still craving those custard things, but I know that if I return to Tom Kieng anytime soon, I’ll try and fail at ordering them. That they won’t have them that day, or that I’ve missed the description entirely. It’s fine. Each time is adventure and next time I might discover something even better.