One billion Chinese people can’t be wrong.
When you’re eating your overpriced, overhyped Sunday brunch, the Chinese are tucking into steamers full of fresh-made dumplings, buns, noodle dishes, meats and sweets.
They call it dim-sum. We call it delicious.
Foodies have long flocked to dim sum parlors that line Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park and Avenue U in Bensonhurst, where carts loaded with bamboo and metal steamers clamor down narrow aisles. But now dim sum, which roughly translates to “hits the spot,” is the new Sunday brunch for even Brooklynites who couldn’t find the meat on a chicken foot (we can; see sidebar).
And with such a variety of offerings, the cuisine — which originated centuries ago as a tea snack and has emerged as a key culinary and cultural tradition in Hong Kong and China’s Guangdong province — certainly lives up to its name.
“Every kind of cooking style that you can imagine is present — it’s not all dumplings, by any means,” said Chinese food expert Andrew Coe, who tests a dim sum parlor’s excellence by sampling three core dishes: the shumai (pork dumplings), the hargau (shrimp dumplings), and char siu bao (steamed roast pork buns).
And Brooklyn’s dim sum parlors are excellent indeed — often besting eateries in Manhattan, said Coe, author of “Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States.”
Diners can find authentically Chinese experiences at standouts, including Pacificana, a dazzling and delicious 55th Street restaurant that boasts great soup dumplings and delectable tripe; East Harbor Seafood Palace, a 65th Street joint which lives up to its aquatic name with its seemingly endless amount of shellfish dishes; King Star, on Eighth Avenue, where shrimp dumplings and bean curd skin rolls share top billing; and World Tong on 18th Avenue, where the chicken feet and bean-filled sesame balls reign supreme.
“If you go to a place like World Tong on Chinese New Year, it’s very much the same [as it is in China],” Coe said. “There’s a huge line outside. You can’t move because there are so many carts in the aisles. Everyone is jostling and having a good time.”
It’s easy to enjoy the small plates meal — even if you’ve never had it before. Here are some tips for newbies who might be nervous about the Cantonese dining experience:
• Go with friends: Dim sum is served in small plates, much like tapas, so the more you plates you order the more dishes you can try.
• During the mid-morning and lunchtime rush, many dim sum parlors issue numbers to those waiting for tables. If you don’t speak Cantonese (you don’t?), make sure you let the host or hostess know that you’ll need your number to be read in English. Hover close and maintain eye contact.
• Be assertive. Ask the staffers pushing the carts to pull up the lids on all of their steamers, so you won’t miss a favorite dish. If you can’t find something you’d like on the carts, place an order with a waiter (the men and women in suits).
• Be sure to tip. A few bucks on the table isn’t much to ask after a gargantuan feast that will run little more than $7 per person.
East Harbor Seafood Palace [714 65th St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues in Dyker Heights, (718) 765-0098]; King Star [6022 Eighth Ave. between 60th and 61st streets in Sunset Park, (718) 492-6888]; Pacificana [813 55th St. at Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, (718) 871-2880]; World Tong [6202 18th Ave. at 62nd Street in Bensonhurst, (718) 236-8118].