Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Dim Sum Dilemma

Being the type of person who rather likes eating, food and anything that has ever had anything to do with a frying pan and hot oil, as well as being a fan of activities in which efficient people bring you endless plates of crispy, salty things that you equally as efficiently vault down your gob, one of my favourite pastimes is yum cha.

If you're not familiar with yum cha, it's basically the best Chinese invention since the compass. And the compass was only invented so Chinese people could find their way to the next yum cha restaurant, so that puts THAT in perspective.

Also known as dim sum, yum cha is a type of dining in which waiters push trolleys full of little baskets of food around and hassle you until you take some from them. Then they make a mark on a special piece of paper on your table - the more marks you accrue, the more likely you are to have a coronary after you leave.

You might think that the kind of event in which you are virtually force fed dumplings and beer until you burst has no down side. But you'd be wrong. There is one fatal flaw with the yum cha experience - you can't talk to anyone. (Of course, indulging in conversation does reduce the amount of dumplings you can eat rather dramatically, so it's up to you whether that's a problem or not.)

The reason you can't talk is not to do with the food, it's this:

"You want squid? Dumpling? Pork bun? You want pork bun? Hey, YOU WANT PORK BUN?"

If you've ever had to explain advanced computer programming to a parent of 13 children under three who have recently all been given a box of matches then you'll have some idea what trying to have a conversation at a yum cha restaurant is like.

The other day I went to yum cha with some friends I hadn't seen in ages for a "catch up". The conversation went something like this:

You'll never believe this but last week I got to meet FRIED BEAN CURD? And the most incredible part of the whole story was STEAMED PRAWN ROLLS? And then I worked out who murdered Mark - it was BARBECUE PORK BUNS?

After attempting a citizen's arrest on a plate of pork buns for homicide, I came up with the best idea in the history of ever - THE YUM CHA FLAG.

You want waiters to hassle you with dumplings? Flag up. You want to be left alone to eat and talk? Flag down. IT'S THAT SIMPLE, GUYS.

Now, if only someone would adopt the idea it could be the best Chinese invention since yum cha.


  1. Clever. ;).

    I've never been to Yum Cha before but I've always kinda wanted to. I love food and eating and stuff. LOL.


  3. You'll like Yum Cha in Hong Kong then. Hong Kong people pride efficiency over everything else so now in most Yum Cha restaurants, they give you a sheet of paper with all the dim sums they have and you just mark down what you want and they send it out to you. Makes me miss the whole trolley thing though and spontaneous selection of food and most importantly, its usually all in Chinese.

  4. We don’t NEED realism in order to apply our preconditioned associations to new experiences. We do it all the time with our prejudices, judgements, preconceived notions, preferences, likes and dislikes. If we were in the `now` we would not have any of these. But we pretend not to be in the now, preferring instead a fantasy.

  5. I think a flag is a great idea. But the ordering off a menu at yum cha is wrong and broken. It should actually be against the law. Yum cha is trolleys and mysterious steaming baskets and noise and waiting for a particular dish which only ever seems to come just after you've paid the bill. Aaaah, yum cha, it's my favourite food group.

  6. Love the flag idea, now if you can only explain the yum cha waiting staff hierarchy.

  7. "if you're not familiar with yum cha"...now that is a sad, sad sentence. If you are not familiar with yum cha you need to acquaint yourself IMMEDIATELY!

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