By Ben Adler
As I mentioned before, I went to Vancouver and resolved, as I do everywhere, to have the full breadth of local culinary experience. In a city with a huge Asian population, that means Asian food. And on Saturday morning that meant Dim Sum. I’m not what you would call a morning person. I consider brunch, which is usually served until about 2 pm, the earliest acceptable meal. And don’t get me started on the farmer’s market, which would be great if it didn’t sell out of everything good by noon, which is when I get there. So despite my affection for authentic Chinese food I’ve basically never had Dim Sum. Every time one of my friends back home would say, “We’re going to Chinatown for Dim Sum around 10:30 tomorrow morning, want to come?” I would laugh at the absurdity of setting one’s alarm just to wake up for breakfast, and getting on the subway, when there’s a perfectly greasy diner just up the block. Also, the one or two times I did try it I was deeply unimpressed: who wants a pork bun in the morning? That’s dinner food.
But I was staying with my cousin and his mother and they suggested Dim Sum and I figured that maybe all the people who love it so much are onto something. My taste buds have matured in the last few years and since we’d be driving there it would seem less far-fetched than a schlep on the train for breakfast, plus it’s the true Vancouver experience, so why not?
Little did I know. First of all, the entire menu seemed to consist of pork and shrimp filled dishes. No matter what bun or dumpling or pancake or roll it was, when you asked what it contained the answer came back, “pork,” “shrimp,” or “pork and shrimp.” I like pork and shrimp, although not necessarily together and definitely not before 11 am. After trying a series of funny-tasting things I went over to the special order counter and picked the one vegetarian sounding thing off the menu. “Egg with ginger.”
Alas, it took forever to make and I was mostly full of pork buns and noodles by the time it finally did arrive. As you can see from the picture, it was not the Asian omelet thing I imagined. Instead it was a deep dark sauce filled with giant, marrowey bones attached to a mystery meat. It had one hard boiled egg in it, which is the only part I ate. The ginger tasted very strange and I didn’t dare try the mystery meat. What was that meat anyway? I asked the waitress and she stared at me blankly. “Is it pork?” I offered. “Yes,” she said, although I think she was just going along to get along, “it’s pork.”