July 4, 2007
Cuisine: Chinese, Dim Sum
4609 Convoy St, Suite A
San Diego, CA 92111
Phone: (858) 268-0888
While most people in San Diego were celebrating the Fourth barbecuing at the beach and watching fireworks, my mom, grandma, aunt, and I headed to Jasmine for dim sum—nothing says America like non-proficient English speakers serving up copious amounts of meat. Since I reviewed Jasmine last December, I thought I’d treat this post as a Dim Sum 101 of sorts for individuals who have never experienced the delicious chaos that is dim sum.
Jasmine is my family’s choice eatery for dim sum because they offer great variety and service. Their dining room is incredibly spacious and always bustling with carts filled with meat, seafood, vegetables, and desserts. While some dim sum restaurants have diners order from a menu, this is not the case here. At Jasmine, diners are seated at tables and choose their delights as carts roll by. Prices are sort of a mystery in this process, but one can be certain that everything is priced reasonably. Once a dish or dishes have been selected, the individual pushing the cart uses a tiny stamp to imprint a symbol on to the table’s bill. The bill stays on the table and more stamps are added as the meal progresses. At the end of the feast, the total is tabulated based on the number of stamps.
The cardinal rule of dim sum is to never order vegetables. If you’re in the mood for healthy or light fare, dim sum is not the way to go. Stick with the meats, seafood, and carbohydrates. While we’re at it, don’t bother with dessert either. The only worthy exception to the dessert rule is Dauhua, which is hot tofu in a ginger syrup that is wonderfully sweet and spicy.
It is best to consume dumplings and the like with soy sauce and some hot chili oil, especially if you want a little heat. Furthermore, I would recommend going to dim sum with a large party in order to sample as many dishes while avoiding leftovers. Here are some of my (and my family’s) favorite dim sum offerings:
Shrimp Har Gow ($4)
Shrimp Har Gow are steamed dumplings filled with large chunks of plain shrimp. The outer wrapping is made of tapioca flour, which adds a chewier consistency to the dumpling.
Scallop and Shrimp Dumpling ($4)
Scallop and Shrimp Dumplings are very similar to Shrimp Har Gow, but with the addition of scallions and scallops. The generous filling of scallops and shrimp inside the dumpling makes this a particularly luxurious treat.
Salt and Pepper Calamari ($7.95)
Salt and Pepper Calamari is one of the best dishes at Jasmine. Calamari are lightly dipped in a salty batter and fried briefly to a crisp. The texture is chewy and the taste is savory with a bit of spice from the fresh chilies.
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns ($2.50)
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns are a dim sum staple. The BBQ pork filling is sweet, but not cloyingly so, while the bun is soft and moist. This dish also comes baked, which makes for a golden and crispier bun.
Ox Tripe with Ginger and Scallion ($2.50)
Ox Tripe with Ginger and Scallion highlights tripe well and is overall very mild on the palette. I adore tripe for its slightly rubbery texture and flavor absorbing properties. This thinly sliced preparation reminded me of the tripe served in phở.
Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice ($4.30)
Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice is glutinous rice that has been prepared with chicken and dried shrimp and steamed while wrapped in a lotus leaf. The lotus leaf only adds a light flavor and more importantly, keeps the rice moist and sticky. This savory dish is a great complement to any dumpling.
Shrimp Siu Mai ($4)
Shrimp Siu Mai is a shrimp meatball enclosed partially in a wonton wrapper. Since the outer wrapping is quite thin, the focus in this dish is on the shrimp. The siu mai is not as tender as the har gow, but still delicious.
Steamed Assorted Meat Tofu Roll ($3.60)
Pork, chicken, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms are wrapped in sheets of bean curd and served in a savory, but oily sauce. A bit of soy sauce really sets off the flavors and cuts through the dish’s oiliness.
Stewed Beef Tripe with Turnip ($5.60)
Whereas the Ox Tripe with Ginger and Scallion was sliced thinly and mild in flavor, the Stewed Beef Tripe with Turnip was the complete opposite. The beef tripe was cut in thick chunks and bathed in a ginger sauce. The ginger permeated the tripe creating an outstanding flavor.
Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce ($2.50)
Many members of my family (especially my grandma) adore Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce, but I’m not too fond of this dish due to its squishy texture and lack of deep flavor. I’m surprised how fatty chicken feet are considering chicken are on their feet all day! Everyone should try this dish at least once since it’s a classic dim sum offering.
Beef Rice Rolls ($4.30)
Beef Rice Rolls consist of a beef filling wrapped in large, flat rice noodles and served in a mild soy sauce. Shrimp rice rolls are also available. Beef Rice Rolls were my favorite dim sum dish as a kid and I still really enjoy them. Be extra careful when eating this dish because the rolls are very slippery.