Friday, June 13, 2008

Weekend Dim Sum

Go out and get some Dim Sum this weekend.

Although I still lean more toward Little Panda as my favorite dim sum place, Golden Wok has many bragging points... not the least of which is that on the weekend, when they have the carts, they can go wild with new varieties.

A couple of things we had recently:

Water Chestnut Cake
Water Chestnut Cake looks kinda odd and foreign to Western eyes, but it's not really that exotic. I suspect most would like it. It's a very thick gelatin, lightly sweet and faintly vanilla, with crunchy chestnuts inside. It's also been pan fried, which might seem odd, but it's GOOD that way. The cart lady said it was very refreshing for summer, and she was right. (Those cart ladies usually are.)

Fried Custard Dumplings
Custard Filled Fried Dumplings. These lovely delights are a lot like our favorite sesame balls. The wrapper is made of sweet sticky rice flour -- so it's very chewy, crisp on the outside from being deepfried. Inside it has a nice light custard, not too rich or too sweet. It's thick so that it doesn't all goosh out when you bite into the chewy wrapper. I don't know if the black sesame seeds on top are always a sign of a custard filling, but you can always ask.

Barbeque Pork Pastry. These are just a different shape than the ones I mentioned in the Dim Sum Primer. (They often play with different shapes at Golden Wok.) I like this shape best, because the ratio of meat to pastry is good in every bite.

Mango Chicken. Sorry no picture -- I didn't have my camera with me the day they had these. They brought it out JUST as we were completely stuffed and getting ready to leave, but they looked too good to pass up. It was made of strips of chicken and mango, wrapped and breaded in coconut, then deep fried. They were creamy, and rich, but not too sweet. I want to try them again when I'm not too stuffed.

Here is Maude Cat doing an impression of what we looked like after coming home from Dim Sum that day:

The down side of eating dim sum from the traditional "roving cart" method, is that it encourages a Competitive Eating mentality. You don't want to miss anything, and it all looks so good.... you end up buying and eating more than you intended. This can be okay if you are going straight home afterward with leftovers, but if you are, say, going to a movie, you must exercise a lot of self-discipline. That or leave time to run home and put the leftovers in the fridge before curtain time.

(BTW: Sesame balls or the custard-filled dumplings mentioned above are primo snacks to smuggle into a movie. Just remember that they are deep fried so they'll get some grease on your fingers -- though no more than popcorn will -- and they're a little sticky. My recommendation is to bring a ziploc bag for the smuggling part, and make sure you have a napkin. Oh and, uh... Mango Chicken ISN'T a good snack to sneak into a theater.)

Golden Wok is in East Lansing, at 2755 E Grand River Ave. (517) 333-8322. (At the corner of Northwind Drive, across from Oriental Mart, and near the E.L. Food co-op.)

(Little Panda is on the west side of Lansing, at 5439 W Saginaw Hwy, across from Lansing Mall in the Target shopping area. (517) 323-2450.)


(The Rev'd. Canon) Dr. Jack Lumanog said...

First, let me say that I'm glad I found this blog!

Dim sum at Little Panda better than at Golden Wok? I went to Little Panda on a weekend recently and it was as I had to beg for service. It was basically non-existent and the char siu bao seemed fresh out of the microwave. The siu mai was by far superior to Golden Wok, I still can't see having a pleasant experience at LP. Partly a service issue (or lack thereof) and the ambiance (a bit depressing with it being empty on a weekend lunch and all). Just my 2 cents.

The East Side Food Geek said...

Golden Wok is definitely catching up, especially on the weekends when they have the carts. My main beef with them is when you order off the menu on weekdays, they forget seasonings and sauces.

I suspect you are right about the service -- dim sum needs to be fresh, and at either restaurant, the food has suffered when they are not busy.

Part of deciding which one is better is a matter of which does a better job with your favorites. Golden Wok definitely has the best Siu Mai in town. Little Panda can't be beat on the potstickers and green onion pancake. (And a really great Spring Roll on the weekends only.)

Lastly, I think they have a new chef at Little Panda. The seasonings changed on some dishes, and I haven't had a chance to try everything again. (Big question, do they still make the beef in rice roll with a touch of tangerine peel?)

(The Rev'd. Canon) Dr. Jack Lumanog said...

I should have been clearer: I only go to Golden Wok on the weekends precisely because of the cart service. (I also have been in for the first time in weeks today and noticed they have a wine selection... the owner told me it's a newly acquired liquor license and they're really excited about it!)

I'm going to have to give Little Panda another shot because my curiosity is totally piqued with potstickers and green onion pancake. I did have a shrimp toast that was good the last time I was there but I was all but ignored. If I wasn't so hungry, I would have left but I was on the Westside and really wanted dim sum (as did my daughter!)

The other thing that I recall being good at Little Panda when I first moved here last January was their Beef Chow Fun. It was 2-3 meals and it was good every time.

Service and ambiance are big things for me. Sometimes it doesn't matter how good the food is if they could care less that you're there.

The East Side Food Geek said...

You can get the potstickers and green onion pancake off the regular menu. We'll often go there and get a big plate of dumplings each, and split a plate of noodles or Crispy Shrimp.

As for ambiance, I gotta admit, it scores no points with me at all. Much of the best food in the world is served in dives. Service is important, but as long as I know what to expect I don't care how bad it is if the food is good. For instance, before Lamai had a buffet, she was often working alone, and you never knew when you would get served. Generally the customers would wait on each other. Once the health inspector waited on us. But people were willing to do that because she's a great cook.

Little Panda does tend to give better service when they are moderately busy.