Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dim Sum

M and I (and the kids) joined my extended family for a Chinese dim sum lunch today. My dad in particular is a dim sum fanatic, and drives 20-odd miles twice a week (or more) to chow down on dumplings, noodles and pastries stuffed with various combinations of pork, beef, shrimp, and other less easily identifiable proteins.

Me? I'm not a fan.* I got sick of the twice-weekly dim sum meals when I was a kid, and I've never found it especially tasty (except for a brief period during puberty, when everything seemed delicious). Now that I'm super-vigilant about my food choices, I'm even more leery of dim sum. Years ago, the government of Hong Kong -- the epicenter of dim sum culture -- released a report declaring the obvious: Dim sum is unhealthy.
[B]ased on laboratory analyses of 750 dim sum samples, Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department found high fat and salt and low calcium and fiber in everything from fried dumplings to marinated jellyfish. The report suggested that local residents eat these kinds of dim sum in moderation, and choose more dim sum like steamed buns and steamed rice rolls. Regular dim sum diners should order plates of boiled vegetables to go with their meals, the report said, and should beware of some steamed dim sum for which the ingredients are fried, like bean curd sheets.
[T]he findings were consistent with academic research on the nutritional content of dim sum and were especially important given recent studies on how people from this region absorb fat. Genetic tendencies toward long trunks and shorter legs mean that many people of southeast Asian descent may carry a higher proportion of fat relative to their height and weight than people of the same height and weight from northern China or Europe.
Southern Chinese ancestry? Stumpy legs and long trunk? That's me to a T. Dim sum is like kryptonite for me. Nonetheless, family obligations dictate that we must attend at least a dozen or so dim sum lunches each year.

My coping strategy? Eat a snack before going to dim sum. Pick at my plate and move stuff around. Eat a few steamed shrimp and/or veggie dumplings, drink some tea and ignore the rest. Focus everyone's attention on the kids and away from the fact that I haven't touched the many dishes of fried stuff on the Lazy Susan. Fend off family members' attempts to put food on my (empty) plate by constantly waving my hand a few inches above it (thus forming an impenetrable dim sum force field). Then, come home and have a bowl of cereal.

*My dislike of dim sum mystifies my dad. "You loved it when you were a kid," he says. I just nod, rather than reminding him that when I enjoyed dim sum, I also loved the antics of Family Circus (especially Barfy the Dog), the soothing sounds of The Carpenters, and pissing in my own bed.