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Ordering Dim Sum for Everyone

May 30, 2018

Sometimes I get lucky. Actually, I get lucky a lot. It’s probably a bad idea to say that out loud, because it might tempt fate, and soon I may find my luck running out.

This past weekend we had a bit of a family reunion in Albany. My in-laws came up to celebrate their 70th birthdays. My brother-in-law came in from Boston with his family. And my wife’s aunt came in from Worcester with some of her family.

All told, there were fifteen people. Ten adults, one teenager, and four kids.

The out of town guests were staying at a hotel on Wolf Road, and I was instructed to find a place where would could all gather for a civilized meal, nothing too fancy, but with an air of celebration.

Amazingly, the extended family, some of whom had never tried dim sum, agreed to reserving the private room at Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro. For a dim sum lunch. And as it turned out, it was just about perfect. There was only one thing I really screwed up.

At fifteen people, we were just able to fit all the chairs around their largest table. It worked out well for us, because we’re family. Plus kids don’t mind eating in close quarters.

I learned a baller move on my trip to Beijing, and that was to bring your own tea to special meals. We had received something very good as a gift, and this seemed like the occasion to break it out. The waiter didn’t blink an eye when I handed him the vacuum sealed pouches of dried leaves to brew, and it was delicious.

The challenging part was figuring out what to order that suited everybody’s tastes, dietary needs, and preferences, while at the same time playing into the dishes that I consider to be the restaurant’s strengths.

Grandma, who was the guest of honor, really wanted steamed vegetable dumplings, and nothing fried. My nephew wanted steamed pork buns. Little Miss Fussy had her heart set on salt and pepper shrimp. Her big brother loves the chow fun, baked pork buns, and crispy rice rolls. Mrs. Fussy put in a call for some pea shoots and Chinese broccoli. And the relatives from Worcester had their eye on the whole steamed flounder.

Obviously, the only answer in this situation is to get it all.

But how many of each of the items, and what else should we supplement it with? To make things even more challenging, the dim sum dishes typically come in groups of three or four. So if there’s something only a segment of the table might be interested in trying, how many orders do you need to satisfy the combination of demand and curiosity?

Sure, you could always order more. And I also knew that there was a gigantic chocolate cake waiting back at home that Little Miss Fussy made with her mother.

Also, I should mention that lately I’ve been pushing congee. It’s just so damn comforting. And while some of it can get a little funky, there is nothing weird at all with a light and delicate fish congee brightened with ginger and green onion. Everyone thinks they will hate it, but then they love it.

The buns came out first. We had two orders of steamed roast pork buns and four orders of baked roast pork buns.

This is where I failed.

My young nephew wanted more steamed roast pork buns. They are a favorite of his. And really, as a good host at a Chinese banquet, I should have put in another order on the spot. But I didn’t. There was just so much food coming, I suggested we hold off for a bit, and see if he still wanted them in a few minutes.

It was a sensible plan. But it fell short of the level of hospitality I felt the situation deserved.

Sill, the food had only just begun. In came the parade of rice noodle rolls. These are a Hong Kong Bakery specialty, so I went a little crazy. Probably too crazy. We had three rice rolls with shrimp, two with duck, and two filled with a crispy Chinese donut. Although, to be fair, one plate of those crispy rice rolls just sat in front of my boy while he wolfed it down with a fork.

The steamed dumpling round followed with three orders of har gow, and three orders of steamed vegetable dumplings. These were all texturally very similar, and pretty darn heavy. But this was the direction I thought Grandma would enjoy the most.

When everyone was full, it was time for the second round of food. Plates were cleared, and we got the bowl of congee, the dry chow fun with chicken, Shanghai fried rice cakes with pork, two kinds of greens, the salt and pepper shrimp, the whole steamed flounder, and a giant tub of steamed white rice.

People really want rice when they go out for Chinese food.

All told, we did pretty well on the food we ordered. There were a few leftovers to be packed up, but not that many. And maybe we could have finished everything if we weren’t saving room for dessert.

Because the steamed egg custard buns at Hong Kong Bakery are worth the ten to fifteen minute wait. Plus there were some takers for the coconut pudding.

After two hours of sitting around the table, catching up, enjoying this incredible bounty, we finally rolled out of the restaurant and meandered our way back home.

I think I’m still full.

The moral of this story is that the private room at Hong Kong Bakery is great for family gatherings, and I fully endorse the idea of ordering everything. The leftovers actually reheated remarkably well, and since there were people over all weekend, they were fully consumed. Which only means I had even less of an excuse to avoid placing another order of the steamed roast pork buns.

Next time my nephew is in town, I’m going to make that right.

P.S. And there are zero photos of this meal. Blame Mrs. Fussy. She hates it when I take pictures of food, and since this was a function for her family, I had to respect her wishes.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2018 10:22 am

    “People really want rice when they go out for Chinese food.”


    I don’t think I have ever seen a bowl of rice on the table where people were focusing on dim sum. They get their rice in a lot of other ways, like buns and dumpling wraps. How much of that rice did your crew actually eat?

    • May 30, 2018 10:34 am

      Most of it came home, and was consumed in the feast of leftovers.

  2. Karen permalink
    May 30, 2018 10:42 am

    I really need to give this place a try; thanks for all the delicious suggestions!

  3. Benjamin Maggi permalink
    May 31, 2018 11:58 am

    I am literally drooling as I read your description!

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