Monday, July 9, 2012

Dim Sum at Jade Asian Restaurant (Flushing, Queens NY)

Steamed Char Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Bun)

Literally, dim sum means to "touch the heart" or "order to your heart's content." When someone suggests, "let's go to dim sum," I simply don't say no. It's always a yes answer. Always. Also, it is always synonymous with tea. A pot of tea usually hits your table even before you select your first tray of dim sum (and you know how much I love tea!). To really experience a traditional dim sum cart service, you need to absorb yourself into a Chinatown environment. Dim sum does have a growing popularity in Chinese restaurants outside of concentrated areas, but those usually offer an a la carte menu of dim sum options, as opposed to the cart service, and it should be noted that dim sum is not their specialty. Those restaurants generally have a smaller variety and usually only serve dim sum on the weekends. While a la carte dim sum menus are starting to trend, cart service is definitely more fun and offers a better variety.

That said, on this particular dim sum excursion I got to visit the Chinatown in Flushing, Queens for the first time. It has a large Chinese population, and unlike the Chinatown in Manhattan it is not completely overrun by tourists and street vendors. It is here in Flushing that I got to experience what just may be my most pleasurable dim sum experience. For a weekday dim sum visit, one might expect a smaller dim sum variety (along with thankfully a shorter wait time), but I can honestly say that we got to try everything we wanted during our meal at Jade Asian Restaurant. The dining room was also incredibly busy, a testament to its popularity even mid-week.

Inside Char Siu Sou (BBQ Pork Pastry)

I'd say the theme of our meal was shrimp. Many of our dishes contained shrimp. Even before I get into the specifics of each dish we tried, I must point out how impressed I was with the cleaning of the shrimp. In some dim sum restaurants, the shrimp is simply not deveined. I know that's gross to many of you, but it's pretty common and tolerated. With the sheer volume of dumplings being produced, deveining each and every shrimp is probably not a priority. In the case of my visit to Jade Asian Restaurant, with the exception of the whole fried shrimp which still had their heads and shells on, every other shrimp that graced our table was completely and properly deveined. And on top of that were super delicious. Definite two thumbs up for shrimp preparation!

Shrimp and Vegetable Dumplings

The first shrimp dumpling we tried was a shrimp and vegetable dumpling which was garnished with a green pea, corn kernal, and piece of carrot to illustrate the vegetables inside along with the shrimp. I thought this and every other filling was very generous with the shrimp quantity, and the flavors of the vegetables shown through very nicely. 

Shrimp and Chinese Chive Dumplings

We also tried a shrimp and Chinese chive dumpling which was also very generous when it came to the shrimp. The Chinese chives added a delicious mild onion flavor but in no way overpowered the plump and delicate shrimp. It was a perfect balance.

Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings)

Har Gow (or Ha Gow) is often considered to be the dumpling by which all Chinese dim sum masters are measured. If the Har Gow (shrimp dumpling) is good, then the rest of the dim sum will be good. I absolutely loved the Har Gow at Jade Asian. It contained about 3 whole medium-small shrimp, a bit of crunch from either bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (I can't confirm or deny which it was as they were finely chopped and I'm not an expert in either ingredient), and a touch of ginger. Although simple, the filling was generous, and the texture of the whole shrimp (as opposed to a puree) was excellent. I was happy to see that whole shrimp was included in all of the shrimp dumplings we tried. It definitely was a great texture to contrast the thin, soft, and slightly chewy dumpling wrapper.

Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls

We also enjoyed some shrimp rice noodle rolls, another dim sum favorite. Each was filled with a couple smallish whole shrimp and then topped with the sweet soy sauce mixture that is typical of this dish. Definitely no disappointment here either.

Deep Fried Whole Shrimp

The final shrimp dish we tried was the whole deep fried shrimp. These babies were head and shell on, adding an additional crunch to every bite. Some people may be less inclined to eat their shrimp in this fashion, completely ungutted and unshelled, but I was happy to take the plunge and try it. The shell was a tad off-putting at times, but the succulent and juicy shrimp beneath was worth every bite.

Siu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Open-Faced Dumplings)

Siu Mai is another dim sum staple that shares the popularity of Har Gow. They are open-faced dumplings usually containing either pork and shiitake mushrooms or pork and shrimp. Ours contained pork and shrimp (go figure), which is a combination I really love. The juiciness of the pork adds a really great element to these dumplings in conjunction with the slight crunch of the shrimp. I certainly love my Siu Mai!

Inside Steamed Char Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Bun)

I'm easily obsessed with anything containing Char Siu, or Chinese BBQ Pork. It's probably one of the most delicious things in the world in my opinion. I've made my own in my home kitchen and used it to make Baked Char Siu Buns, Char Siu Sou (Pastries), and Cantonese Spring Rolls. During this dim sum meal, we ordered not one but two trays of Steamed Char Siu Bao. They are my #1. Hands down. The fluffy soft bun is the perfect wrapper for the sweet and saucy pork filling. I could easily make an entire meal of these, and perhaps someday I will forgo all the others for a tummy full of these babies. They are spectacular. 

Char Siu Sou (BBQ Pork Pastry)

Riding the Char Siu train another stop, we also ordered these deliciously flaky Char Siu Sou or pastries. They utilize a traditional Chinese flaky dough which similar to croissants uses a layers of fat to create a flaky texture. In this case a water dough is layered with an oil dough to later encase more delicious Char Siu filling. A topping of sesame seeds and a slightly sweet glaze makes these an absolute treat. I simply couldn't get enough and would happily order another plate of these on my next visit!

Lo Mai Gai (Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf)

Our final selection was Lo Mai Gai, or sticky rice in lotus leaf wrappers. This dish usually contains a plethora of fillings in addition to the rice, often chicken, pork, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage. This version was no exception, and definitely gave us a great bang for the buck as far as fillings go. The rice was perhaps slightly dry, but I actually enjoyed the texture.

Inside Lo Mai Gai (Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf)

Overall, my visit to Jade Asian Restaurant was perhaps my favorite dim sum experience to date. The quality of the dishes was higher than some I've had before, the generosity of the fillings, the cleanliness of the shrimp, and of course the amazing company that shared these dishes all helped make this such a fantastic and memorable experience. I will definitely return to Jade Asian in the future whenever a dim sum craving hits. They simply do not disappoint. It is worth a long trip on the 7 train, I can assure you of that.

Jade Asian Restaurant
136-28 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 762-8821


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