Living in LA, I’ve definitely been spoiled by the countless number of fine institutions serving authentic dim sum. I was doubtful I’d be able to find a place that would even come close to in comparison, but desperate times call for desperate measures… I seriously needed a taste of food that reminded me of home.
I met up with some friends in the 13eme, where the first of two Quartier Chinois was established in Paris. (The newer Chinatown resides in Belleville.) It was a cold, wet, and dreary Sunday afternoon, but all of us were in high spirits, with images of har gow, siu mai, and the rest of the works in our minds and a general urgency to turn them into reality.
There actually are quite a few reputable dim sum restaurants in the 13eme… first to try on our list was La Chine Massena (only because they still use the push carts).
The push cart came to our table just as we sat down, even before we got a chance to order the tea. We were quick to pick out our favorites… har gow, siu mai, turnip cake, and chicken feet.
I really enjoyed the shrimp dumplings, but not so much the siu mai… a bit too much pork fat in it for my tastes. The turnip cake was also pan-fried using a hefty dollop of lard, but then again, that’s probably what made it taste good =P
As we ate our dim sum and drank our tea, we realized that there was really only one push cart going around the entire restaurant (the secondary cart was solely meant for frying the turnip and taro cakes). Needless to say, service was a bit slow, but our conversation around the table was going great. The four of us were all from the States and reminiscing about life back in our hometowns.
Eventually, we decided to just order more food through the waiters. Luo mai gai came next, along with a pair of steamed custard buns.
I was really hoping they’d have steamed lotus buns, but no such luck =/ The luo mai gai was standard, but the custard bun was just the way I liked it… pillow-y soft on the outside and custard-y on the inside (without the runny, salty egg yolk).
We also ordered some steamed rice noodles with shrimp and fried dumplings. Overall, we had a satisfying meal with decent dim sum… nothing extraordinary, but then again, there’s nothing wrong with being just average
After a few hours of eating, drinking, chatting, and reminiscing, we headed out to explore more of Chinatown. We ended up at Tang Feres, a tremendous and overwhelming Asian supermarket that’s apparently Western Europe’s largest Chinese business enterprise. Perhaps it’s because we went on a Sunday afternoon or perhaps it’s just THE place to see and be seen, but the place was seriously packed with Asian Parisians. It felt like a zoo inside… people pushing and shoving, coming and going from every which way… simply walking down the aisles from one end to the other proved to be a feat in itself. I managed to find my lotus buns in the frozen section and mangosteens in the fresh produce aisle! I always thought you couldn’t get mangosteens outside of Thailand, but apparently you can in Paris =P We bought a package to share between us and also some super ripe mangoes, which turned out to be some of the sweetest, juiciest mangoes I’ve ever tasted… definitely worth the 3 euros a piece.
After our intense tour of the marketplace, we headed back to one of my friend’s apartment for some rest and relaxation before dinner. Her roommate is actually an Intermediate Level student from Japan and she had invited us over for a traditional Japanese dinner. I was really looking forward to it!
With several hours to kill before dinnertime, we busted out our ripe mangoes, freshly imported mangosteens, and some strawberries and longans my friends had brought and held our own little fruit fest.
We made quite a mess on the dining table and had fruit juices running all over our hands and mouths, but hey, we figured it was better than stuffing our faces with baked goods… although the fruits did contain a lot of sugar… oh wells ><
After we cleaned up, it was time to set the table for dinner. My friend’s roommate and her Japanese classmates had prepared a feast for us! Sushi rice balls topped with nori, tamago, shrimp, and salmon, soba noodles with ginger, scallions, and tempura bits, pork katsu with carmelized onions, and homemade soup was on the menu…. so impressive!
Everything was deliciously light and healthy, in deep contrast to the French cuisine we’ve been learning at school. I could really taste the love and care put into those dishes! This was seriously one of the best meals I’ve had since arriving in Paris.
And to end our lovely food-filled day, one of the Japanese girls had made a chocolate and caramel mousse cake, which was served with hot cup of freshly brewed genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice). The flourless chocolate cake was absolutely divine… incredibly light and moist with just the right amount of sweetness. What a way to end a truly gourmet day!