I grew up in a Chinese-American household, where dim sum replaces the traditional American brunch. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, dim sum, also known as yum cha, is the Chinese version of the English teatime. (Although I’m inclined to think that English teatime is really just the English version of dim sum.) Dim sum involves bite-size morsels, savory and sweet, such as dumplings, noodle rolls, veggies, and buns. Like most Chinese food, there is minimal dairy involved, and the only thing to really watch out for is peanuts.
Because I eat dim sum a lot at home with my family (Los Angeles has excellent dim sum), I haven’t really gone to get a lot of dim sum in New York. That being said, New York Chinatown, and Ping’s especially, is an iconic place to dig into some delicious dim sum. Ping’s Seafood is one of my family’s favorite places in Chinatown, and its location on Mott Street, rather than Canal, makes it a little less crazy but no less popular!
If you are familiar with dim sum, Ping’s will not disappoint you. Ping’s has all the dim sum standards—barbecued pork buns, steamed veggies, dumplings—and they have a combination of waiters and waitresses pushing carts, carrying trays, and taking orders from the menu. The interior is rather narrow, and can feel very crowded when it’s filled with hungry customers. They have well-proportioned plates and the staff is very attentive to refilling tea and clearing empty plates, making room for more food.
Dim sum is typically shared family style, so the hard part can be finding something that everyone likes. Because dim sum comes in small portions, everyone has the chance to be adventurous. Many people, especially in America, are wary of Chinese cuisine but some of the weirdest-looking foods can be the best! If you are scared of Chinatown because you do not speak Chinese, fear not! Ping’s is very famous among natives and tourists alike, and many of the waiters and waitresses can communicate in English. Do not let a language barrier stop you from dim sum!
As with coffee shops and bakeries, a true New Yorker has her favorite dim sum house. Whether you try it at Ping’s or another restaurant is up to you (Bear will be scoping more places in Chinatown), but I encourage you to find your favorite place too. Dim sum is an integral part of my family, and the combination of tea and hot snacks has a magical effect on the soul.