11215 Bellaire Blvd
I was reading a blog friend's blog, NicoleSauce.com, and she has taken time in Houston, TX, and she has spent some time in the west side of Houston which is now a HUGE Chinatown. This area of Asian restaurants and shops is HUGE, like everything else in Texas. Nicole Sauce made a blog post with a link to a Houston Chinatown directory, and it spurred me to post about my trips to Houston last Summer and Fall. I originally did not blog about Houston and my food there because these were a couple bitter sweet visits. I have lovely and loving extended family in Houston, but one of my visits there was because my dear Aunt passed away, and the 2nd visit was to go heal my heart and be with my cherished extend family. In Chinese culture, healing always involves soul food, and soul food for me is dim sum - a little love from the heart. We did eat a lot of great food during my 2nd visit, but it has taken until now to muster up the courage to blog about what I ate.
During my 2nd visit to Houston, I made sure I stayed through a Sunday because that is the day of the week all my family gets together and goes out for Sunday dim sum brunch. My dear Uncle from Houston, my cousin and her grandbaby came from North Texas, my other cousin and her son came from south of Houston, my other cousin came from Manhattan New York, and even more cousins from the west side of Houston came for this Sunday special brunch. There is no better way to honor my Aunt, but with breaking bread (or should I say breaking open dumplings), sharing stories, and laughing with my very kind and funny family.
On that particular Sunday, we went to the Ocean Palace Restaurant for dim sum. It is a huge 2 story building, with maybe a 50+ 10-person tables on the 2nd floor alone, that is seating for 500 people! Wow! I was giddy looking at this place. There were the dim sum carts rolling around the restaurant with dishes and dishes of treats. There were dumplings of all kinds, noodles, chicken feet (I don't eat these if I don't have to), dessert custards, rice dishes, beef intestines, pork pi quat, bok choy and veggie dishes, and all sorts of Southern Chinese treats that you could imagine. It is amazing to me the array of choices. Dim sum is like Chinese version of Tapas, they are smaller plates of carefully made foods that go will with hot tea rather than sherry.
As the saying goes, everything in Texas is bigger, and the Ocean Palace size and the amount of dim sum they have is certainly bigger than any Boston dim sum house I have been to. Seeing this place full on Sunday with a lot of Chinese people with a long waiting line out the door, and knowing there are a lot of other Houston dim sum houses in the Chinatown area and which are just as full, and there is a large population of Chinese in Houston who did not go for dim sum on this particular Sunday, I am assuming that Houston must have a pretty large Chinese population to support these big businesses. There must be many Chinese are living in Houston, and there are enough to allow me to have delightful authentic dim sum brunch before heading back to Nashville, the Chinese food void.
One of my favorites from childhood, and I always opt for when I can get it, is shu mai. It is a little pork dumpling wrapped in a wheat flour noodle, then steamed. When I was a kid, I used to deconstruct the shu mai by carefully unwrapping the noodle part and eating that first, then I used to cut into the meatball and eat 4 pieces of meatball. Sheesh, who has time for that now? It is about 2 or 3 bites of this yummy and it was gone, and my plate was ready for another dumpling.
Another favorite of mine is har gao, a shrimp dumpling wrapped in a white rice flour wrapper. To have these made correctly, they must be made by hand fresh the day they are to be eaten. I particularly love the texture of the wrapper, that is unlike other noodle or won ton skin. It is al dente and slighty chewy when made perfectly. I have some of the flour at home, but it is a lot of work to make these. The shrimp inside, I am not sure what it is seasoned with, but it is umami for sure. This is truly one of my favorite dishes that I cannot get enough of.
It is funny, a lot of my memories of events revolves around food. Is it cultural, or is it me? I look at these photos, and I can picture everyone there so vividly in my mind. My dear family, this dim sum - love from my heart blog post reminds me of you.
Labels: Houston Eats