How does a Caucasian make himself into a Rock Star at a Dim Sum restaurant? Order the chicken feet.
It never fails. No typical Dim Sum dish so separates the men from the boys – errr, the Caucasians from the Asians – as the lower extremities of egg-layers fried, steamed, then marinated and finally stewed in a sauce of fermented black beans, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chile peppers and rice wine. Occasionally, the waitress will call over several colleagues to gawk at the sight of it. And the best? At the end of this little game I get to eat the chicken feet!
Jasmine Seafood Restaurant is one of two superb spots for Dim Sum in San Diego, the other being Emerald Seafood Restaurant a mile or so south on Convoy. It is difficult to say which is better. Rather, they are good at different things.
Dim Sum is Chinese – more specifically, Cantonese – tea pastries, classically eaten for brunch. Typically, it is a series of small bite-sized or individual portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Usually – but not always – it is served, fully cooked, from rolling steamer carts from which customers choose their orders while at their tables.
The variety of the Dim Sum (which translates as “little pieces of the heart”) offerings at Jasmine is remarkable. From the standard options – Potstickers, Har Gow (shrimp dumplings), Siu Mai (either pork or shrimp filled open top dumplings), Char Siu Bow (steamed barbequed pork buns), Cheong Fun (rice noodle rolls) – to more exotic fare – the afore-mentioned chicken feet, stewed tripe, Congee (a rice porridge), and many more, one could eat lunch at Jasmine for a week and not eat the same dish twice. It is this variety that is Jasmine’s strength.
We started our meal with those chicken feet, Har Gow (on the right in the picture above) and a Yuba Roll filled with various vegetables and cooked twice – deep fried and then steamed (on the right, above). The various offerings are dipped in a sauce you make on your plate from chile paste and soy sauce (at the bottom of the plate in the picture above).
What is my favorite? It changes from trip to trip. But one dish that Jasmine absolutely nails – and my current Dim Sum Obsession – is the soup dumplings. Featuring a slightly thicker wrapper than most dim sum dumplings, filled with pork and aspic, the dumplings are steamed, melting the aspic into a delicious savory soup that explodes wonderfully in your mouth. Just be sure not to eat it too hot!