Wednesday, November 16, 2016
THE DELIGHT OF SHANGHAI SOUP DUMPLINGS
It was only a little more than a month ago that I blogged on the Best Shanghai Soup Dumplings in Honolulu. As a validated epicurean gourmet (VEG, certainly nothing to do with any vegan-ism), I now place this delightful dish up there with truffles, caviar, foie gras and wagyu beef from Miyazaki. Well, I found a third Chinese restaurant in Honolulu yesterday worthy of your consideration. But first, what trail led me to this treat.
Every so often I place flowers on the gravestone of my parents at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, which is some expedition, for I need to drive across the Pali. Byodo-In Temple is just in the background before the Koolaus. One problem is that I always get at least one mosquito bite whenever I come here, and the location is close to Kaneohe, which has had a past history of dengue fever.
Didn't realize both my parents lived to the age of 86. Who is Hikojuro Yamamoto? He is the second and third (they got divorced once) husband of my father's mother, and someday, if I get around to sharing the intrigue between Kenjiro (dad's father) and Hikojuro, that will make for an interesting post. My next docu/novel after The Venus Syndrome will be The Search for Kenjiro's Grandmothers, for one of them could have been a female samurai. To the left I'm at the Wainiha Powerplant Kenjiro helped build on Kauai. This was way back in 1906, and essentially the whole system is now 110 years old.
I show the car, my 8-year old Honda Fit (should I get a new one, or a Prius, or nothing at all and stop driving???), because I noticed that the license plate expired this month. It's an annual apprehensive exercise for me because in the long ago past the City and County of Honolulu sent you a reminder. More recently, they didn't, and I neglected to get the $250 decal that allowed street use of this car for a year. I've paid a $75 fine and once got away for almost two years, meaning I had a $500 bill. So when I went home, I noticed in my mail a reminder, which means the C&C has decided to again alert residents.
To get this decal, I needed to first pass a safety check. I heard this can cost $20, but Pacific Honda, where I bought my Fit, apparently does this for free, as they only charged me $6 to replace a defective bulb. I should alert those in Honolulu that you can't use a copy of your insurance card to pass this safety test. You need the original, which I carry in my wallet.
So I went to the Satellite City Hall on Fort Street, gave them what they mailed me and a whole bunch of paperwork showing that I got that safety check and I had my insurance paid. I was impressed. The staffer punched something into her computer and didn't even look at the documents. She said that the car dealership electronically informed the office and all I needed to do was write a check or pay $248 cash. You'd think they'd accept credit cards these days, but I guess that would reduce their income.
So after this sterling victory, which was about a hundred times easier than I anticipated, I walked over to Chinatown Cultural Plaza to celebrate with Shanghai Soup Dumplings. In the adjacent mini-mall I bought a dollar beer and a $2 VSOP cognac. As I was walking to Fook Lam, I saw my Blue-Bar Pigeon, and he beckoned me towards Tai Pan, a Chinese restaurant located in the Mauka (mountain)-Ewa (Honolulu Airport direction) corner of the inner rectangle. I never saw this establishment before. The Tasty Island provides an excellent review.
I ordered a steamed scallop dim sum to start:
I didn't ask, but I think, hope anyway, the colorful carp aquarium is just decoration. Then came the Shanghai Soup Dumplings, which are also known also known as Xialongbao (XLB), said to have been invented near Shanghai, but became internationally popular through a Taiwanese chain, Din Tai Fung. This plaza is owned by a Taiwan consortium, so these dumplings have a reputation to uphold.
A Chinese shop would never provide four dim sums, as, like in Japan, the number 4 sounds like death. What happened was that I ate one and then remembered to take this photo. What you do is place some chili/mustard/vinegar sauce on the dumpling, which should be on a large spoon, then bite off the top. Proceed to pour in some cognac (or scotch). I still lean in the direction of Fook Lam (also located in the Chinatown Cultural Plaza) over Mandalay and Tai Pan, for the skin is softer and thinner. Plus, FL's sauce with ginger is superior.
Most of the diners spoke Chinese to the waitresses, and the place was packed when I left. One warning is that they also serve authentic stuff here, as on the next table was Chicken Feet Soup:
While XLT is essentially pork hash in parchment, the soup apparently is a broth of parts of chicken that you normally don't eat, like the above. I was tempted to have their custard tart, but didn't:
I'll need to try both Tai Pan and Fook Lam again to further compare their excellence with Shanghai Soup Dumplings. I wonder if they'll allow me to have only one tart?