Monday, June 4, 2007

Cheer Up!

I should be getting used to this by now, but these hospitalization postponements leave me lower than Paris walking the "red carpet" to county jail.

In the great scheme of things, a few days aren't going to make a bit of difference in my calendar or chemo, but it's a letdown just the same.

I may not be able to raise my blood counts, but I do know a sure-fire way to elevate my mood. On the way home from CoH, I stopped at Full House in Arcadia for a quick dim sum lunch. The frenetic, noisy pace and the tea carts filled with steamed, fried or baked delicacies snapped me almost instantly out of my slump.

Since I was by myself, two orders - baked pork cha siu baau and shrimp shumai (for a total of $3.60) - were enough to make a satisfying lunch. The restaurant provides a small dish of hot mustard and chilli sauce, but soy sauce is nowhere to be found. When I asked the waiter for soy sauce, he brought a bottle of the brown stuff AND a fork.

I wonder if asking for soy sauce in a dim sum restaurant is equivalent to wearing a sign that says "NEWBIE." It reminds me of the time I doused my Japanese steamed white rice with soy sauce at the home of the Dais, a Japanese family who took me under their wings nearly 30 years ago. They winked and poked one another with their elbows. "She's an American alright," they sighed. I never felt more insulted.

Since that moment, a drop of soy has not touched a grain of rice and never will. Have I committed the same faux pas by dipping my dim sum in soy mixed with hot sauce?

I contemplated this question while picking up fresh cream puffs at Beard Papa's. Judy first introduced me to these Japanese sensations in December, but I wasn't willing to drive to Hollywood and Highland as she did. Now there's no need since this latest location opened in Arcadia, bringing the total in California to 13.

What makes these cream puffs so special? The room-temperature puffs aren't infused with cold custard and cream until you place your order. At room temperature, the outside pastry, an airy combination of choux and pie crust, stays airy and crisp. For me, refrigerating a pastry is like, well, putting soy sauce on your rice.

Now I'm wondering if my sudden need for an afternoon nap was more about an overdose of carbs and fat and less about my cold.

(Do you know if soy sauce is a no-no in a dim sum restaurant? Do you have a favorite dim sum restaurant? Have you tried a Beard Papa's cream puff? What did you think? Do you think cream puffs will go the way of Crispy Creme donuts? Do you put soy sauce on your rice? What foods and/or restaurants are "mood elevators" for you? Please share the answers to these questions in the comments section.)


denise said...

Okay, lady. Here goes - I've never had dim sum. Yikes, I said it to the public. You'll have to introduce me to this to add to all the other foods you've helped cross my lips!!!

But, yes, I do put soy sauce - sometimes - on my rice.

No food etiquette for me!

Congrats on dropping those last two rounds. That's great news.

Lilli said...

Sorry to hear about the postponement again, but I'm glad to know that your appetite is healthy!

I was once in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and was stereotyped. When I asked what kind of fish was swimming by in the tank, they told me it was for Chinese people. I didn't even get a chance to ask for soy sauce.

I believe at Empress in LA's Chinatown, there is soy sauce on the table. I never heard it was a no no, not even from my half-Chinese ex-husband, who surely would not have passed up an opportunity to tell me I was doing something American! But perhaps I wiped it out of my memory banks.

But my favorite ethnic food story is the time I went to a pupuseria with a 6-foot-tall white woman. She ordered a burrito and they gave her a hamburger! I guess they decided they knew what she really wanted.

I hope you get whatever foods you're craving these days. Next time you're going for dim sum, let me know. I'll sneak some soy sauce in my purse!

Susan Carrier said...

Denise, I'm shocked that you've never tried dim sum. That will have to be a future outing.

I learned yesterday that you can't make assumptions about people and food. I was talking to a single friend and mentioned that I'd seen advertisements for single mixers in sushi bars.

I told her that this was a great screening tool because I thought a love of sushi showed a certain level of sophistication and a willingness to try new things.

Turns out this friend has never tried sushi and has no desire to do so.

Lilli, love the stereotyping stories!

Susan Carrier said...

OOH! If I start a food blog when my cancer journey is over, I just thought of the perfect name: "Open mouth, insert fork."

Rebecca said...

Okay. Two comments:

1. My oldest buddy, Leslie, is Japanese-American. She refuses to use chopstix because, she says, there is a "proper" way of using them that she never learned to master. Given her heritage, she doesn't want to disgrace herself... so she always uses a fork.

2. One of the fabulous discoveries of Boston's North End is the freshly made cannoli. Like the cream puff, you want the cream filling added RIGHT when you purchase the sucker. I'm not much for sweets, but those little delights -- properly made -- can make me weep. YUM!

Karen said...

Yes, it appears to be quite proper to eat dim sum with soy sauce. Using the search term "serve dim sum soy sauce restaurant" I retrieved these entries from Google:

From Sunset magazine 1987, a recipe for dim sum ends with
"Let stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Uncover plate. Serve with soy sauce for dipping."

From the website
Finally, my brother’s favorite - Pancake with Egg ($1.50), which is as simple as it sounds - a plain tortilla-type wrapper folded around scrambled eggs. If you were at Taco Bell, they’d probably call it a Breakfast Burrito. Oh, but they wouldn’t serve theirs with soy sauce.

This from "Chinatown New York City" website:
spring rolls (chun guen)
rolled inside a delicate flour skin and fried, they contain ingredients such as carrots, pork, shrimp, and Chinese mushrooms and are eaten with soy sauce.

This from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, April 9, 2000
The most common dipping sauces for dim sum include soy sauce, hoisin sauce or a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar and hot chili oil.
I don't put soy sauce on my rice, but when I have tempura and have finished everything but my rice, I pour the tempura sauce on my rice and finish the rice that way. Maybe I should stop? I'll ask Eric. He learned so many useful things during his spring quarter in Kyoto!

Krispy Kreme donuts. Now there's something I never understood. And I love donuts. Krispy Kremes are too sweet. And I agree, refrigerated pastry is terrible. Soggy, lousy texture.

When I want food for a pick me up, my first choice is Teuscher chocolates. My second is New York cheesecake. My third is Key Lime Pie. Good for the soul, terrible for the waistline.

Mrs. Duck

Frankie said...

I've tried Beard Papa's and love them.
Food that elevate my moods: couscous because I grew up eating the most amazing couscous done by my late grandma. There was the traditional couscous with her special broth and sheep for meat, and the sweet couscous that you mix with butter and lots of sugar and you drink it with what was called "petit lait" (little milk) which is a very thick milk. Hmmmm.

Janet Aird said...

I emailed my exhusband, who is Chinese from Hong Kong. He said, quote: Normally there's no need for soy sauce but some people do like saltier food & it is ok to ask for it. In HK, they automatically pour each person a small dish of soy sauce.

He also said that if the waiter thought you were white, he simply brought along the fork with the soy sauce to save a extra trip.


Susan Carrier said...

Interesting comments about the soy. I also found an article from Travel & Leisure Mag. The reviewer covered five LA area dim sum restaurants and noted that only one of the five had a cruet of soy sauce on the table.

Desiree said...

wait, wait, did you say $3.60 total?!?!
Hmmmm-I'm going to spend more on gas
getting there--but I'm going there--

Lisa Cooper-Keil said...

Dear Susan
Being the compulsive that I am, one of my morning rituals consists of reading your blog and then going to the breast cancer site and clicking on all the links for that as well as hunger, rainforest and animals.....It is a wonderful way to start my day as I always find your postings uplifting. I spend a few moments in your positive energy and remind myself how lucky we are to have women friends. I only wish I knew of a good Dim Sum place in the OC!

Anonymous said...

Omigosh, there's also a Beard Papa's in San Gabriel! I went to one store in West L.A. all the time at my last job, thinking it was the only one - my dad will be happy!

Lisa C.

Piper Robert said...

Sue, if you remember, Mom put butter and soy sauce on rice. But, come to think of it, she put butter and soy sauce on everything. James douses his french toast with worcestershire sauce, not particularly mainstream, but he loves it. My favorite pick me up is a sandwich of Vidalia onion, swiss cheese, portabella mushroom, brown mustard and crushed up white jelly beans, on grilled ciabatta bread. I do not recommend dunking it in soy sauce.

Karen said...

Eegads, Robert! JELLY BEANS??? And I thought my husband's peanut butter and pickle sandwiches were weird!!!!

Susan Carrier said...

My mouth was watering until I got to the jelly beans. Are you serious, Robert?

We grew up eating PB and pickle sandwiches. Must be an Ohio/West Virginia thing.