Portland Traditions

Sunday, February 13, 2005

For New Year’s Day, Sweets and I took a train up to Portland and spent the morning at Powell’s Bookstore waking up. We were to meet our group of biker scum friends for Dim Sum in Chinatown in the late afternoon and we had quite a bit of time to spare.

We decided to catch breakfast. Since it was so early in our day we knew it wouldn’t mess with our ability to have a good Dim Sum. I had remembered a nice place I had breakfast at with Judah’s family, the Bijou Cafe, so we sat ourselves down for a nice spendy breakfast. I had a spicy whole wheat quesadilla with roasted pepper pumpkin seed filling, a fruit plate and tea. Sweets had a farmer’s omlette, that was way too expensive for an à la carte item, and fruit. Our breakfast was good but really pricey for what it was. We had just had sushi for two cheaper than what our breakfast cost!

We wandered up to Powell’s …

…and quickly made ourselves at home in the coffee room. Arriving so early ment we had no problem finding seating. I then headed to my favorite orange room and hovered over the ceramics and cooking sections. One of the books I pulled with me is In The Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker’s Companion, a wonderful book that goes beyond recipes. This book is about two inches thick, only about half of which is actual recipes. One of my favorite features is a reference guide to flavor pairings. Fruits and pastry-type food items are listed with an entry of what flavors work really well with them. It was a facinating read to see someone reduce to a list what I have been working on building up in my taste buds from scratch! I unfortunately didn’t buy the book, as we were then on our way to Dim Sum, but I’ve recently found it on Powell’s website thanks to their browse feature.

Dim Sum is a tradition that Judah’s family first introduced me to. We would drive up to Portland to spend our late Sunday morning gorging ourselves on salty, slimy, and often fried little goodies. We also began initiating new comers by making them choose the chicken feet, a dish that was often used to entertain us with a can-can or two. With Judah’s family, we would always go to Fong Chong’s, a restaurant that used to also have a grocery store attached, complete with tanks of fresh live gooey duck. Fong’s taught me the simple rule of patience, and the subtle art of dim sum timing. If proceded with proerly, one can eat liesurely for 2-3 hours with out spending more than $15 per person. Integral to this art, is learning that your favorite dishes will come, but not when you say so! While dim sum dishes can be ordered off of the menu, this is cheating in my book. I’m a strickly off the cart sort of diner, but if someone else at the table is going to order off the menu, I will delightly help them finish off their order of calamari or bbq pork! The gods of dim sum are all knowing… they provide you with what they know you can handle, which might be why we haven’t seen shrimp toast recently. The gods are decreeing that we need to give up the fried goods as a sacrifice!

For this Dim Sum venture, we headed to Lum Yuen, right around the corner from the infamous Hung Far Lo sign. We were rewarded with all of our favorites… shrimp ha gow, pork siu mai, sticky rice normi gai, sweet candy like char siu bao, pot stickers, fried calamari with sauted peppers and onions, stuffed crab claws, and sweet sesame seed balls.

With dim sum, I always feel like I’ve eaten like a king. It’s a nice meal to walk away from with salty spicy fingers.

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