Saturday, January 28, 2012


from mark bittman's article on easy-to-make dumpling, linked below

we have no good chinese food in provo.  i'm sorry if you disagree, but this cuisine is poorly represented here.  (apologies to the four seasons hot pot restaurant, which i have yet to try.)

last night we went to a new, weird place in town that served sushi, chinese bento, dry pot, and some things that looked like hong kong style chinese food.  i haven't had great dumplings in a while, so we started with steamed dumplings.

you know how amazing it is when you bite into a dumpling (a whole thing that i could talk about forever) and it's really hot and the juices spill down around your tongue, then the ginger and onion come forward and say hi, then you remember the chewy wrapper again, and the flavors and textures volley around in your mouth for a while?

then you swallow?

then you stick your chopsticks into the dish again for more?

well, that didn't happen last night.

the inside of my dumpling was lukewarm, mushy even, and i just can't forgive that.  i want the pork and vegetables fully steamed and held together in a beautiful little ball inside a beautiful little package.

i'm sorry that i'm such a food snob, or so prone to high expectations when i should try to be realistic.  i really tried to keep and open mind, to remember that i'm not necessarily living in a food mecca, to compare this dumpling to lesser, not greater, dumplings.

but i failed to be understanding.

i went home a little pissed off and deeply, deeply dissatisfied.

and you might say that i should have known better than to go to a sushi/chinese place.  and you might be right.

so i dug up another favorite poem that i used to teach in years past to try to clear my palate.

li-young lee writes beautiful food poems (and other stuff, too.)  they're not too precious and mouthy.  like the rice, ginger, fish and green onion in the poem i pasted below, his food writing strikes a simple and pleasing balance of a respect and love for every day food without fetishizing it.  and the food on the table of his poems is always accompanied by some other event, as it always is in life.

it's pleasing.  that's the best way i can describe his work.  not too extreme.  kind of gentle, but still striking and memorable, and i like the way he contextualizes things. he has a few notable food poems, but this one is especially clean and right.  & good for a palate cleanser.

i hope you like it, and that if you have other suggestions about great food poetry, you'll post them here.  also, check out alimentum, a journal devoted to literary food writing.

Eating Together
By Li-Young Lee 
In the steamer is the trout   
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.   
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,   
brothers, sister, my mother who will   
taste the sweetest meat of the head,   
holding it between her fingers   
deftly, the way my father did   
weeks ago. Then he lay down   
to sleep like a snow-covered road   
winding through pines older than him,   
without any travelers, and lonely for no one. 

legwear:  jeez.  still wearing yoga pants from this morning's tough session (after a week out nursing my neck).  that's a bad sign, i mean still wearing yoga pants late in the day when one has already been to class.  yoga pants are not tights, though they do have their own thing going on, i must admit.

remember to get out of your yoga pants at least once a day, and maybe don a pair of super rad cosmic tights.

inspiration:  clean flavors--trout, ginger, scallion, rice.

looking forward: to seeing a dangerous method tonight.

p.s. last year at chinese new year's i made dumplings from scratch with hector, my neighbor's chinese exchange student.  we had a great time and they were very good.  and how often does a 100 lb. teenaged boy teach you to cook and discuss homer with you at the same time?  if you want to host your own dumpling party, here's a recipe to start with.  it'll be easy, cuz it's bittman.


  1. When in Los Angeles visit Din Tai Fung for phenomenal steamed dumplings that squirt near boiling broth.

    1. i'm so there. such was last night's disappointment that i'm ready to jump in the car and make a road trip to l.a. right now. thanks for the rec.

  2. Let me know how the movie is. I've been wanting to see it . . . intrigued by the Freud/Jung portrayal.