A Walk Through Chinatown
For many, "dim sum" might be a term to accurately reflect the balance in their checking accounts.
But to aficionados of Chinese food, it's a tasty Cantonese specialty. And if your exposure to foods of the Orient is usually limited to the sweet-and-sour pork with egg roll combination platter, you now have a chance to take a different gastronomical journey -- with a very knowledgeable guide. In her Chinatown Walking Tour and Dim Sum Lunch, Dorothy Huang -- a Cantonese native who has been living in Houston for 30 years and teaching cooking locally since 1974 -- walks the inexperienced though a full dim sum lunch at a local restaurant, then herds the group, for a wider cultural lesson on what they just ate, to a nearby Chinese supermarket and cookware store, explaining to budding cooks how to produce their own version of dim sum. "Most people are fascinated with it," says Huang, whose book, Dorothy Huang's Chinese Cooking, is now in its sixth printing. "And what I do is not just about having a big meal. It's about understanding the culture as well."

The origins of dim sum stretch back almost a thousand years, to the tea-houses of Canton, China (a southeastern province near Hong Kong). The teahouses began serving little dumplings and snacks with tea, which met with favorable reaction. Today, dim sum consists of bite-sized morsels filled with meat, vegetables, seafood or a sweet bean paste, prepared in a variety of ways (steamed, baked, deep-fried) and served with various condiments and sauces.

On the tour, Huang takes care of the ordering for you and also explains what's in each item. But she cautions eaters to pace themselves, as the first cart that brings food by the table is merely the first in a long procession.

"I warn them ahead of time not to [stuff] themselves too quickly! And I tell the waiter not to start off so fast," Huang laughs.

Huang notes that Houston has a "pretty large" population of Cantonese immigrants and that her traveling culinary school is a familiar sight to many local restauranteurs. Almost as much fun for her is the supermarket trip, in which she guides people through the maze of foods offered, most of which have labels printed mostly in Chinese. "It can get a little confusing," Huang notes. "But that's why I'm there."

--Bob Ruggiero

The Chinatown Walking Tour and Dim Sum Lunch will be held Saturday, August 15, from 11:30 a.m.2:30 p.m. $30. Call (281) 493-0885 for reservations and information or to order a copy of Huang's book. Another tour will be offered September 26.

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