Good Things That Come in “Sum” Very Small Packages
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Panda Cuisine’s morsels of dim sum will take you on a journey. The bite-sized stepping stones of flavor transport you to the various regions of China and beyond. Here are four types that will get you well on your way.
Shrimp dumplings ($2.95, 3 pieces), from the Canton region, feature whole pieces of shrimp and bamboo shoots wrapped in translucent dough and pinched closed in delicate folds. Served in the bamboo baskets they are steamed in, the shimmering pink dumplings “are very juicy,” says general manager and partner Chris Lin.
Steamed Minced Pork Dumplings ($3.50, 4 pieces) also hail from Canton. “Some people call it pork hash, some call it shu mai,” says Lin. “Shu mai is the original name.” Steamed in-basket, the open-topped dumplings showcase minced pork, shrimp and a dot of fish eggs or carrot to add a pop of color. Minimal seasoning allows the dumplings’ natural flavor to shine. “When you talk about ha gao (shrimp dumplings) and shu mai, almost every single person that speaks Cantonese understands this automatically as dim sum,” says Lin about the institution of dim sum, a meal traditionally eaten as a street-style breakfast.
Another beloved Cantonese-style dim sum, Dumplings Chiu Chow Style ($2.95, 3 pieces) originates from one of China’s well-known cities. “This is a traditional (dumpling) in Chiu Chow, that’s why it’s one of the main dishes on a dim sum menu,” explains Lin. Chives, pork, dried shrimp paste and crunchy peanuts fill this heady dumpling. “The chive is very strong smelling,” continues Lin, who suggests eating the dumpling in two bites so it can be savored.
BBQ Pork Buns (2.95 for 3), straddle two realms. Here, east meets west. This doughier style of dim sum is a crossover with European baked goods. The sweet honey-glazed pork, chopped in a small mince, peeks through the steamed cloud-like dough. The buns are left open to draw your attention, says Lin. “You can see inside (and experience) the smell, the look and the color.”
“Every single dish has its own history, its own background,” says Lin. The traditional dim sum may be the draw for customers initially, but once at the table, diners will be inspired to try the unconventional. “We also have the new concept — the fusion dim sum,” continues Lin. The sweet sesame seed roll, for instance, is a new take on dessert.
Handmade and cooked to order, dim sum at Panda Cuisine is an ideal meal to share casually with friends or family. Diners may choose from 60 dim sum conveniently represented in color images. Reservations are recommended for parties of six or more.
641 Keeaumoku St., Honolulu
10 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily