Monday, September 5, 2011

The Dim Sum Club

Ni hao, Chinatown.
No, this is not a review of a new historic, touching, yet seriously depressing Amy Tan novel.  This is better (and shorter).  It's the beginning of a wonderful dessert story that stars Chinatown in Los Angeles, which must be one of the smallest Chinatowns in the history of Chinatowns.

A few lovely girlfriends decided to meet for dim sum recently, and we had such a fabulous time, I suggested we form the Dim Sum Club!  I wanted to do this every Sunday!  (While no one was very excited about my absolutely terrible name for a foodie club, we agreed that we should all meet again soon for more fabulous adventures).

There were just a few left, so I took them all.  For the blog.  

Chinatown is such a visual treat.  I love that I can visit a Chinatown in just about any city in the world and eat all my favorite foods, buy a "Cucci" watch, handpainted paper lanterns, and a live baby turtle, all in one stop.  I've had quite a few Chinatown turtles in my lifetime.  Mooncake and General Tao were my favorites, namely because they provided hours of entertainment when I decided to add them to my once lively fish tank (No, I don't suggest this.  Yes, they ate the fish).

Chinese desserts bring me back to childhood.  I'm one-quarter Chinese, and I remember as a young girl, my tiny yet very speedy Chinese grandmother, sprinting through Honolulu's Chinatown, picking up her favorite treats and groceries along the way, with my sisters and I panting behind her.

Empress Pavillion Take Out.  This couple was so cute.
One of her favorite desserts was Gin Doi.  While my favorite version is located at a nondescript little stand in Honolulu's Chinatown, luckily, you can find this important dessert at most Chinatown bakeries.

We had dim sum and Gin Doi at Empress Pavillion (not to be confused with Happy Princess Dragon Palace, my first guess), but I also wanted to take some home, so I went next door and bought a few from their brilliant Take Out bakery.

I took a zillion pictures at the bakery, and drew some attention from a couple inside, who were trying to choose their treats between shots.  I apologized and explained that I have a blog, to which the woman gave me a blank stare.  She then sheepily asked, "Um so what is a 'blog'?"  It was a precious moment as I showed her my blog on my phone and explained why the heck I was taking so many pictures of desserts.  But I digress.

Tear-shaped Gin Doi available at Empress Pavillion
So what is it?  Gin doi is the Chinese version of a doughnut.  This round, tanned treat is covered in toasted sesame seeds that envelop a thick, sticky layer of sweet rice.  And the inside--surprise!  While seemingly hidden, the filling is a burst of sugary, smooth black bean or lotus paste.  And then of course, it's deep fried.  Fried, sweet, yummy goodness.  

One sweet, crunchy, oozy bite and I'm transported back to Maunakea Street, darting into the hard-to-find Gin Doi shop, while my Popo orders/barters/argues a few Gin Doi from the owner.  Thank you, Popo, for all the yummy memories.

Cut in half, in the hopes that we would "share"
(we each had a whole one).
Empress Pavillion

988 N. Hill Street,
(located in the Chinatown Bamboo Plaza)
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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