Dim Sum of All Fears
By Elisa Camahort
OCCASIONALLY I have used this column as a catalyst to try new things, or to try something I am sure I don't like, but can't remember why anymore. One of my first columns was about giving Indian food another try after decades of avoiding it.
This month's challenge: Partaking of dim sum as a vegan.
I have extremely limited experience with dim sum. My first time was five years ago, when my boss held a team lunch at a local dim sum place—a local dim sum place that had not one vegetarian dim sum option on their trolley carts. When I asked what they could do for me, they looked at me like I was an alien species, and when I asked if they could make me vegetarian fried rice, they only begrudgingly agreed. A very long wait later, I got some. Needless to say, that experienced solidified a "dim sum = nonvegetarian" mind-set, and I hadn't seen anything to alter that mind-set in the intervening years.
Recently my family was looking for a place to celebrate three birthdays, and Sunday dim sum at Ming's in Palo Alto was suggested. Normally I would say "dim sum = nonvegetarian," but since I'm aware that Ming's has a bountiful menu, including many vegetarian options, I figured I'd be OK ordering off the menu and letting everybody else eat mysterious dumplings filled with mysterious meat products.
Little did I realize I'd be able to fill up so well on two different kinds of veggie dumplings, vegetarian noodles and bok choy from the carts that I'd be too full to eat the shiitake salad and sweet and sour "pork" that I ordered off the menu.
Is Ming's representative of dim sum places in general, or should we continue to avoid the little hole-in-the-wall places that most people would consider more "authentic"? I won't lie: You're much better off checking before you go, or using a resource site like Bay Area Vegetarians (bayareaveg.org) to find a place. But we veg*ns are lucky to live here in the Bay Area where sensitivity to the number of veg*n in our midst is ever-growing.
Next restaurant style I'm afraid to try: Korean or Mongolian barbecue. I have friends who love to go, but I simply never go with them. I don't care if they scrape the cooking surface, it just seems as anti-veg as you can get. Any veg*ns out there beg to differ? Drop me an email and let me know.
Ming's Chinese Cuisine and Bar
1700 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto
Send a letter to the editor about this story.