A few weeks ago, my buddy Rafal Doloto was excited to hear that I'd soon be visiting two great Asian food paradises: Singapore and Hong Kong. He wasted no time in asking about it. Foods that he was interested in centered around various body parts, major organs and appendages of animals that most westerners would never think of eating. Stuff like pig brain soup, chicken feet, frog porridge, braised trotters, etc. Needless to say, stuff you won't be able to find any of that at McDonalds. Even in Asia. But then again, if you really think about it, what do you think made up the sausage McMuffin you had recently back home?
Now, I'd consider myself an adventurous eater, but I tend to shy away from the major organs. I don't do feet either. I just can't keep but thinking where those feet have been. I mean, I know where my feet have been. But the chicken's? Um, yuck. To my credit, I did try fish eyeballs once. They were surprisingly tough, like eating a pencil eraser. Regardless, I don't eat brain, heart, livers or chicken feet.
To get Rafal back on common ground, I steered the conversation away from those finer delicacies and headed toward a more neutral ground: Dim Sum.
For those who don't know Dim Sum is a traditional brunch of small dish items, all served a la carte. The meal is meant to be a long one and best shared with lots of family/friends over several hours.
Good dim sum is very labor intensive. Each carte has a wide range of items on it, from what I'd consider easy to challenging to the palate. For example, the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf is a crowd pleasing staple. If you want chicken feet or pig's knuckle, well, you can find it there too.
Anyway, Rafal sensed that I wasn't game for jawing up on pig intestine soup, so he asked if I'd ever had Shanghai dumplings. To my knowledge, I hadn't. He went on to explain that normal dumpling are typically served in a soup, but Shanghai dumplings are inverted: the soup is encased inside the dumplings. He was adamant that I try it.
Now I don't know much about anything. But I do know that the people of Shanghai live far away from Hong Kong. They are different cultures and don't even speak the same language (not even close). On these grounds, I objected that since we were going to be in Cantonese Hong Kong, we wouldn't be having any of Shanghai's dumplings in our Dim Sum. It'd be something like ordering fish at Gorat's Steak house in Omaha.
Rafal and I got in a big fight about it. He insisted that Shanghai dumplings would be easy to find in both Singapore and in Hong Kong.
Well, I've been here nearly three weeks and still haven't spotted Shanghai dumplings. I've gone to street vendors, hawker centers, food courts and fine Dim Sum restaurants. Not of sign of Shanghai dumplins on the menu. Sorry Rafal, but I think you've been sorely mistaken.
Here's a few snaps of what I have discovered:
Chicken and Duck Necks. Mmm. Can't get enough of that
Hand made Dim Sum at a fancy Dim Sum restaurant in Singapore
Lots of varieties on the menu, but no Shanghai dumplings
Another Dim Sum restaurant in Singapore, the 7th Floor Red Star. Sorry Rafal, no dumplings-Shanghai
Hawker center food in Singapore. I think Rafal would have momentarily forgotten about Shanghai dumplings here
Hong Kong's famous street vendor "fast food". If you look closely, you might see octopus on a stick.
Ho Hung Kee Congee/Wantun shop is one of the most famous in Hong Kong. It earned a coveted one star from Michelin (like Zagat's).
Lots of incredibly delicious food here, but no Shanghai dumplings
Unfortunately, time is running out. I may go home without ever trying a Shanghai dumpling.