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Dim Sum in Hong Kong

Dim Sum is a specialty of Hong Kong, so during our stay on the island (we had to stop there to get our visa for China), we decided to get the real dim sum experience. We asked one of our cab drivers for recommendations, and he gave us the name of some “high-class restaurants” as well as some “not so high-class restaurants.” And of course we ended up going to the “not so high-class” place, which though located in the posh white peeps area of Soho, turned out to be full of locals, with Diesel being the only white person in a hall packed with about 150 locals.

As soon as we get to the tiny hallway that is the reception area, we are basically shoved forward, to what opens up into a big hall with very little space between the 20 tables or so. The “host” (if you can call him that) points at something in some direction, and we’re supposed to figure out where to sit. We wander around for a while until we sit ourselves at a table where there are piles of food leftovers. Here, people spit all their leftovers right onto the table. It’s not considered rude at all. In fact, we’ve seen plenty of dressed up girls carrying their Louis Vuitton bags who manage to create a pile no shorter than 5 inches on their table by spitting enormous amounts of bones, chicken skin, pig’s cartilage, giant pieces of ginger and whatever else they consider inedible (which let me tell you, is not much, since the Chinese eat pretty much everything). So Diesel and I sit there, calmly waiting for somebody to wipe the table. 10 min go by and nothing, until we are joined by a few other locals, who ask the waiters to clean the table. The exhausted waiter sorta cleans the table and then proceeds to literally throw bowls, chopsticks and teacups at each of the guests. Here you would expect us to be shocked, but we have eaten at the dingiest places in Chinatown, so this is not so bad.

And then we watched in confusion as each of the 5 other patrons sitting at our table proceeded to wash their own chopsticks and bowls in a big tea-filled bowl, which had, like the other kitchenware, been thrown at us. And here it hit me. It was as if the threat of swine flu never existed. Flying into the HK airport, we even went through body scanners as we passed to immigration to make sure nobody had a fever.

All this ordeal, and here we were in an enclosed space that looked like breeding grounds for an epidemic: people sitting extremely close to each other, spitting chewed food on the communal tables, and dishes barely washed (which is why everybody took the time to wash their own bowls, teacups and chopsticks).

Anyhow, as it turns out, the carts carrying dim sum never made it to our table. They were always intercepted by dozens of customers who took it upon themselves to get up, swarm around the poor ladies pushing the carts and uncovering all the lids to see what there was to eat. After watching it for a few minutes, I decided to follow their lead despite Diesel’s comments that I was embarrassing him. But I was not about to starve and wait for the dim sum carts that never made it 2 feet before all the Hong Kongnese emptied it of their contents.

Curiously enough, two of the men at our table took out their newspapers and were enthralled in reading the news, it seemed. It looked like they were only there for a cup of tea and a good read. Until, that is, one of them got up and rushed to one of the carts that was coming out of the kitchen. I told Diesel: “He hasn’t got up for ANYTHING, so this must be good,” as I got up myself to follow him. He ordered something I had never seen before, and I copied him. In fact, that day, except for the shrimp noodles, Diesel and I ate stuff that we have never seen in our lives, all of it was delicious.

We also escaped the reality of swine flu unscathed, thank you very much.

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