By Ling-Mei Wong
Dim sum is a wondrous guilty pleasure. A never-ending procession of carts serve shrimp-filled “har gow” dumplings, pork with shrimp “siu mai” dumplings and crackling fried turnip cake. The selections are delicious but often prepared with MSG and animal fat, making dim sum a treat to be enjoyed in moderation.
The China Pearl added 10 vegetarian dishes to its dim sum lineup, made with fresh ingredients and vegetable oil. No artificial tofu “meats” are to be seen, leaving out processed additives for clean vegetable flavors. For those who have sworn off meat, these vegetarian options do not disappoint.
The fried buns stuffed with chive and tofu were hot and aromatic. Meat lovers at the table did not feel in the least deprived. The vegetarian cheong fun was another hit, a rice noodle filled with wood ear mushrooms, carrots and bamboo shoots that gave it a crunchy texture.
We also enjoyed the napa cabbage roll, filled with shiitake mushrooms. The three-color cabbage dumpling was very pretty, but relatively bland compared to the previous savory dishes.
However, the deep-fried tofu blocks, with accents of garlic and pepper, redeemed this.
Even the simplest dishes had deep flavor. Japanese squash with goji berries was lightly steamed but rich and buttery.
Steamed broccoli was prepared with rice wine vinaigrette instead of the typical oyster sauce, which gave the broccoli a citrusy tang.
For dessert, three treats offer vegetarians some sweet choices. The pumpkin cake with red bean filling is delicate and not as heavy as flaky pastries made with pork fat.
Fried lotus root drizzled with honey and toasted sesame seeds heightened the lotus root’s crunchiness without the powdery texture.
Steamed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice was intensely sweet, tempered by a scattering of osmanthus flower petals.
By the time the desserts arrived, we were decidedly full. Each of the dishes were distinct in flavor, rather than bland. If you want to go for a guilt-free dim sum lunch, look no further than the China Pearl.
This was an arranged tasting, so the Sampan’s experiences may be more pleasant than the norm.
This post is also available in: Chinese