February 12, 2010
A lesson in dim sum with Chef Martin Yan

martin yan.jpgThere's nothing quite like going to dim sum with Master Chef Martin Yan.

For starters, the food never stops coming out the kitchen, a testament to his ordering skills and perhaps his cache as a beloved TV personality.

But Bee photographer Michael Jones and I walked away with more than just full stomachs on Feb. 1, when we spent the morning cooking with Yan at his Hillsborough home (click here to see the story about my cooking lesson).

We took with us a lesson in dim sum itself.

Here are the highlights.

• Location, location, location - When choosing a dim sum restaurant, check out the clientele. "Whenever you see a lot of Chinese in a Chinese restaurant, you know it's not bad - it's a good sign," Yan said. "That means they serve very tradition, good quality, more authentic Chinese food."

It's also a sign that the restaurant is reasonably priced.

"Chinese will not go to a place that will you a fortune and give you a little bit," Yan said. "Chinese go for value, and in today's economy, you go for value."

Yan was right about that. I was expecting to charge $150 to my company card for the dim sum lunch at ABC Seafood Restaurant in Foster City. It was $78.20 and there was easily enough food for six people.

• Take a crew of eager eaters - "You should always go to dim sum with four to six people, that way you can try a lot of things," Yan said. And don't forget your Chinese friend. "Go with a Chinese friend and ask as many questions as possible," he said.

dim sum.jpg• Order a variety - The types of dim sum vary, as do the cooking methods. We tried 13 dishes that day, from suckling pig to mashed taro with pork dumplings. My favorite was the honey glazed barbecue pork bun and the lotus seed paste in rice (File photo at right is by Bee photographer Bryan Patrick).

• Mind your manners - When not using your chopsticks, place them together and rest them on the right side of the plate. It also is customary to pour tea for others during dim sum, before filling your own cup. If tea is poured for you, simple tap a bent index and middle finger together on the table, which symbolizes bowing. That way, you're not saying "thank you" when your mouth is full.

What is your favorite dim sum spot in Sacramento? What is your favorite dish? Post your suggestions here.

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