Misadventures in Dim Sum

Dim Sum

I love dim sum. If I could have it every weekend I would. As it is, we go at least twice a month. We try out and explore various dim sum restaurants around the San Francisco Bay Area, as we are so lucky to have options.

Our go-to place is still Yank Sing near the Embarcadero in the city. It is top for quality, selection, and service and we absolutely love it. However, there are still a few others we frequent.

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In early December my husband and I had taken my dad and grandmother to Hong Kong East Ocean in Emeryville because it is right on the water and has a gorgeous view of San Francisco and the bay. It is good but not great. We go from time to time for a change.

Yesterday, I had just come home from my weekend in the city and didn't feel like driving back in to eat at Yank Sing. So we decided to go to Hong Kong East Ocean. It was a clear day and the view would be beautiful.

We had a lovely lunch, didn't order too much so I decided to have dessert. My normal dessert is sesame balls, but they are not low fat and I can't eat just one, in any case, I had something else in mind. From time to time my husband and I will order silken tofu in ginger or almond syrup. It is served warm, seems light (although I am pretty sure it isn't), and tastes yummy.

silken tofu in ginger or almond syrup
silken tofu in ginger or almond syrup

At this particular restaurant, you order by marking a menu rather than the carts coming around, as is the style of most dim sum restaurants. So we couldn't find exactly the description of silken tofu, but they did have “hashmar soup with almond.”

We had ordered it before, the last time being on our visit with my dad and grandmother. We knew we liked it so that's what we marked.

When the server came by and saw what we ordered, he asked, “are you sure you want that?' I said yes, “why?” He tried to politely say that white people didn't usually order that, etc, but he was having a hard time getting it out.

I asked if it was a dessert, if it had almond milk or syrup and if it was served warm. He said yes. Then he started talking about frogs. I said it was okay, that I knew what it was and that we liked it. And then he gave us a look to make sure one more time and went off to place the order.

Hashmar soup

Then I started thinking. Frogs? What the heck is he talking about? We have had that before many times, there are no frogs! He must have the word mixed up with another English word.

The dessert came and it looked like what we had ordered in December. But it did look slightly different from the “standard” silken tofu. I tasted it. It was warm and almond-y and tasted good,  but I couldn't get the idea of frogs out of my head. The more I thought about it, the more I was curious.

I love the age of Wikipedia.

The minute I got home I brushed my teeth and then grabbed my laptop. Now if you read this paragraph from Wikipedia by itself, you would think, it is a little odd, but ok:

“The dried hasma is rehydrated and double-boiled with rock sugar to create a glutinous texture and opaque color. Dried or rehydrated hasma has a slight fishy smell. In its unflavoured form it is sweet and slightly savory in taste with a texture that is glutinous, chewy, and light, very similar to that of tapioca in a dessert.”

But you can't actually get to the paragraph without reading the first one, and that's the killer:

Hasma (Harsmar, Hashima) is a Chinese dessert ingredient made from the dried fallopian tubes of true frogs, typically the Asiatic Grass Frog…

Okay. So I am adventurous and I will try and eat a lot of things, but sometimes I don't really need to know the full details of what I am eating.

Like one dinner I had in China where I was served dog. I spent nine weeks in China for work in 1998 and had many, many wonderful meals and was a willing participant in many adventurous meals as well. I guess that was why my Chinese friends didn't think anything of me eating dog. It looked like beef. It was sauteed with a nice brown sauce and was very tasty. But it was dog.

I was told this after the meal. I told my friends that while I appreciated the meal, I had a dog at home and wanted to be able to look him in the eye when I arrived home, so please no more dog.

And I kind of feel the same way about frog fallopian tubes. Not my thing. Very, very tasty, trust me it is good. But now that I know what it is…not so keen on ordering it anymore! Although the server did say that women ate it because it was good for the skin.

I guess I am going to glow today!

P.S. Sorry Dad for making you try it as well last December πŸ˜‰

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  1. Hi Andi! Newcomer to your site since Friday, and been hooked since! πŸ™‚

    Re: the dessert… HAHA. I come from Hong Kong (well, Vancouver, but long story!) and while we may have some of the best foods ever in existence, sometimes it’s best if you don’t try to find out what the ingredients are. Nothing poisonous or dangerous, but just, eh, exotic. Not sure about mainland China though…I’ve yet to be served dog in good ol’ HK.

  2. I wish I could be as adventurous as you with food. Frog fallopian tubes, wow. I guess you have to give credit for using every single part of the animal.

  3. I was JUST having this conversation with a friend! We went out to dinner and there were frog legs on the menu and we were both all, ‘that’s so gross!’ and then we proceeded to eat lobster, chicken and steak.

    Why are somethings so revolting and others just fine? (or delicious as the case may be?).

    I can’t get over the dog thing. I almost started crying when I read that. I love my dogs so much. But we have rabbit. And I would totally eat the rabbit.

    Humans are so f*cking strange.

  4. Eeek! I think I would have thrown up after reading that!!! Dim Sum yuuuuumy. Best I’ve ever had was in restaurant in Beijing.

  5. @Julie – don’t get me wrong I LOVE frog legs – I would kicked out of the French Club if I didn’t. I just don’t eat them that often because they are too much work for not a lot of meat. But the best I ever had were as big as chicken drumsticks! American of course so they grow them to be bigger…it was in the Chesapeake area of Virgina and they were fried like chicken legs and so yummy, and yes, they taste like chicken! But there is something strange about eating fallopian tubes, you are so right, humans are weird!

  6. I love Yank Sing! About the soup – oh dear. I’ll be careful. Thanks for the warning!

    1. @Jennifer – the soup is at Hong Kong East Ocean, not Yank Sing, so you should be fine!

  7. I live on the East Coast, but every time I go to visit my family in California we go to Yank Sing. So tasty, and must say I’m kinda glad I don’t have to worry about accidentally eating frog fallopian tube soup while I’m there πŸ˜‰

    1. @Bev, funny, I go there just about every weekend, we could have been there together!

  8. This post made me laugh out loud!!!
    I’m thinking that if I ever do meet that goal of eating in China, I’ll need to have my laptop at the ready with Wikipedia already pulled up . . . Just in case . . .

    1. @Jennifer, totally! Although I just ate at a restaurant last week in San Francisco where my friends and I were looking up every other ingredient on the web, they wanted to be so fancy in their descriptions, it just turned out to be annoying!

  9. Sheila Skillingstead says:

    We lived in Australia for three and a half years and had several adventures with food. The first day there we had flake which was delicious. Flake is the Aussie term for shark. I’d never had shark before and had no trouble eating it again. Have a Great SITS Day. You have a nice website.

    1. @Sheila, yum, shark is so good, and I don’t have a problem eating it because I am scared to death of them – it’s eat or be eaten!

  10. haha. That’s hilarious. I’m Chinese and I love dim sum but I NEVER ask what’s in it πŸ™‚ I just don’t need to know. When I was younger, my mom just told me that everything was chicken. I love going to Yang Sing too but haven’t been to Hong Kong Ocean East. May have to try that next time I’m back home! PS Happy SITS Day!

    1. @Christine, that’s my opinion now, eat first, if it tastes good, you may not need to know what it is! Laughed at the “chicken” part!

  11. {Melinda} I am the most adventurous eater in my family, but frog fallopian tubes? Nope. Can’t see it. I don’t care if they taste like the finest chocolate. I think frogs should keep their reproductive organs off of my plate, thank you very much. πŸ™‚ Happy SITS Day!

    1. @Melinda, although they were tasty, not going to have that again any time soon!

  12. How teeny tiny are frog fallopian tubes? How do they even extract them?
    I love dim sum but sadly I live in a part of the world (rural Canada) where good dim sum is very hard to find. Sigh.

    Happy SITS day!

    1. @Suzanne, about an inch and I don’t want to know! If you get to either of your coasts there is great dimsum in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal!

  13. I can’t imagine frogs having fallopian tubes big enough to eat. How many frogs would you have to harvest from to get one bowl??

    1. @UDG, hee-hee! They are about an inch long and curled in, and there were probably 30 in my bowl, so I guess they have 2 like us, so that is 15 frogs – eek don’t like to think about that!

  14. Stopping by from SITS…I love food, I will eat just about anything. I will not ask what it is exactly before eating it. This post explains exactly why that is. I love your adventures!

    1. @Alley, so true. If it tastes good, go with it!

  15. Ohhhhh u are truly adventurous! I would’ve never tried it without first asking. But on the flip side like Andrew Zimerm says if it looks good eat it. I hate to say I have never been to a dim sum restaurant because I refuse to go to any Chinese resteraunt that isn’t true Chinese. Meaning not altering their flavors for the American pallet. I always wanted to visit San Fran and now I know if / when I go where to eat!

    1. @Regina, there are definitely Americanized spots like Yank Sing which I happen to love, but there are also real authentic spots which are great too!

  16. There was an episode recently of The Amazing Race where the contestants had to sit down and eat a huge bowl of frog fallopian tubes. Some didn’t mind at all while others were gagging and I couldn’t help but be deeply curious as to what on Earth those things tasted like. However, I’m pretty sure given the chance, I still wouldn’t take it.

  17. Dorothy G says:

    I’ll have to look this place up next time I’m in the Bay Area. They have the best Asian foods area. I have family there so I used to always eat in Chinatown, Japantown, etc. I don’t get to visit as often now because adulthood has gotten me all busy. But hopefully soon. Happy SITS!

    1. @Dorothy, definitely do try it. What are some of the spots you go to in Chinatown and Japantown?

  18. Dorothy G says:

    I don’t remember names of places. My cousins are the ones who would take me. Years ago, we went to a really good one in Japantown. My family there has now moved to Tracy, CA. I was there Oct. 2011 but I stayed in middle of Union Square and we ate at commercial places like Cheesecake Factory :-/

  19. Yikes!! If it tastes good and is visually appealing I’ll eat it. Just don’t tell me what it is. What I don’t know won’t hurt me. πŸ˜‰

  20. I do sushi but I don’t think I could do Frog fallopian tubes. Sounds kind of scary

    1. @HomeJobsByMom, it is a bit crazy! Thanks for stopping by!