Dim sum, the Cantonese equivalent of breakfast, is a way of life in this British crown colony among Westerners and Chinese alike. You need friends to really enjoy this centuries old tradition. The more people, the more kinds of dim sum you can sample.
Dim sum is not found at just any Chinese restaurant, but at special dim sum parlors. Dozens of these are scattered throughout Hong Kong or its mainland section, Kowloon, and they vary in decor as well as in character.
Once you are seated, a trolley comes by stacked with several bamboo steamers with dim sum inside. You look, then nod or point to those you like and are served a small saucer with three or four identical tidbits on it.
Almost instantly a second waiter rolls his trolley by or carries a tray for your inspection, then another and another, all different.
It isn't uncommon to have 75 to 100 kinds - from shrimp- and pork-filled dumplings to tiny barbecued spare ribs, stuffed crab legs, and custard tarts.
To figure your bill, the waiter counts your empty saucers, charging one price for round ones, another for oval platters. An average dim sum meal for two might cost $6 to $8.
Some unusual Chinese favorites are duck's web with ginger and oyster sauce, steamed tripe in black bean and chili sauce, or barbecued chicken feet.
Here is a popular one that can be made at home. Steamed Pork Buns (Cha Siu Bau) Pastry: 1 1/4 cups flour 3/4 cup boiling water 1/8 cup cold water Filling: 2 shiitaki mushrooms Warm water 1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) cooked pork, minced 1 whole scallion, minced 2 sprigs fresh parsley 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon light soy sauce 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1 teaspoon oyster sauce 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon cornstarch 2 teaspoons water Lettuce leaves
Sift flour in large bowl; add boiling water and mix well. Spread mixture on a lightly floured wood board and knead into soft dough. Use cold water to keep kneading hand unstuck. Knead into a long wide strip, French bread-shaped. Set aside.
Soak dried shiitaki mushrooms in warm water until soft, or use fresh mushrooms if shiitaki are unavailable. Mix mushrooms together with minced pork in a large mixing bowl. Add scallions and chopped parsley.
Mix well, then add salt, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
In separate bowl, add cornstarch to water and mix until it forms a smooth paste. Add to pork mixture. Pound mixture until it is well blended together.
Divide long roll of dough into 30 equal parts. Roll each to form a thin round , about 3 inches in diameter.
Hold round of dough in one hand and put 1 tablespoon of filling in punched-down center.
Pinch edges of dough together on top like a pouch. The shape should be that of a round bun. Fill all 30 rounds.
Place buns on lettuce leaves in bamboo steamer. Leaves will prevent sticking and are unnecessary in a metal steamer. Steam, covered, over boiling water 10 minutes. Serve piping hot. Makes 30 buns.