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Get a guide, be a guide!

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Get a guide, be a guide!

applehome | Mar 18, 2006 05:03 PM

I thought I'd make a comment about something that was posted on the Boston board. It was about Dim Sum and the issue was finding a good place for first-timers. The contention was that a dedicated dim sum house, as we have in Chinatown might be overwhelming, and that a place with less selection, in a supermarket food court, might be more appropriate.

My comment is that it's really, really hard for most people to just try something, anything, that is foreign to them. Even the most open minds are boggled by the large amount of choices, especially when the ingredients can be so unfamiliar.

But I'm not sure that simplicity is necessarily a benefit as an introduction. Limiting the sample of available goods isn't providing a full understanding of what that cuisine really is - what the potential can be. Going on your own to a more simple place may be somewhat less daunting, but you would be experiencing only a portion of what's available.

My most memorable experiences in trying foods from places and cultures I had never experienced before, always included a guide. A friend, or a friend of a friend, showed us what they liked, and how they went about the process of selecting and ordering - pointing out favorites, particular ways of saucing or spicing, etc. They didn't need to be experts, although that helps, but you have to recognize that even native folks have various levels of experience and understanding, so that you're not always getting a full introduction. But at least, you're getting a more comprehensive perspective, and you can venture on from there.

I cannot imagine having tried dim sum for the first time on my own, without the good Chinese-American friend that took me. I would not have discovered the depth of available items like the various stations you had to go to for the clams and periwinkles. I would have maybe taken some shumai and a char siu bao, and would have thought - well, I guess all dim sum is like that.

As chowhounds with varying experiences and levels of expertise in different foods, I'm sure that we've all experienced this, probably on both sides - student and teacher. I've brought friends to sushi, and then brought them up a few notches to the specialness of omakase at a great place.

So that's my message - get a guide, be a guide. You can't always find a knowledgable friend, I know. Of course, there's always Chowhound! I don't know if the chowhound team would appreciate my recommending that people post more requests for get togethers - this isn't a dating service. But I truly recommend that people make the effort, here or elsewhere, to find guides when trying new foods.

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