When I think of Cantonese food, these three characteristics pop into my head.
- Sweet (the fivespice flavored glaze on roast pork or bbq duck)
- Gummy (think chewy rice dough on dimsum dumplings like shau mai)
- Mucousy (think viscous soupy bird's nest textured concoctions)
- Fishy (dim sum shrimp balls gone awry)
Don't get me wrong... I like gummy (in moderation, as a contrasting texture). I like sweet (though not cloyingly so). I like fishy (the mild oceany freshness of a well cooked, fresh fish-- or a deftly administered splash of funky fish sauce). I do have a problem with mucousy... even when decidedly savory. (By contrast, my Lovely Tasting Assistant loves all manner of mucousy Taiwanese soups... she is absolutely in love with the squid soup at Won Won Kitchen for example. For me, it's simply a no-go).
Perhaps it comes from a pre-Chowhound lifetime of overexposure to gummy, overcooked shau mai (although in my experience, even on a good day shau mai are at least a little gummy).
Whereas the vegetables prepared in other regional styles tend to be crisp and snappy (think garlic fried green beans), if I am served one more half-limp, half-undercooked bok choy floating in salty water, I think I'm going to revolt.
I love the idea of dim sum-- I really do. I just can't help but feel a slight bit disappointed every time I go. Even well represented versions of dim sum (like the dishes served at Elite, for example) are a combination of those four characteristics... fishy, gummy, mucousy, and sweet. What am I missing here?
I'm fully willing to admit that I'm in a Cantonese rut. When I eat Cantonese food, it's nearly always the dishes I've outlined above (dim sum, roast pork, roast duck, bok choy, wonton soup). (Oh, I do love a well prepared wonton soup-- thin broth, flavorful wontons, some greens and pork-- it's perhaps the only Cantonese dish I can say that I really do love with gusto).
Could you give me some suggestions here for some standout Cantonese dishes (and where I can find them)? For purposes of this thread, let's avoid chiu chow. I admit to generally avoiding seafood due to the expense, so perhaps that's a big part of why I'm missing the allure of Cantonese food.
Thanks in advance for your help.