Help navigating dim sum at Jing Fong in NYC
August 3, 2017 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Our group of 4 (plus baby) has agreed that we'd like to do dim sum at Jing Fong in NYC this coming Saturday. I'm slightly anxious though because I have no idea how to dim sum, nor do my companions -- I had one great dim sum experience but that was courtesy of a friend-of-a-friend that sat on the other side of the table and made sure we got delicious things. Stories of chasing after carts for the best items have me wondering how you identify the best things. Can you point me to a primer, or provide one, that can help us understand what's what, and how to get it, specifically at Jing Fong?
posted by undercoverhuwaaah to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can write a longer reply when I'm not on my phone, but as a short answer: don't worry too much. Half the fun of dim sum in general is seeing something that looks cool, going "yeah I want that" and trying it. The nice thing is if it's bad, each dish is generally cheap enough that it's NBD if you don't wind up eating it. You don't need to worry too much about chasing down carts or anything, Jing Fong is a well-run enough ship that there's very good coverage of everything all throughout the room.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:22 AM on August 3, 2017

It's difficult for me to recommend anything in particular because taste is so individual, but here are some guides so you know what's what:

Lucky Peach: The beginner's field guide to Dim Sum

Dim Sum Menu Guide

Serious Eats Guide to Dim Sum
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:31 AM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ok, I'm at a computer now so here's some more info.

General dim sum stuff:
1. You'll given a white sheet of paper divided in to sections labelled "small", "medium", "large", "premium", etc. This is how you pay - whenever you get something from a cart they'll stamp the appropriate section, and then at the end your bill will be based on tallying up these stamps. You'll usually pay a few bucks each for anything in the lower tiers, which is most stuff - odds are you won't be paying more than $15-20 per person unless you go really bananas with the upper-tier stuff.
2. Here's a site with a big list of assorted dim sum foods, what's in them, how they taste, etc.
3. Be careful of big plates of meat or things like that, those are usually the more expensive "top" or "premium" dishes and they can run to like ten bucks a plate. That's not to say don't get them - some of the best stuff, like roast duck or chilled jellyfish, falls in to this category, but if you aren't careful the price can add up. Usually the cheaper stuff is in steamers or smaller plates. Don't be afraid to ask how much something costs if you're not sure.

Jing Fong-specific stuff:

1. Get there early (like, 10:30-11) or the lines will be insane. If you get there after 11:30 be prepared to potentially wait up to an hour, if not longer, to be seated.
2. Jing Fong consists of an enormous dining room with raised, stage-like pavilions on three sides. You may be seated at a table at one of the pavilions. If you are, the carts won't pass directly by your table since they can't get up - instead, they'll stop at the ledge and you can leave the table to go get stuff. The basic dim sum experience is the same, it'll just require a little more movement on your part. Make sure you bring the price stamp card with you to the cart.
3. On the wall opposite the entrance at Jing Fong there's a big buffet-style table set up with huge serving trays. You can go over and get any of the stuff there at any time - they'll put it on a plate or bowl to bring back to your table - and some of the stuff there is the most interesting (including snails in black bean sauce, which is one of my favorites). A lot of these are in the most expensive price tiers, though (the snails are actually in a separate, highest tier), so approach accordingly. Once again make sure to bring your price stamp sheet cause they'll stamp it right there.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:34 AM on August 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

(Oh, one more small thing: if you run out of tea at any time leave the lid of the teapot open or off; that's the universal 'we're out of tea' sign and someone will come to refill or replace it soon)
posted by Itaxpica at 11:37 AM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might want to consider ordering Dim Sum at a different place first, or at least order takeout and try the different kinds of dumplings before going to Jing Fong. It is a little stressful because you kind of do have to chase down the carts or you'll be waiting forever. Of course worst case scenario is you get some stuff you don't like that much along with the happy surprises. Dim Sum is cheap so it really doesn't have to be stressful unless you are going for a specific 100% perfect dining experience.

Also - if any in your party have a pork or shellfish aversion/allergy - be really really careful as those ingredients can be common, even in things like Taro cakes.
posted by egeanin at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

When introducing newbies to dim sum, I generally order approachable basics like shiu mai (steamed pork and/or shrimp dumplings), har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings), and char siu bao (steamed pork buns). There will be many other kinds of dumplings, buns, tofu skins, and rice noodles (these look like long, flat, white sheets, not a pile of noodly noodles) with various fillings, and they're usually delicious and not too challenging, but as egeanin points out, dim sum is generally heavy on pork and shellfish and not particularly dietary-restriction friendly.

My personal favorite is lo bak gou (savory, pan-fried, turnip cakes). Lo mai gai (steamed, leaf-wrapped, rice packets with various savory bits) is also a nice hearty addition, but don't eat the leaf.
If you're feeling more adventurous, "phoenix claws"/chicken feet are tasty, albeit very boney staples. The same goes for the pork spare ribs.

For sweets, daan taat (egg custard tarts) and jian dui (fried sesame balls with red bean or lotus paste inside) are delicious standards. Mango pudding usually goes over well too. This can sometimes get confused with the also very tasty dofu fa (silken tofu in sweet syrup) or almond jelly (white, jello-looking stuff, sometimes served with fruit cocktail).

I usually aim for 2-3 dishes per person, depending on how hungry everyone is. Can't speak for Jing Fong specifically, but I wouldn't expect an especially relaxed dining experience. You may have to chase down waitstaff if you want more tea, the check, etc., and the staff is usually divided into an arcane hierarchy that doesn't always overlap in terms of service, so don't expect a cart server to help with the check or a busser with food. Just keep an eye out for what everybody else is doing, be brave and try new things, and you'll be fine.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:52 PM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is there any food you like or don't like? We can recommend specific dishes and link to photos
posted by the twistinside at 1:56 PM on August 3, 2017

If you run out of tea, open the lid and put it to the side. Feel free to say no to things. Don't worry about ordering too much in any column, it works out inexpensive. Sesame balls are a must. The rice noodles with shrimp are my favorite (look like long white bedsheets covering lumpy circles).

Definitely get there by 11. I'm also a fan of Ping's.

Enjoy, I'm jealous!
posted by armacy at 8:03 PM on August 3, 2017

« Older Just got Invisalign, Just got pregnant. Toxic...   |   Sorry, the grill has been cleaned and isn't... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.