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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

A Merry Dim Sum Christmas

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

There is a tradition of eating dim sum on Christmas that many people celebrate. With most restaurants shuttered to observe the day's celebrations, those that either don't want to cook, or don't celebrate the holiday, flock to Chinese restaurants where waits can be hours long on Christmas morning.

While I don't observe this tradition regularly, several years ago, my family decided to launch Christmas Day with dim sum, followed by a traditional Christmas dinner in the evening. Instead of sitting around the tree and unwrapping gifts like we did on previous Christmas mornings, that year we opted to sit around a large table and unwrap dumplings filled with delicious ingredients.

Whether you decide to partake in this tradition this Christmas, or enjoy great dim sum any day of the year, here are three restaurants in Northern California's Bay Area that I enjoy.

Harborview Restaurant and Bar

Harborview Restaurant and Bar is located in San Francisco's Financial District in Embarcadero Center 4. The entryway is beautifully decorated and the dining room is always buzzing with energy. Harborview has excellent (you guessed it) harbor views. Try to get a seat by the window to enjoy views of the bay, along with the wonderful food.

Kurobuta Pork Soup Dumplings ("Xiao Long Bao")

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings ("Har Gow")

Pork Wontons in Spicy Chili Sauce

Black Truffle Peking Duck Sliders

These were my favorite. The soft, pillowy, yet crispy, buns are filled with succulent duck, truffles and crunchy scallions. I added a little bit of their house-made chili sauce for an extra kick.

Dumpling Home

Dumpling Home is located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. You can identify the restaurant by the line that is usually formed down Gough Street by hungry patrons, waiting for a taste of their delectable dumplings.

Fresh Kelp Salad

This was the first time I tried kelp and I really enjoyed it. Similar to seaweed in flavor, this had more bite. The simple marinade of garlic and sesame oil enhanced the natural flavors of the kelp.

Pork Xiao Long Bao

If you have never tried these dumplings, you are missing out. Xiao long bao literally translates to "small basket buns." These dumplings are named for the bamboo, baskets that they are steamed in. Xiao long bao have thin, delicate, dumpling skins, traditionally filled with pork and a rich, savory broth.

Eating them correctly is an art of precision. Eat them too soon and the broth will scald your mouth; wait too long and the broth cools too much, hardening the skins. And timing is only the first challenge. The second, is to gently lift the dumpling from the basket without puncturing the skin and letting all that delicious broth escape. I find that using your chop sticks to lift the dumpling from the top, where all the folds gather, is easiest. The third challenge is getting it into your mouth. You can go straight from the basket to the mouth but, I was told that the traditional way is to move the dumpling from the basket into your soup spoon, add a little ginger and a drop of black vinegar (it should arrive in a small dish with your dumpling order), wait a few minutes for the dumpling to cool and then bite into the dumpling while it is still in the spoon. The spoon will catch any broth that spills out so you don't lose any of that juicy goodness.

Shrimp and Loofah Xiao Long Bao

Loofah was another first for me and it was great. This vegetable has a mild, sweet flavor and a texture somewhere between a cucumber and a zucchini.

Juicy Beef Bao

The bottom is crispy and the top is soft and the middle is filled with juicy, flavorful meat. Enough said.

Yank Sing

The Chan family opened Yank Sing in San Francisco's Chinatown over 60 years ago. Now, Yank Sing has two locations in the bustling, Financial District and is still family run. This Cantonese restaurant offers cart style dim sum (various carts filled with dim sum dishes are rolled throughout the restaurant and brought by your table so you can see what you'd like to order).

Chrysanthemum Tea

This tea is made from chrysanthemum flowers and is consumed in China for its health benefits as well as its cooling and calming effects. I find this floral, herbal tea to be delicate and refreshing.

Steamed Spareribs

Seafood (scallop and shrimp) Basil Dumplings

Steamed Lotus Leaves with Sticky Rice

Stuffed inside the rice is a mixture of pork, mushrooms and shrimp that is a little bit sweet and a little bit savory.

There are many more dim sum restaurants that I really love and will feature in future posts but, this is a good start. Whether you visit one of these, or a dim sum restaurant near you this Christmas, I wish you and yours a very, merry dim sum Christmas.

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