Around the world, there are many different styles of eating.  Due to our famed individualism, Americans are accustomed to ordering our own meal at a restaurant and rarely sharing with anyone else at the table, unless that person is our significant other (in which case we will sometimes share, but begrudgingly).  This style of eating is virtually unheard of in the East.  In Asian restaurants, a variety of dishes will be ordered (in many cases, the ordering is done by one person – sometimes with input from others) and the items will be brought out and placed in the middle of the table to be shared by all (for Southerners reading this, think “family-style”; for Nashvillians reading this, think “Monell’s).  To me, there is no better way to eat.  By ordering multiple dishes, you get to try lots of different flavors without envying the entree ordered by a fellow diner.
Dim Sum at Maxim's
One of my favorite types of “family-style” ordering is “dim sum.”  I first sampled dim sum when I was in Hong Kong in 1996 and, since then, I’ve sought it out in various places (especially at the Golden Unicorn in New York’s Chinatown).  For those who’ve never experienced dim sum, it is a style of eating famed in Hong Kong and the Canton area of China which takes place mostly on weekends during “brunch” time.  While Americans have their omelettes, eggs benedict and french toast, the Chinese sample steamed dumplings, “shumai”, pork buns, chicken feet! and hundreds of other small dishes.
Dim Sum at Maxim's
In many places, the various items on offer at a dim sum restaurant are wheeled around on a small cart.  As the cart goes by, the names of the dishes are yelled out by the cart-pusher (or if your Chinese is lacking, or in my case nonexistant, the cart-pusher will take the cover off the dishes to show you what’s underneath).  If you like what they have, you point to the item and it is placed on your table.  The cart-pusher marks a card on your table with what you ordered and heads off to the next table.  The food, which is served as small dishes (sort of like Spanish tapas), is generally amazing.  I’m especially fond of the shumai and the pork buns.

While in Hong Kong, we sought out Maxim’s City Hall Palace – a restaurant that’s supposed to serve some of the best dim sum in the world (and, based on some awards on the wall, the best in Hong Kong).  The restaurant was packed, requiring a wait of about an hour.  Once we were seated, however, the foodcarts immediately made it our way where we ordered quite aggresively.  I was getting embarrassed with how much we had ordered until I looked around and saw that all the other Chinese diners where ordering even more than we were.  After finishing off several pots of jasmine tea and eating more dumplings than I care to admit, we left the restaurant and decided to take a long walk in downtown Hong Kong to help burn off the amazing feast.