You will no doubt be horrified to learn that the Hired Belly can be fickle, even, occasionally, weak-willed—especially when it comes to certain foods. Nevertheless, I’ve learned over the years that the path of least resistance is usually the most prudent course of action.
The other day I found myself on the corner of Broadway and Granville.
It was lunchtime. And I was in need of serious sustenance before heading off to the afternoon’s Aussie wine tasting. There was only one solution: Dumplings—and not just any dumplings.
One of the truly iconic tastes—and sensory experiences—etched in my taste bud memory bank are the superb Shanghai style dumplings—that just happened to be available a mere 50 paces west, at Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House (1537 W. Broadway 604-733-9696).
I find them utterly irresistible, which is why, a few minutes later, I was ensonced at a sunny table.
Lin owner Yu Miao first originally a restaurant in Richmond, where her handmade Shangai dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) quickly became legendary. Happily for me, after vanishing back to Beijing for a bit, in recent years she resurfaced to open this busy tearoom and restaurant where, of course, the dumplings are at the top of the menu.
These precisely made little packets of pork and vegetable burst on your tongue in a flood of warm broth that adds up to one absolutely delicious explosion of flavours.
Yu Miao once explained to me how she makes them.
“The secret,” she said “is how we keep the juiciness in…”
More precisely, she blends in just the right amount of stock before sealing the meat in the dough. That way, when the dumpling is steamed (for exactly five minutes), the juices are released but still contained.
Making the stock itself is a labour of love that requires three separate preparations, starting with pork skin (which is later removed), skimming and then later adding green onion, ginger, rice wine and spices. The final broth is bright, flavourful and deliciously irresistible.
Eating these requires a whole new technique. Poke them with a chopstick and you’ll likely wind up with half the juice on your shirt. Chomp them unawares and they’ll surely squirt you, or worse, your lunch date! One trick is to pick them up carefully and bite a small hole before sucking out the broth, although I think that takes the fun out of it.
There’s more to Lin’s, of course, from deep fried whole cod, or Szechwan spicy beef, to lemon chicken, honey prawns, lettuce wraps, handmade noodles and so on …
But, really, ultimately, it’s all about the dumplings.
Update: There’s been a change of ownership.