Nicholas Gilman is a renowned journalist and food writer based in Mexico City.

Nicholas Gilman es un renombrado periodista gastronómico radicado en la Ciudad de México.

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Orient Express: Dim Sum at Jing Teng

Orient Express: Dim Sum at Jing Teng

When I think about what I miss of my former life in the Big Apple, it's family, friends, and good Asian food. I always head straight to Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth St. in N.Y.'s Chinatown) every time I visit. Then I ride the 7 train out to Flushing which is every bit as good as going to Hong Kong itself. Back in el D.F. I make do, but things are getting better.

To make authentic foreign food, you need authentic foreigners, and Mexico City, unlike other great world metropoli, is not culturally diverse, at least not for its size – almost everyone here is Mexican. There are no true neighborhoods where a foreign community lives, Condesa aside. Sure there are small Korean clans, Argentines galore, Cubans, Lebanese, a few of everybody. But a cultural melting pot we're not. Eating 'world cuisine' here is a recent phenomenon. So if, like me, you’ve slogged through gloppy, celery and corn-starch laden meals in our so-called ‘Chinatown’, eaten pseudo-Thai food that tasted like mole, wierd cheesy sushi or paid through the nose for tony Indochine in Polanco, you’ll be happy to know that there is indeed good, genuine Asian food in this city—you just have to know where to find it.

More Chinese immigrants seem to be showing up every day - no surprise - and with them their culinary customs.

Dim sum, Wikipedia informs us, "refers to a style of Cantonese food prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum is also well known for the unique way it is served in some restaurants, whereby fully cooked and ready-to-serve dim sum dishes are carted around the restaurant for customers to choose their orders while seated at their tables. Eating dim sum at a restaurant is usually known in Cantonese as going to "drink tea" (yum cha, 飲茶), as tea is typically served with dim sum."

Until recently, finding dim sum in Mexico was about as easy a locating a good pozole in Guangzhou. But there's good news for Asia-philes.

Jing Teng, a Chinese-for-Chinese restaurant has opened its doors. And there are at least 15 kinds of dim sum offered every day, from around 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nary a westerner is seen in this simple 'locale'. In fact, only one employee (and none of the diners) I queried even spoke a word of Spanish. Information, and a menu were hard to procure. But the bamboo steamers are laid out so all you have to do is point.

You'll find such steamed favorites as siu mai (open dumplings stuffed with pork) ha gow (shrimp dumplings) and various bao (those poofy white spongy buns - the ginger pork was particularly flavorful).

Lovers of innards will enjoy tripe steamed with black bean - ngau bak yip - and chicken feet done several ways. Nor mai mai – glutinous rice “tamales”--are satisfying if a bit bland. From the baked/fried table the custard tarts and little empanadas stuffed with sweet bean paste stand out.

The regular menu, which is in Spanish, (if you can get the waiter to bring you one--our attempt to say 'menu' with hand gestures only caused a bit of confusion) lists many tempting casseroles, soups, noodle dishes and green vegetable to augment the feast. Prices are reasonable: most dim sum plates are 30 pesos, a few 40 or 50.

Go around 'brunch' time, i.e. 10-12, for the best and freshest selection. 個飽!

Jing Teng
Calle 65 sur, near the corner of Av. Santa Anita, Colonia Viaducto Piedad
Metro: Viaducto
To get there by metro, go to the Viaducto stop on line 2 (blue) and exit following the sign for "SALIDA c. Coruña col. Viaducto Piedad". Exiting from the station, turn right. Turn right at the first corner (there's a Pemex across the street). This is Coruña. Walk eight very short blocks until you get to Calle 65 sur. Turn right. The restaurant is towards the end of the block on the left. View map

It's 2 blocks from Ka Won Seng, another favorite; see my post on Asian food in the city.

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