Upon our return to the United States this summer from living abroad for 13 years, with our most recent move from Hong Kong, my family and I were faced with a serious food challenge. We hadn’t had access to good pizza, bagels and deli for years, so the first few weeks after we moved back, we became “born again” NY carb fanatics, showing our faces at every bagel and pizza joint north of NYC. After a month or so, this eating frenzy thankfully began to wear off. One of the things we miss most about Hong Kong is going out for Dim Sum, or yum cha, as it’s also called in Cantonese. After a friend mentioned Aberdeen Seafood & Dim Dum in White Plains, I knew we had to go to bridge East meets West food chain.
Eating Dim Sum is not only about eating a meal; it’s an event in itself. Dim Sum, which translates into, “To touch your heart”, is a time for friends and extended families to eat together and enjoy delicious little bites of food and tea.
Tucked away on the ground floor of The Marriott in White Plains, Aberdeen is hidden behind an oversized, shiny, bronze door. Brimming with hope and hunger we pulled the door open to reveal a full- on, bustling Dim Sum metropolis. In keeping with Chinese restaurant tradition, we are greeted with a large fish tank showcasing the restaurants’ goods. The space is large and banquet like, the décor is simple but clean.
My kids felt right at home as we were whisked away to our table by a lovely and smiling host. As soon as we sat, one of the many servers pushing dim sum carts came to a rolling halt in front of our table. We were now down to choice time people. Let the games begin!
First, we were given a piping hot pot of Green Tea, as drinking tea is inherently a part of the Chinese culture and Dim Sum experience. A pot of tea is sure to show up even before you have a chance to unfold your napkin.
We were also given a small dish of hot chili sauce, a Chinese condiment if you will, used to add heat to your various dishes. Finding out our first server was a Mandarin speaker; my kids jumped the chance to try out their rusty Mandarin and excitedly ordered our first few packages of love.
We started with 2 orders of char siu bao, the famous steamed barbeque pork buns. In each round, bamboo basket is four pillow, soft buns. For first time dim sum eaters, please remember to remove the paper underneath each individual bun for maximum eating pleasure. For the gluten intolerant, read no further!
Char Siu Bao is a soft, airy bun filled with small chunks of sweet, smokey, tender pork mixed in with a sweet, tangy sauce.
When you split the bun open, the steam just pours out and you can smell the sweet goodness coming from the center. As my kids are known to eat pork buns as if it were an event at the Olympics, I waited to see their reaction after their first few bites. Thumbs up from Charlie who is too busy eating to talk, and a nod of the head from Daniel who anxiously peels the paper off his third. I admit these buns are serious contenders with the buns we’ve had in Hong Kong, and as anyone serious about Dim Sum knows, Hong Kong serves some of the best! Despite this, Charlie and I conclude however, we would have preferred the pork mixture to have a little more sauce. But hey, like people have bad hair days, it may have just been a bad bun day at Aberdeen. We’ll try again.
Next we tried to har gao; shrimp dumplings with translucent skin. These bad boys are tiny bites of heaven, especially when lightly dipped in soy sauce before popping into your mouth. They were cooked perfectly and did not fall apart like some dumplings can when you pick them up with your chopsticks. Kid tested, mother approved! As my pants started expanding, I made room on my plate to try the next dish, beef rice noodle crepe. It’s a large wide noodle, made of rice flour, filled with minced beef and then rolled to look like a crepe. Our server came with a bottle of sweet soy sauce and generously doused it over our rice noodle crepes. Note: Now is about a good time to ask for a fork if you are insecure about your chopstick skills as the noodle is a bit slippery. As you bite into this, the combo of moist beef and the noodle are hit by high notes of coriander. There is also a shrimp variety. This dish was very savory and salty, and ticked all the right categories to make it one of my favorites.
As our dirty plates are cleared yet again, we are all anxious to try the sticky rice in lotus leaf. Presented like a present (“No, you shouldn’t have!”), it contains well what else, but sticky rice. All kidding aside, this ain’t your typical sticky rice! Firstly, as Charlie pointed out as we unwrapped our gift of love, the rice imparts the smell and color of the lotus leaf, in which it had been steamed. This sensory invitation invites you to plunge in, where you find yet again, another present; that of the rice enveloping a heavenly, almost creamy combination of pork, Chinese sausage and mushrooms. This is real Chinese comfort food and a meal in itself! My Jewish grandmother is rolling in her grave!
I was eager to try one of my personal favorites, the turnip cake. Now, this might sound boring, unappealing and downright nasty if you haven’t tried this before, but you have to give it a try. Made from shredded daikon radish and rice flour, the turnip cake is cut into blocks and either steamed or fried. I prefer mine fried, as it served at Aberdeen, which creates a nice crispy outside to contrast the mild, creamy texture on the inside, which I can only describe to those who haven’t tried it, as mashed potato like. Other ingredients added to the turnip cake that give it that “umami” pow, are dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, mushrooms and soy sauce. It was served with a very salty oyster sauce so if you are watching your sodium intake, beware and ask for low sodium soy sauce instead! I have to admit I became addicted to turnip cakes while living in Hong Kong and my need for this treat was satiated!
My kids and I had absolutely no room left for dessert so we did what we had to do; we unbuttoned our jeans and ordered the sesame balls to finish off a fantastic meal. This very common pastry made from sticky rice flour, is deep fried, and filled with red bean paste or Azuki paste, which is smooth, sweet and a bit nutty in flavor. With the outside covered in sesame seeds, hence the name, sesame ball, it’s warm to the bite and doughy. Just half of one was enough for me!
I suggest you bring a hefty appetite as there are so many things to choose from, you’ll most definitely end up biting off more than you can chew! Dim Sum service starts at 11:00 and I highly recommend you make a reservation, especially on the weekend. We got there early knowing how quickly it fills up, and by noon, every table was filled! If Dim Sum isn’t your thing, there is an entire Cantonese menu to choose from. Everything from seafood dishes, fried rice dishes, noodles dishes and veggie options are on offer. No one will leave hungry and yes, it is perfectly acceptable to loudly slurp your noodles.
Our hearts were touched. We’ll be back!
Aberdeen Seafood & Dim Sum 3 Barker Avenue, White Plains NY. 914.288.0188