The Cantonese practice of dim sum isn’t common in Des Moines, but there are a few examples. On Sundays, Kwong Tung on Ingersoll and Wong’s Chopsticks in Johnston fill to capacity with families ordering large numbers of small plates (prices range from less than $2 up to $9) to share among the table.
Lijuan Zhao, managing director of the advisory firm China Iowa Group, said dim sum is a weekly tradition in China. Family and friends gather at restaurants for a weekly outing.
“People sit around a round table and the staff bring around a trolley with a variety of different food,” said Zhao, 30. “Then you eat and talk about what happened in the previous week. It’s a very social event that can last two hours or even longer.”
Dim sum in Des Moines doesn’t use the trolley system. Instead, you check off your desired dishes on the menu and turn it in to your sever. Dishes come out one at a time as the kitchen finishes them, ensuring each one is hot and fresh.
Here’s a sampling of dishes worth your time.
Chicken feet: $2.50 at Kwong Tung; $2.85 at Wong’s Chopsticks.
Of all the dishes, this is the one most likely to separate the dim sum adventurers from the casual samplers. Seasoned chicken feet are steamed and arrive at the table looking exactly like a container of chicken feet. The bones are still inside, so keep in mind that with each bite you’re going to want to make sure you don’t chew or swallow it. It’s the kind of dish you have to order once. You may surprise yourself and order it on your next visit.
Pan-fried pork pot stickers: $2.40 at Kwong Tung; $4.95 at Wong’s Chopsticks.
Pot stickers, dumplings and wontons are abundant on each restaurant’s dim sum menu. At Wong’s the pot stickers arrived hot and very crisp, much larger and tastier than your average pot sticker. The dipping sauce seemed to have more heat than traditional pot sticker sauce.
BBQ Pork with Rice: $2.75 at Kwong Tung.
A small bowl, stuffed with rice and topped with thin slices of barbecue covered pork. It’s a good pick for a heartier option, with enough meat and rice to satisfy those seeking a lunch-style dish.
Sesame balls: $2 at Kwong Tung.
Sesame seeds, dough and red bean paste may not sound like the makings of a sweet dish, but it works well for sesame balls. The bean paste filling has a taste more like figs or dates than bean.
Sweet custard buns: $2.25 at Wong’s Chopsticks.
The closest thing you’ll find to a doughnut during dim sum. Three large rice pastries are steamed and filled with sweet custard. A delicious dish that is pretty much guaranteed to be pleasing to even the most cautious diner.
Egg tarts: $1.75 at Kwong Tung.
A flaky custard shell filled with sweet egg yolk cream. Very dense and very sweet. A good final dish for your dim sum.
Kwong Tung Restaurant
2721 Ingersoll Ave.; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.
5500 Merle Hay Road, Johnston; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.