Friday, February 27, 2009

Dumplings, steamed buns, shrimp balls, oh my!

There are times when I love Glasgow so much that I can never see myself leaving, despite the rain and the wind and the stink and the impenetrable accent.

Then there are times when I think that if I'm away from Philadelphia for one second longer, I'll go crazy.

Strangely (fatly?) enough, most of those moments revolve around food. Mainly Mexican and Asian. Within the American expat community in the UK, Mexican food is a holy grail and has taken on mythical status. It does not exist here. There are no local burritos joints, food trucks, taquerias, nada. There are a couple restaurants that call themselves "Mexican," but aren't (they serve tapas. Or fish and chips). And then there's the so called "Mexican" store, which got me really excited when I first moved here, because I thought that if couldn't go buy a burrito, I could at least make one. Except the store isn't so much Mexican as it is a place to buy down-home American goods (Betty Crocker cake mix, A&W Rootbeer, or a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for £7), with some Spanish spices and cans of Jumex lying about. Not really a south of the border culinary one-stop.

Additionally depressing is the lack of Asian food. Most important though is that "Asian" here isn't "Asian" at home. I hear Asian and think Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian. In the UK, "Asian" is Indian. Pakistani. Bangladeshi. Technically correct, but confusing when it comes to asking about restaurants. And there are no good Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc, restaurants in Glasgow. There's a trendy Korean place near me that's decent, but it's also expensive. That's the problem. All the Asian (C/J/K/SEA) here is expensive. I miss great little neighborhood Chinese places. Cheapy Pho. DIM SUM.

This is not a disorganized rant though. It is a dim sum-specific longing, all brought about by a weekend restaurant discussion over email with my dad. There is (was?) a little down and dirty Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia with not only the best dim sum I've ever had, but some of the best food, period. Lakeside Chinese Deli, at 9th and Race in Chinatown. It is neither a deli nor next to a lake. It's outside sign was smashed. The specials were handwritten and taped on the wall in cardboard. You wondered if the health inspector had ever paid it at visit (clearly, they hadn't). There were maybe ten tables, tops, covered in dingy, plastic tablecloths. The food was heavenly and two people could not only eat, but completely stuff their faces for well under $20 total, tax, tip, everything.
Thanks to for the image!
I read a rumor recently that Lakeside closed, and it hurt my little foodie heart. Not only was the food amazing, but the woman who owned it was a gem. While I know there are lots of great Chinese places on the same block as Lakeside in Philly's Chinatown, it was hands-down my favorite of restaurants of any food persuasion in any city. It was that good. If the rumor is true, it's a sad reality for dim sum.

I love Glasgow, but I miss living in a good food town. Paris would do though. I'm not sure about the burrito, but I can safely say I had one of the best Thai meals of my life in a little place on a side street in the 11e, with sticky rice that I still daydream about, so I know that if when I move to the City of Light, I'm covered.

Thanks to for the image!



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