Dim Sum Diaries, Hong Kong
It’s been exactly ten days since I moved back to Hong Kong. Although my Spanish adventures are over for now, I still have many stories to share from the past month of European travels. Here is a little introduction as I begin blogging about life in this pulsating Asian metropolis.
We are standing under the blue-green, almost aquatic light of a glossy shopping mall. In the background a pair of escalators churns by, colouring the scene with a low, discernible hum. Below us the polished floor echoes to the hurried footsteps of men in tailor-made suits.
“Do you want to eat shrimp dumplings?” My grandmother asks me in flowing Cantonese. Before I can answer her properly I wake up with a start. Dazed, I look around at the bare yellow walls, softly lit by beads of sunlight filtering through the window shade. I am still in Spain.
It may have been only a dream, but grandma is quietly thrilled about it when we talk on the phone – I can just imagine her with that smile spreading across her face. She chuckles at my words. “Well, once you come back I’ll take you out for yum cha.”
My grandmother keeps her promise. On my birthday she rounds up all the cousins, aunts and other family members I haven’t seen for six months. Once again we are in the usual restaurant at the table in the corner, with a view to the ever-growing skyline of Kowloon beyond an ever-shrinking harbour.
Before us a parade of bamboo steamers, filled with the morsels that I could only have dreamed of tasting back in Salamanca. As a child these were the dishes I would look forward to every weekend when we saw our grandparents. The waitress swirls the Lazy Susan around and makes space for the next batch of little delicacies. Har gau. Char siu bau. Siu mai. Jue cheung fun. Even when I could barely speak Cantonese I still knew the names of those Dim Sum dishes off by heart.
Among the new arrivals are three baskets of haa gau – the steamed shrimp dumplings that found their way into my dream. Glistening with the tiniest drops of water vapour, the fists of shrimp meat are lovingly draped with delicate skins of rice flour. When I am not looking, my grandmother reaches over and drops one into my bowl. She pretends nothing happened. I steady my chopsticks – with a smile – and lift it gently to my lips.