I’m sitting down for dim sum with bona fide Chinese supermodel Liu Wen at New York’s Jing Fong Restaurant and realize I had 42 unread messages on my phone. Most of these were pictures solely of food: dishes of homemade dumplings, sautéed vegetables infused with chilies, grilled fish, and a rack of roasted lamb ribs. To anyone else, these images would seem like quite a lavish feast. To a Chinese person around the lunar new year, it was just a typical dinner one might eat with their extended family. Wen agreed: “When it comes to Chinese New Year, we take food and family very seriously.”
It’s fitting then that Wen was about to be my guide to the world of dim sum, on this, the busiest day of the year at Jing Fong. The meal begins and ladies with yellow aprons and matching hair bandanas roll around dozens of carts filled with endless small bites and dumplings packaged tightly into bamboo steamers. If you are quite foreign to the art of dim sum, consider the most important advice from Wen: Be open-minded. She suggests trying a little bit of everything. No, you might not love the taste or consistency of chicken feet, but you might love the next dish. There are hundreds of options—Jing Fong serves almost 300 different steamed, fried, and grilled dim sum dishes on the weekends. Make sure to try one of Wen’s favorites: cha siu bao, a barbecue pork–filled bun. (Just don’t forget to remove the paper wrapping.)
Wen tells me this is the first year she is celebrating Chinese New Year in New York and that she decided to enjoy a favorite childhood pastime to celebrate: having a dim sum feast—a tradition she continues with her friends at least once a month. Dim sum culture is certainly about the food—her pro tip: the more friends you bring, the more dishes everyone can try!—but is just as much about bringing loved ones together to linger. “The best thing about dim sum is that you can eat, you can talk, you can eat and talk some more all the way until the afternoon!” she says. As today kicks off the first day of the lunar new year, there’s no better time to brush up on those chopstick skills and spend the day with friends and family while mastering the art of dim sum.
Gong xi fa cai! May wealth and a happy belly be with you in the New Year.
On Wen: Sandro Samuela polo, $210; Sandro Perle jeans, price upon request; and Sandro Vice jacket, $755, for information: us.sandro-paris.com
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