I’m proud to announce that the September 2009 issue of Asia Trend Magazine carries my first article and photos as one of their contributing food writers. Asia Trend Magazine is out of Winter Park, Florida, but has a circulation that covers the entire state. You can pick up a copy of the magazine, for free, in most Asian establishments. You can also see my article online in an Adobe Flash version, or you can read it below where I’ve reposted it with permission of Asia Trend Magazine. If you really want to make yourself hungry, you can view a full-size slideshow of the photos in the post as well as the original photos that comprise the collage photos. (I really recommend the slideshow–it’s mouthwatering!)
THE OCEANIC FAMILY
The website for the Oceanic Oriental Supermarket contains this evocative phrase: “From its humble beginnings as a small dry goods store over the years to an indispensible Tampa establishment providing products from rosewood furniture to fresh fish to imported and locally grown produce…”
I remember that small, humble store well. I shopped there often over the years and watched as it grew to its present, supermarket size. Shopping at Oceanic was always an exciting experience and it still is. Most recently, Oceanic’s growth has extended into an entire family of related businesses, which includes not only the Asian grocery, but also a restaurant equipment supply store, a video and stationary store, and T.C. Choy’s Asian Bistro, Tampa’s premiere Asian restaurant.
T.C. CHOY’S ASIAN BISTRO
T.C. Choy’s hits that sweet spot between Eastern culinary authenticity and Western dining expectations—it fully satisfies both. The decor is subdued with muted earth colors highlighting an impressive translucent mural isolating the main dining area from a small liquor bar. Soft music plays in the background, (J.S. Bach, the day I was most recently there) while off to one side of the main dining area there is a sushi bar. There is also a small, beautifully appointed, secluded private dining room for special occasions. In the main dining room, behind the sushi bar, is an open kitchen where cooks prepare traditional as well as innovative Asian dishes. T.C. Choy’s website (www.tcchoysbistro.com) details their entire, extensive menu. But today, I would like to call your attention to their dim sum.
Dim sum, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is a Chinese dining tradition during which a number of small dishes are served with tea, not unlike tapas in Spanish cuisine. The customers select these dishes from carts that are wheeled around the room from dining table to dining table. These are shared, family style, among the friends and family who have gathered at table. One of the things that’s especially nice about T.C. Choy’s is that they have preserved the custom of carts pushed around the room. These days, too many restaurants that serve dim sum, simply bring a short dim sum menu from which you order and then the ordered dishes are brought to your table. In keeping to tradition, T.C. Choy’s emphasizes the freshness and temperature of the dim sum they serve.
Now, you must understand that dim sum is a shared event and it’s done leisurely, with much good conversation and goodwill. The result is that a seemingly gargantuan amount of food is consumed. In preparing for this review of T.C. Choy’s, I sampled their baked barbeque pork buns, sesame seed ball in lotus paste, siu mai (pork & shrimp dumpling), steamed chicken feet with black bean, steamed spare ribs with black bean, pan fried turnip cake (daikon radish cake), pan fried chives dumpling with shrimp and mushrooms, shrimp and rice-noodle roll, steamed tofu-skin shrimp and pork rolls, and sticky rice (with chicken, shrimp, mushroom, and pork sausage) wrapped in lotus leaf.
And, it didn’t end there! I also sampled a type of dim sum of T.C. Choy’s own invention which they call Kitchen Specials. Pictured are four Kitchen Specials: salt & pepper shrimp, fried tofu stuffed with shrimp paste, Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, and eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste—all very tasty and worth the little extra they cost.
Sharon Choi, manager of T.C. Choy’s, assured me that in addition to their selection of dishes which are usually vegetarian, they will happily modify any dish to make it vegetarian. For instance, the pan fried chives dumpling with shrimp and mushrooms—a new dim sum dish for me and an instant, new favorite—can be made without the shrimp.
The steamed chicken feet were the best I’ve had anywhere, including Beijing. They had just the right texture (I like them “fluffy”). One has one’s favorites, of course, but everything I sampled was extremely good. I recommend T.C. Choy’s dim sum very highly. It’s served daily. Weekends are quite busy, so you might want to excuse yourself from work for a leisurely mid-week, extended lunch of dim sum at T.C. Choy’s. Just be sure you don’t have too much work planned for the afternoon because you’ll be serenely floating after swallowing clouds of dumplings.
T.C. Choy’s Asian Bistro (www.tcchoysbistro.com) is located at 301 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33606-1728; (813) 251-1191. The Oceanic Oriental Supermarket; Oceanic Restaurant Equipment Supply; and, Ocean Video and Stationary (www.oceanicmarket.com) are located at 1609 N. Tampa St., Tampa, FL 33602-2646; (813) 228-8110.
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