dim sum traditions: jews and chinese food

Phil and I are different animals, for sure. But aside from the fact that we move through life at very different paces, we share a common sense of religion (to what degree we want it to be a part of our daily lives), a common religion, same city of birth, and we were raised with the same emphasis on education… and Dim Sum Sundays.

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It might be a Northeast thing: Jews and Chinese food Sundays. Every Sunday night, without fail, my sister, father, mother and I would head to the same Chinese restaurant and share lobster Cantonese, mapo tofu, moo shoo pork, Peking duck, and orange flavored beef. Phil remembers shrimp in lobster (Cantonese) sauce, roast pork fried rice, and spare ribs.

The other day, we decided it was a tradition worth repeating with the radishes. There’s just something to be said for impatient walks to the fish tank, for paper fans with gold and red designs, for folded chopstick sleeves and rubber bands. For Shirley Temple drinks, ridiculous amounts of food, and spinning lazy suzans.

But what beats a Sunday night Chinese food dinner? Dim Sum with our plums. It’s our new tradition. Though instead of weekly, we’ll be partaking in dim sum fun once a month–because it’s all mama’s health can take. Surprisingly, I’m still dreaming of the tiny pockets of soup, outfitted in a symmetric bush of a dumpling. Twice a month?

Never mind the when. The big question, in Austin, Texas, became how and good heavens where?

Phil said we’d be going to Chinatown. I assumed he meant an actual town, you know, even if that town meant a strip mall of Asian restaurants and markets–Austin’s own version (which does exist, by the by). But that’s not where we’d be going. Instead, we’d drive through the suburbs, actually near the JCC (Jewish Community Center), and head to a an actual restaurant named CHINATOWN. Oy.

Chinatown (upstairs from musashino), I was sure, would be far too Americanized for our tastes. I want to be where the Asian people are, where no one speaks English, where it’s nothing but chicken feet. I don’t actually eat chicken feet, mind you, but I like the idea of authenticity. I’m fine with guessing, with accidentally eating a testicle. Maybe not FINE, but I’ll live. So when we drive up to a place I’m sure must have valet parking on Saturday nights, I’m skeptical.

I was so wrong. It was actually, to our surprise, fantastic! Excellent variety, sticky rice in lotus leaf, soup steamed dumplings, the variety, quality, and turnover was exceptional… And Phil and I would know. We just came from dim sum in Flushing, Queens… where no one spoke English. And yes, Chinatown (the Austin restaurant) serves chicken feet… and, no joke, they have a Peking Duck cart! It’s our new go-to move.

A YEAR AGO: The Fabric of Elaborate Lives
5 YEARS AGO: Bologna



  1. Face it, Stephanie, it’s only a matter of time before you, Phil, and the kids leave Texas behind and either head back to N.Y. or to L.A. where dim sum is abundant & terrific. Chinese food on Sunday is part of Jewish DNA.

  2. I used to do that when I was a kid too! Dim Sum is like my chicken soup; it always makes me feel warm and loved.

  3. I’m not Jewish. Hell I’m not anything really. But we do this too! And my 3 year old has recently began asking if we can get Chinese. I think he loves the fish tank, the smoking fountain, the fried rice and the ice cream. The whole dinner he is thanking me and telling me he loves me. It really sets his little heart on fire!! Love the pic of Lucas with chopsticks!

  4. Oh, how I miss dim sum Sundays, in DC or NYC! Chinatown on MoPac has good dim sum, upscale-ish and a bit pricey. There’s a new place that just opened at 45th & Lamar (near the Starbucks), and T&S Seafood on North Lamar is also supposed to be good. I’ve had dinner there, but never made it on a Sunday. Now you’re making me hungry!

      1. Sure, one of the best places in DC is Fortune Chinese Restaurant, on Route 50 in Falls Church.

        1. Tony Cheng’s in Chinatown, and in MD, Oriental East in Silver Spring (right over the MD border near 16th St) and Hollywood East in Wheaton are some of the best.

  5. I’m an italian catholic so Sundays for me growing up was always grandma’s gravy and pasta. But some Friday nites we would get chinese and I remember pork fried rice, spare ribs, and wonton soup. Mmmmm I miss chinese food! Haven’t had it in a long time! I just ate dinner and now I am hungry again!

  6. Love that! While I myself am not Jewish, I’m from a town where most of the population is (a suburb of Detroit, it’s not just NY) and Chinese food on Sunday is just comforting.

  7. fortune & shanghai in austin are awesome places for dim sum. i’m asian but i do speak english and i can vouch for both. yum yum dim sum.

  8. Totally! Every Sunday was church with the family in the morning, breakfast to follow, and of course an Italian dinner that night.

    We saw my grandparents A LOT growing up.

  9. I think Jews and Chinese food transcends state borders. I grew up eating Chinese on many American holidays, and I was raised here in TX. (Maybe it helps that my parents are from NYC?)

    Regardless, Chinatown ROCKS for dim sum. A very close and less expensive second is Shanghai, near Highland Mall. My boyfriend and I went the other day with a group of 6. The entire tab, after stuffing our faces, was a whopping $15 per person, with tip included, and teas and sodas and a coffee for me. (Note to self: even if you haven’t had coffee yet and really believe you need it, get some hot tea. Coffee + shrimp shumai do NOT belong together.)

    T&S up north (Rundberg/Lamar) is also a great dim sum experience, and you can be sure to spot few non-Asians. And it’s really close to the Chinese market and Austin’s own Chinatown. (It’s small but we have one!)

  10. Maybe us Jews (okay, I’m a half-breed) are just suckers for at least a little bit of tradition, regardless of how we spin it. I’ve taken to removing the kosher from my latkes, but I still make them every Hanukkah. Kudos to Phil for his Texan “Chinatown” prize! But don’t you miss New York in all its non-English-speaking authenticity, from Flushing to Chinatown…and everything in between?

  11. im not jewish, but new yorker- and my family eats chinese on sundays- and trust me, in the very jewish enclaves i grew up around those restaurants get busy on sundays! But mostly it’s the ease of not cooking and my parents relaxing as they work 6 days a week. And they are not ones for cliche’d and over-done italian food/ takeout.

    Stephanie, i have an issue lately with your site, where the fonts/ typeface is so super small? i have to zoom in and i never used to have to do this. is anyone else having this problem?

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