7370 Sawmill Road, Columbus 43225
For dim sum cart experience: Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pm
If you are looking for an alternative to your usual brunch of eggs, bacon and pancakes, might we suggest trying some dim sum. Dim sum is an assortment of small plates of savory and sweet things dishes or sometimes the combination of both. We won’t go into too much details regarding a how-to of dim sum since Columbus Alive did a pretty good write up with some help from the crew here at Alt Eats.
One of the more authentic dim sum experiences in Columbus can be found at Sunflower. Most of the food is served via trolley; to order just wave the trolley lady over and order by pointing at the various plates and steamers.
Char siu pau (left) is a steamed bun filled with chinese bbq pork. This can also come in a baked form (the exterior will be brown). Sunflower’s char siu pau meets the basic criteria of fluffiness and the balanced sweetness of the pork. The other two things that you will see on every table are siu mai (center) and har gau (right). Siu mai is a steamed dumpling that is made out of minced pork and a little bit minced shrimp encased in a wonton like wrapper but the top is exposed and usually topped with some crab or shrimp roe. There is a beef version of the siu mai, but you have to specify beef because the default for siu mai is pork/shrimp. The har gau is shrimp encased in the delicate rice flour dough that becomes translucent when it is steamed so that you can actually see the shrimp through the wrapper.
The ‘must have’ at Sunflower is the fried cheung fun (left). It is steamed rice crepes that have been rolled into a cylindrical shape and then pan fried with some sweet soy sauce. The combination of crispy, soft, sweet and salty is amazing. The steamed version of this is stuffed with either pork or shrimp. Other fried dim sum options are the fried mochi dumpling also known as ham sui gok (center). The exterior is made out of glutinous rice pounded into a paste and them rolled out like a dough. This is stuffed with pork and mushrooms and then deep fried. To the far right of the pictures above is the wu kok or yam pastry. This crispy dumpling is yam stuffed with the same pork and mushroom filling as the ham sui gok. The difference is that that outer coating of this dumpling is very crispy due to the bird nest like breading and it uses yam as an encasement for the filling.
Other typical dishes are the fried radish cake (lor bak ko), which is shredded radish combined with lap cheong (chinese air dried waxed sausage) and steamed into a cake. Then it is cut into rectangular sliced and pan fried on the griddle (pictured above). Below is Lor ma kai, a steamed package of rice with chicken, mushroom and chinese sausage encased in a lotus leaf. The filling varies by restaurants.
If you are feeling adventurous, try the foong jow (chicken feet). It is deep fried first to get the skin and tendons to puff up away from the bones and then it is braised an sweet and salty combination of salted black bean, fermented bean paste and soy sauce. There is no dainty way of eating this, just suck the skin and tendons free from the bones, spit the little bones out and repeat.
Sunflower offers probably the best replication of an authentic dim sum experience in terms of both food and ambiance. There may be a dish or two that is of better quality at other dim sum locations but for overall breadth of dishes and quality, Sunflower comes out on top.
Note: Dim sum is not vegetarian friendly as most products have either pork or shrimp in them.