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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR / Arts, Entertainment, Leisure

Dim Sum: Asian Smorgasbord

At Seafood World in Westminster, the assortment of bite-sized Chinese goodies makes for an inexpensive, adventurous change.

April 01, 2001|RENE LYNCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A sense of adventure and a healthy appetite are required when venturing out for dim sum at Seafood World in Westminster.

For the uninitiated, dim sum is an inexpensive way to try a wide assortment of delectable Chinese dishes. Servers push about large carts piled high with a variety of bite-sized goodies from which diners can pick and choose.

Go ahead, try it. If you don't like it, surely someone else in your party will. The idea, after all, is to taste new and different dishes. And for the price of each tray, you don't have to feel too guilty about the cost of experimentation. Plates carrying two or three items generally cost between $1.50 and $3, which means the typical bill for a table of four can be a bargain at just about $45.

At Seafood World, situated in a busy strip mall and decorated with black-lacquered, red-cushioned chairs, roomy tables encourage sharing.

There is a little bit of everything at Seafood World, including dumplings, from the pan-fried versions that are typically served at Chinese restaurants (wontons stuffed, crimped into a crescent and seared) to more exotic fare such as shu mai (dumplings made of paper-thin rice noodles). Fillings range from sauteed vegetables to shrimp and scallops and savory meats.

There are also buns galore. One of the most popular versions is made of golden-browned egg bread that glistens with a honey glaze and wraps around a barbecued pork filling.

Add those to a seemingly endless variety of soups, rice noodles with shrimp, fried tofu and taro, salted calamari and the like.

Now, here are the rules of engagement.

If at all possible, arrive early. Reservations aren't accepted, and a line starts building about 11 a.m. After that, the spacious room bustles with the pleasant clatter of plates, trays and chopsticks.

Request a seat in the center of the room for best access to the circulating carts. If you happen to find yourself in a corner nook, as we did on a recent visit, don't hesitate to become animated, waving at servers who may bypass your table.

Expect a language barrier. Keep in mind when you inquire about a dish that most servers speak little English. Don't be surprised if the answer is a curt "pork" and not a detailed discussion on kitchen preparations.

If you are a vegetarian, ask for a server's help in finding meatless dishes. There are many, such as vegetarian dumplings, fried tofu and Chinese broccoli (picture an elongated version of the traditional veggie without the bulbous tops) blanched table-side and then drizzled with a slightly sweet oyster sauce.

Grab what looks good; you can't be guaranteed it'll come by a second time. And if there are any leftovers--there probably won't be--you can always take them home.

Save room for dessert. In fact, you can also skip the heartier fare and just go to Seafood World for tea and the dessert trays, which include a variety of sweets: tiny pastry cups filled with custard or lemon merengue, gelatin and rice dishes. But the perfect way to finish off a dim sum meal is with sesame balls, a doughy pocket filled with a honey-bean paste, deep fried and rolled in sesame seeds.

Just try it.

*

Seafood World, 15351 Brookhurst St., Westminster, serves dim sum from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. For more information: (714) 775 8828.

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