by Steven Doyle
I have plenty of Jewish friends and several have invited me to their traditional Christmas dinner, which is sweet and I thank them. I will probably accept one or all of those invites, but curiously there will be no dry turkey, cranberries or pumpkin pie for that matter. Most include a trip to the local Chinese restaurant for that truly traditional Christmas meal.
This odd tradition might date as far back as the day before Jesus was born, where there was no room at the Inn — or a decent restaurant open late that night. Perhaps the only choice in Bethlehem was the local Chinese restaurant serving up kung pao chicken and those little dumplings that have been seared in schmaltz to a fine crisp.
In Dallas, many of the Jewish brethren can be found at Royal China, located at Preston and Royal Lane. This is the longest operating Chinese restaurant in the city and enjoys a huge following; many are Jewish I am told. This is where you find the goods on Christmas Day. This is the real gift of the Magi. Forget the Frankincense or Myrrh, no one really knows what that stuff is anyway. Instead give me something from the Royal China dumpling bar.
The dumpling bar is set center stage after a beautiful remodel. The open kitchen is used as a platform for the Dumpling Master who spins his web of noodlery, while his cohorts fashion xaio long bao huddled in the corner near giant stacks of bamboo steamer baskets.
As the Master flops, plops and spins his yarn of dough deftly through the air, tables turn to watch with large sighs and huzzahs. The Master is all knowing and picks a sole individual to play up to for the evening, often offering a wink, nod or a double thumbs up. The hand stretched noodles fly from his fingertips as the Master celebrates the life he fashions from a plow of snowy flour.
There are a few selections of hand-stretched noodles from the Dumpling Bar. Lanzhou Lamian is named for a city in China found on the Silk Road, and is famous for this thin-style of noodle and their beef soup. The beef soup is constructed of a rich clear broth, braised beef shank slices and vegetation. Simply delicious.
The other style of noodle made by the hands of master is the Henan Lamian which is served as one long thick, wide thread and set into a bowl of soupy broth of beef and endeared with crispy pork belly slices and vegetables. This dish can be made kosher-friendly by choosing a variety of meats or vegetables.
Getting past the hand pulling action by the Dumpling Master, you will enjoy the show quietly presented by the able-bodied Dumpling Empress. She cranks out soup dumplings at insane flickers that would rival Yu Darvish at the speed gun. These juicy pockets of meat and soup explode with flavor as you nibble the tip of the tender dumpling, enjoying the rich juices just moments before devouring the spoonful with one large bite.
Perhaps the traditional Chinese food Christmas is one we could all rally around. Personally, I have had my fill of dry turkey.