Sunday, June 13, 2010

24.3 Miles of Dim Sum (Oriental East & Asian Court)

That's the distance between Oriental East in Silver Spring and Asian Court in Ellicott City.

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They're worlds apart if for no other reason than there are 503,881 lanes of traffic between Silver Spring and Ellicot City. Oriental East is an inside-the-Washington-Beltway spot with metro access literally across the street. Asian Court rests outside the Baltimore Beltway and just west of Route 29 in Howard County and calls a newly-built strip mall with Giant, Home Depot, and Sears all close by its home.

You can get your dim sum on in either place and feel pretty good about your Authentico-Meter. Or at the very least, you'll eat incredible food that you'll want to talk about for quite a while.

Close to three-quarters of the clientele during Sunday cart-service were Asian. Both served beef tripe and chicken feet to every table without batting an eye (You came here, you get the full experience). Both had well-dressed paternal figures sorting out the waiting lines and seating. To give an idea of scale, Oriental East had between four and six carts out during the busy hours of 12-1:30. Asian Court was getting by with 3-4 from 1-2pm. Just a smaller place.

I hit Oriental East with the Seester Geek last weekend and Asian Court with The Quiet One, Pocahanski, and our pal Shack today. In both cases we started fast...really fast...and ended up picking and realizing small plates add up and there is dough or wrapper or noodle on almost all dim sum...and you will pay for it!

The Quiet One, Shack and I sat down and I immediately set my eyes on the cart that was going to arrive well before plates or silverware was set. Fah, I say! I will have dim sum! And at that point I didn't know the pace of carts at Asian Court and wasn't about to miss out. Shrimp dumplings? Sure. Shrimp wrapped in wide noodles? Yes, please. Beef with wide noodles, pork & peanut dumplings, pork buns in biscuit-like dough, and pork bbq in open-shell dough with sesame seeds...bring it! Pocahantski will get here when she gets here...

More, more, more...Those other pork balls look good. Yes, we DO want chicken feet (better at Asian Court with slightly less sweet and more heat to the black bean sauce they typically have smothered over them).

Seester and I had done it the same way, but had carts coming by less frequently in the crush. Shrimp eggs rolls and fried pork dumplings started us off. Then we upgraded to the taro dumpling with pork, shrimp and vegetable dumplings, and the fried shrimp pressed into roasted Japanese eggplant.

Both Oriental East and Asian Court had simple shrimp dumplings, shrimp wrapped in large flat noodles ladled with soy at service, shumai, beef balls, beef with flat noodles, chicken feet, beef tripe, coconut jelly, and pineapple rolls plus a dozen plus other dishes including greens, dumplings, and dessert 'rolls.'

Oriental East wowed us with its crispy shredded taro dumpling with chinese pork sausage and mushrooms and the fried shrimp with Japanese eggplant. Seriously...wowed. The Chinese Broccoli was also a hit not only for the salty-delicious oyster sauce that accompanied it but because it allowed me to legitimize the healthiness of the meal by eating close to a cup of real, live (or dead and steamed and sauced) vegetables without the benefit of dumpling or fryer or pork.

Asian Court's had a layer of what seemed to be taro/mushroom paste between the crispy shredded goodness and the mushroom and ground pork saute. We gobbled them up but I don't think we need the extra taro there. The winner here for me was the sticky rice wrapped in taro leaves with bits of chicken, Chinese sausage, and pork belly studded into the rice. That was followed closely by the flat noodles with beef and scallions and the pork and peanut dumplings. Shack was all over a pork dumpling that appeared to be bound with some egg and was definitely steamed and then finished in oil for a bit of texture to the outside.

Remember, I'm doing this after one long run at each, so if I missed something not only am I sorry, but I want you to correct me so I can go back and have more.

The Oriental East crowd was more frenetic and the people just kept coming...forever. I was number 28 when I arrived and by the time Seester and I were audi-50 they were calling number 105. Today was more calm (hmmm, more suburban I suppose) and in a smaller spot but the food was no less compelling.

At Asian Court we would have been able to relax a bit more had our mouths not been working overtime. I was at one point reduced to an interrupting babble of monosyllables to express my happy-happy-joy-joy at the ginger and hot chili-spiked black bean sauce smothering the plate full of small clams. SPICY BLACK BEAN SAUCE. Yeah, let's just say we'll be back.

On the advice of Mr. HowChow, I also did the two-mile loop drive out further west to Bethany 40 to check out the Korean spots, the Canopy, and the Soft Serve joint so I was prepared for a trip on a whim out Ellicott City way in the near future.

Oriental East on Urbanspoon

Asian Court on Urbanspoon


  1. I've never been to Oriental East but since I live relatively close to Asian Court, I don't see the point of driving anywhere near the DC Beltway.

    Like you, I really enjoy the sticky rice in lotus at AC. I've had it elsewhere, but AC's is the most generously-stuffed with meat and mushroom goodness. Leftovers make a perfect lunch. Their siu mai and shark's fin dumplings are also very-generously portioned and delicious. And if you are lucky enough to be there when they bring freshly cooked pork belly from the kitchen, or duck, make sure to grab some.

  2. You wouldn't have to drive on the Beltway coming from HoCo, just across it! But I get the point. I have to drive around the top of the Beltway at least twice a month for work, so I'm inoculated for the most part.

    If I lived in MoCo or HoCo I'd probably just stay close and grab the delicious that didn't require a beltway battle. But coming from 'Naptown, both spots are a haul of between 30-45, so I'm even.

    As for the food, had I been lucky enough to see the pork belly coming out I would have kicked the cart wheels off when it got to me table. And both Pocahantski and The Quiet One would have joined in the pillaging.