As our sister blog, Squid Ink, reported on Monday, Albert Y. M. Huang, the mayor of San Gabriel, was arrested after an altercation at a dumpling house. Mr. Huang got into an argument with his dining companion, and the words escalated into violence: the unnamed companion allegedly threw a full tray of soup dumplings at him, he retaliated with a dish of black vinegar (but what about the slivered ginger?), and then allegedly snatched her purse and sped away.
Soup dumplings could be effective weapons, especially if full of hot soup; this would create a scalding water balloon effect on the face of the recipient. Given the restaurant in question, the xiao long bao were probably the best weapon at hand. What happens, though, if you are attacked at dim sum? Which tasty morsel provides the best option for survival?
One of the most grisly scenes in The Sopranos was when Tony took Artie Bucco's arm and submerged it in a tall pot of bubbling "red gravy". Cooks winced, because there is no burn like a boiling liquid that clings. Since tomato sauce is not normally available in dim sum houses, the next best option is congee, also called jook. The steaming hot rice porridge clings to skin and will deter even the most desperate attacker when thrown in the face.
2. Laa saa bao.
In the same vein as the soup dumplings, these tiny white bread buns filled with hot, liquid egg custard can be used as deadly dim sum grenades. They're hefty enough to be flung with considerable force, and upon impact open to spread molten shrapnel all over the surface they've hit, with a pretty decent blast radius. The only problem is guessing which one is which; you don't want to throw a chicken bao by mistake. Lai wong bao normally have a red or pink dot on top.
Sometimes you grab what's closest, and if what's closest is the tea pot, you get the double whammy of sharp shards of porcelain followed by hot, slightly acidic tea. The double burn probably won't linger long enough to cauterize the wounds caused by the pot, though. The only problem is that there are normally two pots of tea on a lazy-Susan dim sum table; if the enemy is in teapot range, then so are you.
4. Yau ja gwai.
What if you don't want to permanently injure your attacker, and just fend him or her off? In that case, you need reach. While waving around chopsticks can have the desired effect, they are small and they don't have much of an element of surprise. Wave this twisted, savory cruller (meant in times of peace to be dipped into congee or hot soy milk) and you can baton your way to freedom or a more entrenched position.
5. Chao tom.
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This Vietnamese street food has become a hugely popular (and very profitable) item at dim sum houses. It consists of shrimp paste wrapped around a piece of peeled sugar cane; the paste is breaded and deep fried. These are always served hot from plates carried by waiters, so when used in self-defense, the intruder first gets a face full of hot grease that clings, followed by a hot, pointy poke with the sugarcane.