The Dim Sum Drama (Flash Fiction)

Image by stokpic from Pixabay

Flash Fiction #168

I didn’t know how to name this story. So I thought of an episode of “Seinfeld” that’s called “The Soup Nazi”. I could have named this story, “The Dim Sum Nazi”, but then I thought I was pushing emulation and imitation too far. As an immigrant, it is a forever anxiety–are you imitating too much or are you not imitating enough? The anxiety stems from the fact that you don’t really know the answer and most likely you cannot accurately predict the result. You can imitate too much and make a fool of yourself while not being aware of the degree of overstepping and foolishness. On the other hand, it may happen that you are not imitating enough, which can be equally foolish or self-defeating since being able to fit in is always at the top of one’s wish list. And of course what really bothers me is not the imitation or lack of imitation, but rather I don’t know how to weave this anxiety into a good story. Sorry I digressed and now I come back to the story.

The central character of this story is Lau, who is the owner of a dim sum restaurant called “Bamboo Palace” (fictional name) in Edison, New Jersey. He is temperamental, eccentric, didactic, and even commanding, which sometimes causes frictions in the restaurant and in his personal life. However he also produces the most delicious dim sum in Central Jersey. Or should I say the only good dim sum in the area? Since his food is so good, people tolerate his less than ideal manner and occasional scathing remarks. The unfortunate fact is that all the good Asian restaurants are concentrated in New York City– in Manhattan or certain areas of Brooklyn or Queens–but very few are located in New Jersey. In Central Jersey, there were only a handful of them that can attract repeat customers and acquire solid staying power; most just come and go, open and shut within a few short years. For this reason, people are grateful that “Bamboo Palace” is there forever, providing quality dim sum and other Cantonese dishes day in and day out.

Since it is the only good dim sum restaurant here, it becomes my regular haunt. I would go there almost every week, either with my colleagues or my friends or my family. People often tell me stories of the owner– he scolded one who didn’t order much food; he scolded another who wasted food; he scolded a child who scattered food on the floor; he gave angry stare to a group who tried to split their bill into cash, card, and apple pay.

My friend Pammy experienced the owner’s wrath first hand. Pammy, her husband Pan, and her son Sam came for dim sum one weekend. Since they planned to go to Roosevelt Park afterwards, they brought their dog Wonwon with them, leaving it in the car while they dined at Bamboo Palace. In the middle of their meal, Pammy wanted to carry a small dish of pork ribs to the parking lot. The owner followed her and stopped her right at the entrance of the restaurant. To the owner’s inquiry, Pammy answered that the dog must feel being left out of the feast and she’s going to feed the dog. “Wonwon loves your dim sum.” Pammy added. The owner barked at Pammy before she could finish her sentence, saying that his food was only for humans, not for dogs. Pammy was degrading his food, his restaurant, him and his family. Pammy had to apologize profusely and promise never to behave disrespectfully in the future.

“I was so afraid that he was going to forbid me from coming that I didn’t dare to show up for two months afterwards. This is the only good dim sum within the 40-mile radius. I can’t afford to antagonize Lau. Fortunately, he seemed to have forgotten the incident when we came back again.” my friend Pammy says.

“I am sorry to hear that. I guess I am the only one who hasn’t offended him. He’s always quite polite to me. He is even very chatty and would come to chat with me and my colleagues when we were having our office lunch here.” I would try to defend him since he’s so nice towards me. Once I told him about my work as a tutor and my aspiration with languages, and he said that was a very respectable job and he heard people talking about me and they said good things about my work. I was quite flattered.

In the Asian immigrant community, there are plenty of former actors, singers, professors, doctors, diplomats, painters, poets, who work in restaurants, own laundry shops, drive Uber cars, sell goods or do other boring repetitive jobs that don’t require much skills. Probably the owner is one like that, although I have never broached the topic with him. I imagine he wanted to become a writer, or an artist of some kind, but couldn’t make it–very likely he is not happy to talk about his dashed hope and disappointed wish.

I have always thought that he admires me, but little do I know there is only one small step between admiration and loathing. It happens on a Saturday when I commit this small misstep.

(To Be Continued)

9 thoughts on “The Dim Sum Drama (Flash Fiction)

  1. It’s funny – I regard myself as an easygoing person – yet I am actually less tolerant of rude people like that than many other people who I consider to be less easygoing.

    There’s a paradox there somewhere!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, me too. I can be very annoyed when people behave in certain ways. I guess it is because their behaviors can trigger my hidden trauma. This is a classic symptom for grown-ups who grew up in narcissistic household. They (me included) can be very upset towards certain things or certain comments even if those things are irrelevant or they don’t concern these traumatized souls or they are actually harmless.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, tell me about it. I guess each town has at least one food Nazi who can afford to be rude and temperamental because their food is so good that people have to put up with their bad attitude.


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